It’s happened to us more times than we can count. We hear of a really cool restaurant that uses food waste as ingredients, or an adorable “pignic” where you can eat lunch and hang out with piglets all day. But the catch is, these restaurants are pop-ups. That means they’re only around for a couple of weeks (sometimes just one day!), so it’s almost impossible to get in (especially to Noma’s pop-up, which had a 60,000-person waitlist). But like it or not, pop-up restaurants are here to stay, and they’re becoming more popular than ever. Eventbrite, a website that organizes 40,000 digital event invitations and tickets annually, combed its data and found that the number of pop-up restaurant events posted on its website has increased by 82 percent, while the number of food events in general has grown by almost 50 percent.
Pop-up restaurants seem to be particularly popular in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles, of course, but they’re also thriving in Boston and San Francisco. The study showed that Eventbrite users’ ideal pop-up dining experience would be casual, with tickets available in advance (to avoid a long wait on a line that snakes down the nearest avenue), and would be a small, intimate gathering in a non-traditional venue (like a firehouse or a dock, as opposed to a restaurant or bar).
And it’s not just pop-ups that are growing in popularity, according to the survey. Communal dining, mixology, brunch, and local or organic events have all seen at least a 50 to 60 percent jump in sheer event numbers since the beginning of 2014.
A series of videos from Eventbrite with Top Chef finalist Melissa King and Top Chef winner Mei Lin highlights the two chef’s newest pop-up dining series, Co+ Lab in San Francisco, and explores just why pop-up restaurants have become so popular with both chefs and food lovers. The first featured event is a one-night-only collaborative pop-up dinner featuring food from local San Francisco artisans in every course.
“There are so many chefs who have their day jobs at their regular restaurants, but on the weekends they’re looking for something more,” says King in the video. “The pop-up culture allows them to take over a space and convert it into their own identity.”