Pop-up eating places can get caught when COVID sees a resurgence

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new York Pop-up restaurants have been introduced as a temporary measure by many ailing chefs and owners as consumers continue to accept takeaways and deliveries, and Delta variants threaten to reduce their dining options. , Can hold power.

Pop-up restaurants range from ramen makers who only show up in established bars and restaurants overnight, to octopus makers who temporarily use unused space to eat, to chefs who only deliver meatballs. It can take shape.

Pop-ups are cheaper than regular restaurants because of their low operating and labor costs. Pop-ups allow chefs and owners to continue working and making a living in early pandemics when dining rooms are closed and in economic instability. They helped bring the theme into the existing restaurants that host them. And some have turned into permanent new businesses.

Currently, the nationwide reopening is threatened by an increase in COVID-19 cases, so the creators and hosts of the pop-up are asking, “What’s next?”

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The food service industry is one of the toughest blows during the pandemic. The 1 million employment level is still down from the pre-pandemic employment level of 12.3 million. According to the National Restaurant Federation, restaurant sales in 2020 were $ 695 million, a decrease of $ 240 million from expected levels. Sales have rebounded this year on the back of the economic recovery and deregulation, but some economists are lowering expectations for US economic growth, also in hope of a decline in the hospitality industry.

“2021 is definitely a year of transition for the restaurant industry,” said Hudson Rile, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association. “The industry is still practically challenged by the COVID situation.”

The flexibility of the takeaway and delivery model helped Alex Thaboua overcome these challenges. Thaboua is a co-owner of Electric Burrito, which started as a pop-up at Mr. Paradise Bar in New York in 2020. He said the restaurant would be open if there was another blockade, as the permanent location opened in May with a focus on take away and delivery.

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“This flexibility was very important to me in the pop-up phase when the world was blocked and business was severely restricted,” he said. “We have taken all safety precautions to design our business in such a way that we can continue to work with a lean team and serve our guests both for take-away and for delivery.”

Nashville’s Hathorne restaurant has hosted about 10 pop-ups with local chefs since the pandemic began. This will give you exposure to pop-ups and access to the fully equipped kitchen. For Hathorn, it is a way to occupy a seat at night when they are usually empty. The restaurant has been open Wednesday through Saturday since it was able to dine in person again in October.

John Stephenson, owner of Hathorn, said: “I wanted to use this space.”

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Nashville chef Stevenson said he knows many chefs who tried to stay ashore during the pandemic to run projects like creating takeaway dinners and introducing food trucks.

The first pop-up at Hathorne started in October with the Mexican theme by Julio Hernandez with a focus on homemade tortillas. It was a success and more pop-ups followed. Today, Hathorn hosts Michael Hannah’s St. Vito Focaccia pizza company every Sunday.

Hannah and his co-workers get a job, and “that keeps pulling people into our doors,” says Stevenson. I hired Hannah as the cook because the agreement with St. Vito is long-term. Hannah receives a percentage of the Sunday sales. Hathorne pays for all products and troubles.

Stevenson said he would continue to display pop-ups after the pandemic subsided instead of going back to the full-time position.

Pop-ups can be a way to draw attention to a new project. William Ake bought a building to open his restaurant earlier this year, but initially struggled to find investors.

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“Most people were worried about going to a restaurant during a pandemic,” he said. “So we had to be creative. I thought if we could run the pop-up, we could spend our money and our profits on building the restaurant. “

In May, he started Seedlings, a pop-up offering fried chicken sandwiches from the windows of the building he bought. The pop-up helped promote the permanent Matsu restaurant, a more traditional Japanese restaurant with a tasting menu that opens a few weeks later.

“It helped create a lot of awareness, which has helped us spread word of mouth more than we ever thought,” he said. He doesn’t expect another blockade to come to Oceanside, California, but if so, he said he would keep the saplings going.

For Marisa Iocco, who was the co-owner of Spiga Ristorante Italian restaurant in Needham, Massachusetts, pop-up was a way to stay positive during the pandemic. She opened Polpettiamo in Providence, Rhode Island in April 2021. We only offer meatballs and only to take away.

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“It was very difficult to survive during the pandemic,” she said. Meatballs, which are also served as starters on Spiga, are created in the kitchen of their main restaurant and refined in the Providence kitchen with three employees.

She is considering having a physical store in Providence and another dedicated delivery location in Boston, and expects these plans will not change due to the increase in cases or future blockades. But above all, creating something new during the pandemic gave her a “vitamin B12 shot” of energy.

“It really helps keep your mood positive,” she said.

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