10 Pop-Up Experiences From 2023

Pop-ups exist to build brand awareness and buzz, test prototypes, and deliver novel experiences…all with a lower investment than a permanent location. With most restaurant operators reporting cost increases, low to no profit, labor shortages and high rents1, it’s no wonder pop-up eateries and cocktail bars have been making the news this year. 

Here are some of our favorite restaurant pop-ups:

Netflix Bites
Where diners wait behind a velvet rope to enter, and once inside, can try dishes and cocktails featured in the network’s culinary shows, and occasionally meet some of the actual chefs2

Malibu Barbie Café
Barbie-inspired, fast casual dining for the whole family, featuring brunch, drinks, desserts, and photo opps with a life-size Barbie doll3

Bad Blood: Taylor Swift-Themed Break-Up Bar
A space to “shake off heartbreak” with a themed cocktail, singing, games and photo opps4

Hot Ones (featuring Grubhub)
A unique “delivery only” pop-up, celebrating the 300th episode of the cult-favorite YouTube spectacle, “Hot Ones”, where fans in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens can order wings coated in the show’s famous sauces5

The Visiting Chef Series at Stanly Ranch
Distinguished Napa Valley chefs creating menus that “honor the sacred connections between land and plate”6

Paradiso X The Donovan
London bar, The Donovan, allowing a Barcelona bar, Paradiso, to do a one-night-only takeover7

Save Me a Place
A craft cocktail menu and food from a local St. Louis chef, fully inspired by the music from a single album8

Catskills Cocktail Club
A mobile bartending service doing Friday night residencies with a local chef, as well as other events9

But restaurants and bars aren’t the only food and beverage-related domains leveraging pop-ups. Two other examples have earned our admiration for their creative thinking:

Pop-Up Grocer
An “experience-oriented grocery store” visiting select, large metro areas and rotating 400 products, all shelved at eye level, with limited competition per category, and aimed at introducing consumers to new brands and products10

A mushroom-based snack brand, going the non-traditional route by “popping up” in department stores and at festivals to soft launch products and optimize them for conventional retail11

Image Credit: FoodBusinessNews.net

Whether you’re brand-building or developing new products, pop-up experiences can play a role. If you’re toying with one, JT Mega’s resident experts recommend the following:

  • Find a concept (theme), and search for the perfect location to help play it out. (Creative Director, Matt McKenzie)
  • Consider the infrastructure, calculating the amount of space needed, the availability of power, plumbing, refrigeration, and storage…as well as securing necessary permits, health inspections and payment systems. (Senior Art Director, Patrick Dupont)
  • Secure an audience, using your online following and/or customer database to pre-sell tickets. (Chef Dan Follese, Culinary Specialist)

[1] Restaurants.com, 2022
[2] “Netflix’s pop-up eatery serves up an alternate reality as Hollywood grinds to a halt”, NPR, 7/25/23
[3] “A Malibu Barbie Café Is Coming to New York and Chicago”, Forbes, 4/06/23
[4] “This Taylor-Swift Themed Pop-Up Bar is A Celebration of Breakups”, Delish, 1/18/23
[5] “Grubhub partners with Hot Ones for delivery of “As seen on YouTube’ wings”, NRN, 6/29/23
[6] “These Pop-Ups are the Most Exciting Dining Experiences for Travelers This Year”, Food&Beverage, 3/15/23
[7] “What’s on in May”, The Spirits Business, 4/28/23
[8] “5 pop-ups Feast is following in 2023”, Feast, 1/18/23
[9] “Catskills Cocktail Club Does Pop-Up Drinks in the Hudson Valley”, ValleyTable, 6/12/23
[10] “Pop Up Grocer a ‘platform of possibility’ for emerging brands”, Food Business News, 7/11/23
[11] “Popadelics leverages pop-ups in fashion stores to secure placement in grocery retail”, FoodNavigator, 7/12/23