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Thought Leader Series: Why the Pop-Up Dining Craze Is Here to Stay

Dining craze
Erin Pennings is a marketer by trade who serves up tasty treats and fun feats as a food/lifestyle blogger at SalmonAtSeven.com.

Pop-up dining is all about the experience. The experience of a fun stop at a food truck carnival for lunch with friends, and everybody trying something different. The experience of a spectacular one-off event held by a popular chef from out of town. In the end, a pop-up restaurant is much like the social event of the month, and a food truck carnival is like the social event of the week. With the growth of social media to promote pop-up dining experiences, and with a $2b market share, these specialty options are here to stay.

Dining craze

Customers line up to devour tasty food truck fare.

Just to be clear, traditional sit-down, brick-and-mortar restaurants aren’t going anywhere. Nothing quite matches the ability to have a server cater to your every need, from taking your order to providing delicious food and drink and – the ever-important – busing your table. Traditional restaurants are however being eclipsed by the “cool” factor and exclusivity of pop-up dining experiences.

An Event Planner’s Dream

Where traditional restaurants follow traditional schedules, the beauty of the pop-up dining experience is that it is completely nontraditional. These restaurants truly POP up, often in nontraditional locations – warehouses, parks, museums, etc. They might be open for a single night only, or perhaps in a different location each month. Chefs can dream up their ideal special event, sign the contracts and sell tickets – diners are willing to pay more for the experience, too! (Read more about the statistical rise of experiential dining here.)

Dining craze

Teams create flavor-packed menus from their mobile kitchens.

Food trucks are just as much fun! Their owners dish up delightful fare once or twice a week in different parts of town, or at weekly carnivals, where diners can enjoy each course prepared by a different chef. The menus may be short, but foods typically pack a savory punch.

Long popular in Washington, DC, and the East Coast, mobile kitchens are now a booming trend nationwide and worldwide, drawing big crowds wherever they set up shop. Popularized by Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, these mobile kitchens provide outlets for up-and-coming culinary geniuses to build their careers. But it’s not just about the presentation of extraordinary creations; sometimes a great food truck dish is a simple, comforting meal from an extraordinary source. Tasty food is always something special.

The pop-up dining craze isn’t going anywhere. Search terms “food truck” and “pop up restaurants” continue their upward trends, with “food truck” reaching even higher popularity each summer, when everyone is out and about. Both food trucks and pop-up restaurants have relatively low overhead costs. This is good news for foodies everywhere, as it allows chefs to pour their time and energy into culinary creativity. By dishing up their great ideas one customer or event at a time, they can have as much fun as those paying for the experience. When everyone has fun, they talk about it with their friends and want to enjoy more special food events.

Dining craze

A great pop-up dining experience is made up of great food and great company.

Diners Will Delight

If you’re willing to leave your own home for food (as most of us are), you can track down food trucks in most cities. Many tweet their locations or post a schedule to Facebook. Specialties range across every cuisine imaginable. Stay open to a culinary adventure and you’ll be awed by the opportunities in front of you to taste. If you prefer a less adventurous route, it’s easy to find a food truck specializing in your favorite comfort foods, too. So plan your next lunchtime excursion around your local food truck events. Or take a real road trip vacation, planning your stops based on food trucks you read about online.

Want to experience a pop-up dining event from the comfort of your own home? Shop our events and satiate your taste buds with our gourmet party ideas. (We’ll take care of everything but your dishes.)