The pop up phenomenon

Pop up restaurants have been a food craze for some time, but it seems that this craze is now filtering into the events industry with pop up event spaces popping up all over the country.

While choosing a suitable venue is one of the most important considerations when organising an event, using a pop up venue that is available for a limited time only can offer guests an exclusive event experience.

Helen Davis, Head of Top Banana Venues, says pop ups are a great option for clients looking for novelty value and creativity, but warns about the practicalities of such venues. “Power, security, toilet facilities…these are all basic requirements that you need to consider carefully if you’re working in a temporary venue of any kind. The cost and logistics of getting everything laid on needs to be factored in at the outset.”

If you are working at a venue which only offers very standard, corporate accommodation, or where there’s no accommodation close by, Davis says pop up-style bedrooms can offer a quirky solution and an unusual experience for delegates.

“There’s a lot of potential in pop up options and lots more becoming available, but knowing what to look out for and planning accordingly is essential,” she adds. 

Additional challenges with these types of venues include an element of concern regarding whether the venue will be built in time if your booking is close to the start of a pop up’s run.  And, if it’s an outdoor pop up, such as a marquee, the British weather has the potential to cause a few headaches.

Event venues are increasingly embracing the pop up culture, and none more so than Middle Temple in London, which has tried the spectrum of pop up ideas – a bar, restaurant and cinema.

The venue hosted its first pop up Champagne Bar in its Fountain Court area this summer. A marquee housed the bar, with tables catering for 60 guests. The venue’s pop up ‘Restaurant on the Terrace’ also opened in the summer and included a grab and go BBQ option that guests could enjoy in the venue’s gardens (weather permitting, of course).

For August only, Middle Temple hosted a pop up screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet in the gardens. Food Show, one of the venue’s caterers, provided a luxury BBQ with drinks bar and luxury picnic hampers.

The event was a great success with 400 tickets sold, reports Lorraine Butler, Sales and Marketing Manager at Middle Temple.

“Pop up events have great appeal. People are drawn to them because they spring up and before long they are gone,” she says. “Pop up events are an excellent way to connect people and bring them together to share an experience. They can also generate interest in the venue and introduce a new audience who may not otherwise have known about it.”

Another venue recognising the opportunity to market their events spaces to a wider audience is The National Theatre, which has introduced the Temporary Theatre. For a limited time, it will be available as an events space prior to its relaunch as a drama venue.

Available for corporate event bookings until 28 February 2015, the Temporary Theatre offers a quirky space to host product launches, conferences, drinks receptions and dinners, with standing capacity for 200 guests and 185 for a conference.

“The Temporary Theatre gives us the opportunity to offer organisers a limited edition chance to be associated with the National Theatre’s latest space,” says Charley Taylor-Smith, Head of Hospitality Events and Commercial Business Development.

Utilising all of its space, The Deck, an events venue situated on the roof of the National Theatre, launched a pop up cinema this summer, following the success of its first pop up restaurant in 2013. The indoor/outdoor themed cinema ran for a week and featured a screening of One Man, Two Guvnors and London Assurance.

Pop up planning techniques

Fleur Burrows-Jones, Hospitality Events Sales and Marketing Manager at The Deck says the pop up cinema resulted in a host of booking enquiries, but adds that these events require some specific pop up planning techniques.

“It is essential to have a good team to support you. Make sure you have outlined the concept fully and created a deliverable vision that everyone can share,” she says, while noting that budget is critical, especially when reliant on income from ticket sales.

“Providing a platform for selling tickets was straightforward for us at the National Theatre, but it’s important to build in costs for sales channels and be realistic about what you can sell,” she adds, noting that the more unusual the event and desirable the venue the greater the sales will be, however prices must be realistic. “Competition is rife, so unless your pop up is completely exclusive and unique, you can’t charge unrealistic ticket prices.”

When it comes to the marketing plan, Burrows-Jones stresses that it must be robust, creating a budget that enables you to do the event justice. “You need to put money behind the concept to really make it work.”

Pop up publicity
Publicity is key, she adds, and the more people talking about the event, the better. So making use of social media is essential.

With two successful pop up events behind them, The Deck is feeling the love and will introduce another pop up in February for Valentine’s Day.

“It definitely helps boost awareness of our space, food and service as well as our creative and theming team,” she concludes.

Popular pop ups

If it’s a pop up venue with a blank canvas space to unleash your imagination you’re after, Battersea Evolution could be just the option.

As a stand-alone, exclusive hire venue Battersea Evolution provides the opportunity to really make an event your own. The main arena’s 4,00sqm clear span events space offers a blank canvas on which to unleash the potential of any event.

It’s not just venues that are popping up, but catering units as well. Amadeus, part of the NEC Group, specialises in mobile and pop up catering at conferences and private events. The company currently operates at 15 major ‘meet’ and ‘visit’ external events and venues including The Scottish Open, Cadbury World, Library of Birmingham and Stoneleigh Abbey, and was used earlier this autumn during the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

Glenn Silcox, Senior Project Manager at brand communications and event specialist Logistik Group, says that using pop up venues means locations and activation styles can be matched to the target audience, maximising the activations’ effectiveness.

The agency carried out a pop up activation for British Telecom at the International Festival for Business this summer. “This was carried out within One Mann Island in Liverpool which was renamed The Hub,” says Silcox. “The activation had a footfall in excess of 70,000. The venue was chosen due to its location close to the main conference.”

Silcox adds that the activation was well received by the client, who said it had exceeded expectations, both from a brand awareness perspective and the number of visitors, which lead to conversion of sales.

Whether it is a pop up venue with blank canvas space for conferences, a pop up cinema for corporate entertaining, or a pop up catering unit, it appears the pop up culture has set down firm roots in the events industry.

This was first published in the December issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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