A few weeks ago I held what I believe was Scotland’s first paleo pop up! It was definitely Dundee’s first. I wanted to share my experience in planning and preparing for the event, and how it went on the night 🙂
I’ve thought for a long while that a pop up would be a great way to start testing out concepts on a new local audience. Farmer’s markets have been great for me, but to reach new customers and create some buzz, I needed to do something different, somewhere new.
Finding a venue was more difficult than I thought it would be, and it was the thing that held me up longer than I would’ve liked. Some of the well known local eateries weren’t so keen on bringing in a totally new concept to an already established place with lots of repeat customers. But eventually I found a space. A beautiful old house, The Vine, now used as an events venue which had a perfectly sized room for 20 guests.
I capped my numbers at 20, knowing that it was my first time and wanted to keep it manageable, considering I was going right in with three courses. I also knew I’d be working in a tiny kitchen and dishing up any more than 10 plates at a time would have had too many spinning! So I staggered the sittings.
I started to publicise the event about a month in advance and I had an amazing response to my first Facebook post reaching 5000 people organically, when my posts usually reach hundreds. I knew I was on to something! Within a couple of weeks, and a couple more Facebook posts, I was at 19 people, so I declared it full confident that it was unlikely I’d get a booking for one more 🙂
I was in close contact with all of the customers in the run up to the event. The menu choices were being made, I knew who had food allergies and intolerances, I discussed menu items with them, I had a sense of what they wanted to drink and that meant we were ready to serve them on the night.
The menu dished up was:
Chicken and leek terrine
Smoked mackerel pate
Smoky fish stew and cauliflower rice
Beef rendang with paleo wraps
Vanilla crepe with summer berries and coconut cream
Sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and chocolate banana ice cream
I spent a lot of time planning for the week of the event, clearing my calendar of anything unnecessary. But sort of ironically I was at a day-long pop up event for Dundee small businesses two days before, and I didn’t want to miss it so I made time for it in my diary. The planning paid off. I had enough time to do all of the cooking and preparation needed. We also had to take a lot of kitchen equipment from home to the venue knowing that there wasn’t much there. We had crates full of stuff on top of all the food! The day of the pop up was when the helpers were drafted in. The Fella was brilliant at helping me keep the kitchen cleared and manageable, and he was waiter/dishwasher extraordinaire on the night along with my fabulous yogi friend Katie. They kept guests happy and satisfied throughout the evening.
I had fully intended to speak to every table, as most of them I hadn’t met before, but I found myself completely engulfed by the pace of getting food out the kitchen and in front of them while it was warm. I didn’t get to meet the first four people, which was a shame, but I’m told they left happy! I loved speaking to everyone else, and I’d asked them to complete a survey at the end of the night for some honest feedback. That was really valuable. All of the ratings were Good, Great or Oustanding, and lots of the comments were helpful for learning and really encouraging.
The whole thing was so much fun. Yes it was stressful at times, but that good sort of stress that makes you feel really alive. I just felt like I was doing something right and good. We laughed and I loved hearing Katie cheerfully chatting to customers, and the fella running back and forth and up and down stairs making sure everything was moving.
Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll be looking for a venue that’s set up for cooking for those sorts of numbers. That would help me be more focused on the food. I’ll also try a different format, perhaps a tasting night or informal buffet where people can try things while they mix and mingle.
Some photos from the night.. I wish I’d gotten more, but was too busy feeding lovely customers 🙂