Pop-up Gourmet Food Stores
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
In the world of food and
retailing, you never know what’s going to pop
up next — literally. Two chefs in Oakland, California are demonstrating just
how such a concept can work by setting out their wares in an ex-streetcar depot
in what the San Francisco Chronicle described as “an otherwise
Open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening
in May, the Pop-Up General Store was not expected to re-open for several more
weeks, so the 200+ shoppers who turned up left with their bags crammed full
of “restaurant quality” food
to eat in the comfort of their own homes.
Chris Lee and Samin Nosrat came up
with the idea of selling the dishes they most enjoyed cooking directly to consumers
after Eccolo, the restaurant where they both worked as chefs, closed down.
Along with chefs from other restaurants loved by locals, they set up shop selling
exceptional food made from exceptional ingredients. The offerings include heat-and-serve
and frozen dishes.
The Chronicle said that Mr. Lee and Ms. Nosrat’s
part of the new phenomenon of temporary eateries, farm stands and even one
‘underground market’ that spring up here and there around the Bay Area, sometimes
regularly in the same location, sometimes not.”
Ms. Nosrat told the Chronicle they
had no plan initially but didn’t
want people to forget them while they decided what to do next. Their objective
is to “create community and cook the food we love to cook and share it
with people – without all the externalities of the restaurant … When it’s
just between us and the customers, something more direct is spoken to people
— they can see it and feel it and taste it … So it just magically happened.”
their first session in January, the pair were on their own and filled just
28 orders. The May session had more than a dozen stalls. Prices were high but
so was enthusiasm. Customers said they were willing to pay for quality and
wanted “to support their own.” One made the fairly obvious
observation that it still costs less than eating out.
That said, the project
isn’t yet profitable although Ms. Nosrat is concerned
that “building too quickly might jeopardize quality.” It is far
more important to “develop the sustainable food system” and help
the cooks “make
their products known.” Fine-tuning with pantry items rather than expansion
is one such development. Others may pop up in due course.
Discussion Questions: What do you think of the potential of local food-centered
pop-up stores? Are chefs and consumers in other parts of the U.S. likely
to be interested in such a niche outlet?