an overnight success

Here today and gone tomorrow, pop-up events have been appearing around the world, drawing in curious crowds. Edwina Storie explores what makes the pop-up event such
a success.

We’re all about temporary these days. With live news updates and the fleeting life of a tweet, audiences increasingly desire short and concise messages. And these messages have been ‘popping up’ everywhere. Event organisers are finding the pop-up style a savvy way of attracting attendees, and creating an air of exclusivity around their client.

What is a pop-up?

Pop-up events appear unannounced, quickly drawing in crowds and then disappearing, leaving a flurry of tweets, articles and blogs across the online world. They take place in sites that couldn’t be held permanently such as parks, old warehouses, privately owned restaurants, city laneways, and pretty much anywhere a little unusual and therefore shrouded in ‘cool’. Attendees will usually learn of the event online which adds to its temporal nature, while its short life span creates guaranteed exclusivity, along with surprise and urgency for attendees to experience it.

Pop-up psychology

The pop-up trend is a product of society’s lust for instant gratification. Termed ‘nowism’, this yearning is satisfied by real-time products and experiences. It focuses on ‘living in the now’ rather than the future. Nowism is linked to, and often blamed for, society’s short attention spans, excessive credit card debt and impulse buying.
While experiencing a pop-up event, consumers instantly contribute to the real-time identity and content of the product. With a touch of their smartphone they post pictures, information, reviews, blogs and tweets to showcase the product and their lifestyle to their online community.
The focus of living in the now is a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible. Travel is an example of this. It’s moved from a luxury to a necessity, now being about detachment, trying out new things, escapism, dropping formality, and collecting endless new experiences. The pop-up event dovetails with this field as it provides a similarly unfamiliar subject with a limited lifespan to be experienced. It’s fast, informal and of-the-moment. It satisfies our desire for something new, and is the ultimate event trend.
The promotion of a destination does particularly well with the pop-up style as it injects the character and flavour of the region into the home of its target market. Clever event organisers have recently incorporated the style into the promotion of their clients and enjoyed instant crowds.
While it is designed to appear secretive, its trick is the extra media coverage it attracts as an interesting news story that promotes the client to more people than you could ever attend.


Positively Wellington Tourism recently hosted its second Australian pop-up event with the WLG pop-up restaurant last November in Melbourne. Named WLG after the airport code, the destination took over Rue de Fleurus Salon & Bar for two weeks, serving diners a three-course experience for AUD$35. Everything from ingredients and wine to chefs and waiters were imported to give diners a true taste of Wellington.
Return flights to Wellington were given out to surprised diners by Air New Zealand’s stewards while the stunt was filmed and posted on YouTube.
Positively Wellington Tourism marketing manager Sarah Meikle says the temporal element was pivotal to the event because it wouldn’t have enjoyed the same level of buzz had it opened for an extended period.
“Pop-ups rely heavily on two things – word of mouth and social media to get the message out before the event,” she explains.
“Once we’d opened, the media coverage we received was very important. We wanted to organise a PR event that created ‘water cooler chatter’. We set up a Twitter handle and encouraged as many people as possible to tweet about it. The media coverage we were generating helped us to create further buzz, both in Melbourne and also back in New Zealand.” The video of the surprised guests received 45,000 views at the time of writing.

Malaysia Kitchen

The Malaysian Trade Commission approached Pulse Communications to create an event that would increase the popularity of Australians visiting Malaysian restaurants and travel to the country.
The account director of Malaysia Kitchen, Heather Mollins, explains their target audience was ‘foodies’ who are influenced by current trends in events and food.
“These trends include pop-up events, rejuvenation of laneways and city space as well as celebrity chefs,” she says.
Pulse devised a concept that brought the Malaysian hawker market experience to Sydney through a pop-up event that had the taste and feel of the destination.
“The pop-up side of the event was important to create an event with exclusivity – it was for a limited time with limited capacity.”
The event enchanted a CBD laneway with a canopy of paper lanterns, sizzling food stalls of the local Malaysian restaurants, communal seating, light installations of Malaysian imagery and appearances by Malaysian celebrity chefs. A specific social media campaign was implemented to drive attendance to both the event and Malaysian restaurants that included Twitter, Facebook and an outreach to bloggers.
“[The pop-up element] created a real buzz around Sydney as thousands queued for the experience. Those who weren’t able to get a seat were diverted to nearby Malaysian restaurants to get their Malaysian fix. In turn, this resulted in a 30 per cent increase in patronage to the restaurants.”
The exclusivity ensured the venue reached its capacity within minutes of opening and over 1300 experiencing the event, with many more cueing down the street.
The event was such a success that Malaysian restaurants were forced to shut their doors, having used up their entire supply of ingredients, while others opened on days they would usually be closed due to the demand of diners. The success of the event created media coverage that touched 16 million Australians at some point.

Love those pop-ups

Singapore’s first pop-up restaurant was a true feast to the senses.


 Gastrogig, a design-led events agency specialising in creative spaces and experiential campaigns with a focus on food, art and design had the honour of introducing pop-up restaurants in Singapore recently. Founder Jasmine Cheah stumbled upon the idea of organising gastronomy events after working on projects with some of the best chefs in the world.
Jasmine shares, “Gastrogig is distinguished from other pop-up style restaurants by its use of art and design to further enhance the dining experience. As an architecture graduate, this is the perfect opportunity for me to marry my love for design with the idea of promoting up and coming chefs.”
The intense passion that Jasmine and her team have for their art inspired her to provide young chefs with a platform to showcase their creativity and talent. With her passion for discovering new places, people and cultures through travel, Jasmine hopes that Gastrogig will be a means of introducing Singaporeans to lesser known destinations through their love for food.

Q: When and what started the concept of pop up celebrity chef restaurants?

A: The trend of pop up celebrity chef restaurants started in the US & Europe and became popular starting in 2011. Most pop-ups start as a way for new restaurants and chefs to test the market and gain a following before establishing a permanent presence. In our instance, we are leveraging on each pop-up opportunity to present a curated experience of gastronomy, architecture and design, thus making each experience unique yet relevant to the context of cuisine, chef
and location.

Q: What made you venture into this kind of business?

A: Great food, architecture and travel have always been my passions. I’m guilty of saying that Singapore is sometimes a tad too boring and orderly and the grass is always greener elsewhere. The opportunity struck for me to walk my talk and contribute my part to make Singapore a more exciting place! Hence, Gastrogig was born with the mission to communicate the uniqueness and creativity in Singapore, by marrying my three loves of food, travel and architecture! With the rising trend of pop-up restaurants around the world, it seemed timely for Singapore to get on the map, and I’m pleasantly surprised that we were able to set the precedent. A pop-up allows us to move away from the usual clockwork routine to create a platform which truly allows creativity and experimentation to come to the forefront.
I’m also a big believer in supporting emerging talents who are usually the ones at the forefront of pushing their creative boundaries. I’m grateful to be able to provide this platform to showcase these raw culinary and design talents to a willing and hungry (pun not intended) crowd.
We spotted an opportunity to create a niche which brought out the best solutions to fit the challenges in a land and talent scarce market condition, while also satisfying the taste buds of a progressive and increasingly inquisitive consumer base. While there’s no lack of great restaurants and chefs in Singapore, a great dining experience is more than just great food and ambience – it’s an intangible luxury, which we aim to fine tune and perfect through every pop-up, to ultimately create the best in class.

Q: How confident are you with the popularity of pop-ups in Singapore after your first gigs?

A: Judging from the response of our debut gig, we are definitely here to stay for the long term. Proud to say we had timed our entrance well to gain widespread acceptance for a very discerning dining crowd in Singapore.
This has also interested more strategic partners to come forward to grow this concept with us.

Q: What are the challenges of planning a pop up restaurant for a MICE event?

A: Planning for a pop-up gig takes three to four months. The challenges are no different from planning for our own pop-up restaurant. We will have to work around the context of our environment to present the best solution and add to the synergy of client’s event.

Q: How did you work around the situation?

A: Sufficient lead time!

Q: Pop up restaurants typically hold a limited number of attendees. Is there a downside to having too many attendees?

A: Number of attendees is dependent on the dining concept and chef’s intent. Most of our current concepts revolve around allowing diners to have direct contact with chefs; hence the numbers are definitely limited to a maximum of 40 covers. Too many attendees will usually mean the quality of food and attention to detail is compromised and less contact with chef.

Q: What can a celebrity chef pop up restaurant achieve that conventional restaurants would find hard to beat?

A: Pop-up allows room for chefs and our designers to break away from clockwork routine and get more creative and experimental, thereby presenting a unique dining experience each time. Diners are also treated to a new experience each time they step into our restaurant – new location, new chef, and new menu.

Q: Who were the celebrity chefs you’ve worked with and how was it working with them?

A: In my previous roles, I had worked with Michelin starred chefs and celebrity chefs from S Pellegrino 50 world best restaurants. In my current venture, I’m focused on working with chefs with a deeper sense of purpose and mission in promoting their country and heritage. With Henrique Sa Pessoa (Portugal) and Roberto Pengson (Philippines), it’s been a very humbling and inspiring experience, as both chefs are extremely passionate about taking their heritage to an international audience. This sense of purpose makes them and their creations distinctly different from their peers.