These days if you are a young entrepreneur looking for a foothold in the food industry it most likely happens via a pop-up stall in a market.
Or, likewise, as part of a cultural festival or event, or by linking up with a street food hub such as Kerb (www.kerbfood.com). The alternative is getting tied up in lengthy and complicated leases at currently high rental values.
Pop-ups are also a good way for established businesses to explore new markets or to introduce themselves to a new audience. They are also a good way for landlords to inject some new life into tired shopping centres, vacant high streets or lifeless transport hubs.
Recently, I visited Old Street Tube Station, at the heart of London’s tech hub, where Bev’s Cookies and Desserts (www.bevscookiedesserts.com) have been doing a brisk trade. Bev is a young baker, with all the passion of those taking part in the Great British Bake Off, who offers a daily choice of eight handmade dessert-flavoured gourmet cookies that she actually bakes in situ in the tiniest of ovens, at only about a handful at a time. Their freshness guarantees a strong fan base. Thousands of commuters are disgorged through the Old Street Tube Station barriers on a daily basis, so it’s a good audience for Bev, who has returned regularly. The stalls are rented out on a weekly or bi-weekly rota. Life is sweet if you start your day on one of Bev’s cookies and once Bev moves on, converts to her cookies can order them by the box-load online too. The neighbouring juice bar was equally popular, with people waiting in line for their 16oz vitamin fixes.
One of the bakery concepts that has taken hold of markets is Crosstown Doughnuts (www.crosstowndoughnuts.com). Currently, Crosstown Doughnuts are available in Wapping and Leather Lane markets as well as online. The concept is reminiscent of the new gourmet doughnut concepts that have sprung up in New York as of late and promises a doughnut renaissance. Their basic dough is based on a sourdough-yeast recipe; it is lovely and light with a fine crumb. After that the fillings are pretty adventurous, from sea salt caramel & banana to peanut butter & currant and more besides.
It is amazing how fast things move in London and how whole swaths of the city get modernized and updated. I take my hat off to Transport for London, who have embraced the idea of breathing new life into some of its stations. To see a major tube station such as Piccadilly Circus furnished with a coffee hub run by the people behind Shoreditch Grind is really refreshing. In many other cities only the most corporate of concepts get to cherry-pick a site of such prominence.
Konditor & Cook’s first pop-up
We at Konditor & Cook are also looking forward to our first pop-up. This autumn we will be opening a cake-only concept. This gives us the opportunity to be playful with our displays and ranges and to tell our story to a whole new audience, from tourists to local workers. It’s a great way to test the location for a potential long-term lease too.
For the landlord, it’s a good way to bring different concepts to the area and keep the amenities for the surrounding offices and anchor tenants interesting and lively.
There are websites dedicated to listing all the various pop-ups. From food to crafts to art, there’s never been a better time to visit London or setting up shop.