Back in December 2019, before the pandemic began, people in New York City could wander into a place that felt like Santa’s workshop called Miracle, on 9th Street in the East Village. Tinsel decked the ceilings of what used to be any other establishment, the bartenders served holiday-themed cocktails, and the line of people wanting to take advantage of this limited-time pop-up themed bar wrapped around the block.
The limited-time attraction, known as a pop-up bar, only fills the real estate for a predetermined amount of time and usually has a theme, whether it be holiday-themed, rose-themed bar carts at the beach, or whatever else the owners can think of.
Fast forward to pandemic life, where more and more stores and bars are closing and it’s safer for people to gather outside until they’re vaccinated, and it seems like pop-up bars will see their glory days in 2021.
“Our customers know that every time they visit, they’ll find something unique that will only be there for a short time. It keeps people coming back again and again,” Vasilis Kyritsis, cofounder of The Clumsies in Athens, Greece, told SevenFiftyDaily.
A pop-up bar’s temporary nature allows bartenders who have been laid off to unleash their creativity without the long-term commitment of rent. It also creates a buzz and customer demand because of the temporary nature. While pop-up bars are flashy, are they profitable?
Are pop-up bars profitable?
By not taking up permanent residence at a certain address, pop-up bars maximize sales by taking advantage of consumer psychology. Customers want to check out something special before it is gone, and the pop-up bar owners avoid adding to an oversaturated market of too many bars to choose from by making theirs particularly special.
“We realized people are not really into tacos and margaritas for the holidays,” Ivy Mix, a bartender and co-owner of Leyenda, a pan-Latin cocktail bar based in Brooklyn, New York, told SevenFiftyDaily in 2018. “So, we decided to do a holiday pop-up bar last year. It increased our monthly sales by nearly 60 percent. If we didn’t do that, we would really struggle in December.”
How do pop-up bars generate buzz?
A limited-time bar’s special nature creates buzz, but owners still need that buzz to reach potential customers.
The flashy decorations and special cocktails serve as unique social media content. The average pop-up bar content sees a 5% to 10% jump in social media and website impressions.
In 2019, Aperol handed out Aperol Spritz’s at the beach. The visual of the umbrella and colorful drinks helped create great photos and the line to get a drink drew people to the pop-up car without the need for any paid advertising.
“We saw there was a growing interest in Aperol in the U.S., especially at summer events and destinations,” Melanie Batchelor, the vice president of marketing at Campari America, told The New York Times. “We invested behind that.” Aperol sales were up 25% that year.
How do I incorporate pop-ups into my business model?
If you’re a current bar owner seeing depreciating sales because of the pandemic, you can create a pop-up from within. You already have the space leased, so now you need the idea. Ask your staff for inspiration, consider the time of year—a beach-themed bar in the city during the summer can be fun—and then double-down. While it does take money to transform your bar for a month, the uptick in sales should make up for it.
If you don’t have a physical location yet, reach out to landlords who have lost tenants due to the pandemic. Landlords may be willing to offer short-term leases to help themselves take in any cash during a time many bar owners are not opening new, permanent bars.
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