Behind the Pop-Up: Creating the Perfect Pop-Up Restaurant

Patience is key in creating the perfect pop-up. We spoke with a few pop-up owners about creating their business.

pop-up restaurant
Two tortas from a CultivateYpsi pop-up. Photo courtesy of Ypsimales.

There are always going to be problems. A statement that applies to many situations, but especially for Guadalupe’s owner Gabriel Recendiz when he realized his stove was malfunctioning right before a pop-up in Ferndale. 

“You’re never going to perfect anything,” Recendiz said. Thinking fast, he called another person from the pop-up to get him a working stove and help him out. “You have to be prepared and that’s it. Just keep moving and stay positive.” 

Recendiz learned to stay positive, even as his taquitos were unraveling in sizzling oil at his first-ever pop-up or even when he was stressed out about whether people would come to try his food. Cooking strengthened Recendiz’s bond with his mother as he learned her traditional Mexican recipes. 

“[My mom] was surprised that people came out because even some of her friends came to eat my food,” Recendiz said. “In the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area, everyone is down to try your food and give constructive criticism so it’s super great.” 

pop-up restaurant
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Recendiz.

Advice on Running a Pop-Up

Ypsimales owner Jared Barajas faced a similar response to his pop-up. Barajas focuses on selling tamales made from local ingredients at his pop-up because he grew up savoring them. 

“I want to create an environment for cooking where we use what we can grow here in Michigan,” Barajas said. “Just because it is Mexican food doesn’t mean we have to bring it from Mexico. It is all the food that I can grow in my garden.” 

Some of his cuisines are native to certain regions of Mexico and has talked to people from those regions about his food. 

“[They] come and tell me that my food is great, and everything is pretty simple, but it is something they have eaten back home,” Barajas said. “It makes me feel like I am doing a good job.” 

After 11 years of previous experience in the food industry, Barajas has worked in almost every position in a restaurant. However, he has seen major differences when he is doing it all himself. Ypsimales started as a way for him to make money after losing his job to the COVID pandemic. But the endeavor has turned into a true passion. 

“You have to be patient with yourself and take the time to remember what truly is the point, [which is making] good food that you are happy with,” Barajas said. “If you are happy with it, I think people will receive it with the same attitude that you do.”