The Nature of Pop Ups in Brighton

Britain’s every-growing fascination with restaurant pop-ups is nowhere more popular than in Brighton. Indeed, not only are there regular venues around the city playing host to new innovative pop-ups, but also many feature within some our best loved pubs too.

Local operators are offering their kitchens to start ups on a franchise basis rather than having their own food in-house, this provides a useful stage for small independents who perhaps cannot afford their own restaurant. With escalating premium and rents becoming prohibitive, this is an affordable way to get on the ladder. 

It is apparent that this way of starting the transition between pop up/street food and serving food within a restaurant regularly to diners, is benefiting these owners and chefs who want to turn their dream into a reality.

By having a franchise and/or stalls within the city centre, chefs can produce their ideas and food effectively to the standard necessary, without the burden of the extreme costs of buying a restaurant along with an annual rent or venue before their brand is fully established within the area.

Street Diner, who host a street food market in the grounds of Brighthelm Gardens every Friday lunchtime was the first of its kind in Brighton. The Little Blue Smokehouse have been regular traders here since its opening this helped them be able to expand to showcase their food at various different food festivals and they now hold a residency at The Seven Stars, 27 Ship Street, Brighton, where they have traded at since summer 2015.

Indigo Leisure, a Brighton pub company who currently own around 20 different freehold and leasehold venues in and around Brighton, are known in the industry for their promotion and support of chefs in their endeavours by franchising out their kitchens. They currently have residencies from Flank, The Little Blue Smokehouse, La Choza, Doughbo, Curry Leaf Cafe and many more across the city.

The Little Blue Smokehouse, a street food business run by head chef and owner Martyn Cotton,  highlights his love for smoked foods and started as a small mobile operation catering for weddings and events for friends.

Head chef and owner Martyn said: “Our ultimate ambition has two potential end results, one is to have our own restaurant and site but this will incur costs including purchasing a lease, catering equipment, staffing and start up costs – which are ultimately unaffordable unless you have the stepping stone of working within another business.”

Working at The Seven Stars has its compromises as we were formerly known as street food with big meaty, smoky American style dishes. We had to have a wider variety of dishes to cater for passing trade, existing customers and those who have followed us from the street food events we have done in the past and carry on doing so now.”

He continued: “Indigo gave us the platform to expand within The Seven Stars, with a degree of compromise, as you have to be open to the public 7 days a week and you are a minor partner in the growth of their business. We created a menu that covers quality whilst still upholding our ideals and also catering to the public need.”

Richard Humphries, who created and runs the Polygon pop up in Brighton has recently been nominated for an award by Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Awards as ‘Food Hero’. Polygon Pop Up was held at the Ribot situated in the Seven Dials area of Brighton. The venue saw various different small businesses, chefs, breweries, startups and artists showcasing their products.

One of the chefs who held the closing night of street food at this summer’s Polygon Pop Up was head chef and owner of Flank, Tom Griffiths. Flank prides itself on being a ‘nose to tail’ business and this summer had a stall at Meatopia serving as well as holding a residency in The Cow, 95/97 Dyke Road, Brighton for the last 6 months and we understand there are plans to secure a permanent residency but plans are yet to be announced.

The Troll’s Pantry, otherwise known as Paul Clark, is an established firm favourite amongst Brighton’s street food eaters, having just finished their residency in Hobgoblin’s infamous garden cooking up burgers and gaining a huge following.

Paul is now carrying on the street food theme turning his attention to Troll Doner, available at The Druids Arms and Troll Burger which is in the garden of The Marwood cafe on Ship Street on the edge of the Lanes, both launched earlier in the month.

The Little Blue Smokehouse are a permanent fixture at The Seven Stars with plans to carry on making festival and street food appearances over the coming months, most notably at the Sussex Street Food Awards in Horsham.

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