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Winter 2015
A Delicious Pop-osition

An appetite for sales has lead to a creative use of vacant restaurant space in Austin, Texas.

“Where do you want to go to dinner?”

Misuma Holdings, the new owners of The Linc in Austin, Texas, saw an opportunity to answer that question with their Pop Up at The Linc campaign.

When Misuma purchased the property in 2013 there was a vacant outparcel restaurant building with a large freeway pylon sign. The goal was to transform the older ’80s vintage shopping center into a vibrant culinary, retail and entertainment district in the center of Austin. The Linc also provides select spaces for creative office tenants to incubate the next generation of city businesses. Misuma’s first task was to get the former full-service restaurant space cleaned, and ready for use. Signage on the former restaurant’s freeway sign was replaced with a new one that said, simply: “Pop Up Here.” Once the sign was up, inquiries started coming in. 

In the past year, The Linc has hosted four successful pop-up restaurants by local chefs. These include Dinner Lab, a membership-based supper club, and Llama’s Peruvian Creole, a food-trailer concept. “The Linc gave us the atmosphere and amenities needed to create a great dinner party.” Says Miguel Barrutia of Llama’s Peruvian Creole. The Linc has also hosted local Austin artisans in pop-ups during Austin Fashion Week.

Appetizing sales

DinnerLabPopUpLincRyanGreen The success of the outparcel-pop-up restaurant location, which has since been leased to a permanent tenant, has motivated Misuma to keep the concept going. A new in-line space (a former Quiznos) is now dedicated to this cool concept. Allan Davidov, Partner at Misuma Holdings says he wanted to “create a sense of place” with the changes at The Linc and with the pop-up restaurant concept.

Pop up at The Linc will allow local chefs to test the waters for their culinary or business concept. Many new chefs want to open a restaurant, but are nervous about all the risks involved. Popping up allows them to experiment without breaking the bank, and is a great way to gain exposure for the brand. The restaurateurs are required to pay a small fee to use the space, obtain all applicable permits, and bring in their own serve ware, staff and food. The restaurateurs and the landlord use social media, website promotion and on-site signage to drive traffic to the pop-up and to the property.

Diner dash

Dinner-LabJeff-Thibodeau Pop-up restaurants have not typically been a common inline specialty leasing deal. However, with the popularity of cooking shows, reality chef competition series and television networks dedicated to all things food, Americans have a larger appetite for unique dining experiences. There are also more entrepreneurs interested in testing their talent in their very own restaurant space. This kind of pop-up opportunity is a win-win for landlords, aspiring chefs, and consumers alike. Ellen Dunham-Jones, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design Coordinator of the Master of Urban Design Program at Georgia Tech-School of Architecture, says in her TedX talk, “Retrofitting Suburbia,” “Never underestimate the power of food to turn a property around and make it a destination.”PopUpLinc1RyanGreen

In 2013 and 2014, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. partnered with the Food Network to host a reality television show where budding restaurateurs compete to win a food court location free for one year and $10,000 from the Food Network. This partnership between CBL and the Food Network was great exposure for the malls participating in the competition and filled the vacant spaces for a short time during the competition—and one space for a full year. It also gave the consumer an opportunity to try a variety of cuisines.  The show proved that national chains aren’t the only options for a mall food court.

Specialty leasing managers can source pop-up restaurant prospects through their state’s local restaurant associations, culinary schools, food truck operators, and local caterers. One can also post photos and kitchen inventory of vacant former restaurant space on Craigslist, Chamber of Commerce boards or through local small business administration offices.

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Starr Cumming

Starr Cumming is a freelance writer from Atlanta with 12 years of shopping center industry management and leasing experience. She most recently was a RVP of Business Development with General Growth Management, Inc. She can be reached at starr.cumming@gmail.com.
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