“We knew when we reopened we couldn’t be open six or seven days a week because the staff and business were not going to be there,” said John Stephenson, owner of Hathorne. “I knew I wanted to use the space.”
A chef from Nashville for decades, Stephenson knew a number of chefs who were trying to stay afloat during the pandemic with projects such as creating take-out dinners or starting food trucks, he said.
The first pop-up at Hathorne began in October, with a Mexican theme by Julio Hernandez centered around his homemade tortilla. It was a success and more pop-ups followed. Currently, Hathorne hosts Michael Hanna’s focaccia pizza company every Sunday, St. Vito Focacciaria.
Hanna and her team find work and “that makes people come to our doors,” says Stephenson. The arrangement with St. Vito is long term, so he hired Hanna as a chef. Hanna gets a percentage of Sunday sales; Hathorne pays for all products and labor.
Stephenson said he plans to continue having pop-ups even after the pandemic has declined rather than reopening full time.
Pop-ups can be a way to draw attention to new projects. William Eick bought a building to start his own restaurant earlier this year, but struggled to find investors at first.
“Most people were worried about getting involved in restaurants during the pandemic,” he said. “So we had to be creative. I thought if we could create a pop-up, we could invest the profits and the profits into building the restaurant.