Food hall concepts, pop-ups and food trucks are providing a fruitful proving ground to incubate new full-scale restaurant brands—with less of a risk.
Here’s a look at some of the latest of these small concepts that could have a bigger future due to their star power, financial backing or on-trend menu.
1. Bringing home the bacon
Though less bonkers than it was a couple of years ago, the bacon craze continues. Bacon has shown 5% growth on menus over the past five years, according to Technomic data. Jumping on the bacon bandwagon, the I Love Bacon Food Truck recently debuted its second mobile eatery in Birmingham, Ala. The concept is also slated to open a food hall-based unit this month. The trucks, which frequent racetracks, office parking lots and craft breweries, sell bacon-centric sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and more.
2. Burger concept with ‘Top Chef’ clout
John Tesar’s new Knife Burger fast-casual concept is slated to be the centerpiece of a 16,000-square-foot food hall planned for Fort Worth, Texas. Tesar has two other locations of the concept in the works, with one planned as an add-on to his steakhouse Knife, set to open in Plano, Texas, next year. Knife Burger features tablet-based ordering and a simple menu of a few burger options, avocado fries, a salad and shakes.
3. Doughnut pop-up that won’t accept dough
Wylie Dufresne, known for his molecular gastronomy creations at now-shuttered wd-50 and Alder, launched Du’s Donuts in Brooklyn last spring. He expanded his doughnut concept to a pop-up counter in Manhattan this fall, part of the revolving chefs’ series at Chefs Club Counter. Dufresne’s doughnuts are known for their wild ingredient combinations, like honey-fennel pollen and brown butter-key lime. The pop-up location will be cashless.
4. Fried chicken side gig
McFly’s All-Natural began as a one-time event and is now a weekly pop-up in Los Angeles’ Electric Owl restaurant. The concept comes from chef Ernesto Uchimura, formerly of Plan Check and Umami, who is known for his fried chicken. His pop-up ramps up the heat with hot fried chicken sandwiches, as well as potato tots, chocolate chip cookies and a full bar, available Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until menu items run out.