The Guide

How Brands Can Create Memorable Dining Experiences

November 23, 2017

Toronto’s own culinary curator, Charlotte Langley, offers her advice for brands creating experiences for their community or launching a campaign, and tips on what space is best for each. 

Trying to create a memorable pop-up event with the perfect menu? You’d do well to follow the advice of Charlotte Langley, a Toronto-based chef who is owning the catering/pop-up/custom dining space her city.

The Prince Edward Island native has made a name for herself by embracing a non-traditional path for chefs – opting out of the brick and mortar restaurant model and instead focusing on event-style productions. These pop-ups give her the freedom to flex her foodie sensibilities without the baggage of a 10-year-lease or restrictions of a singular space. “Pop-up spaces are really interesting and unique right now. They’re so hot because it allows a person to test run a model before committing to it,” Langley explains.

What originally started as a fresh-prepared canned goods company to make extra cash has evolved into a full-on events operation (Scout Events), and Langley has transitioned from chef to culinary curator. This past year she teamed up with CHIPITS and thisopenspace to present Bake Bar, a 10-day pop-up custom cookie party that ran July 7–16, 2017.

So who better to advise on throwing a pop-up event? Here, Langley details the benefits, challenges and considerations of catering a pop-up – whether a big buffet, cocktail party or an intimate sit-down.

Big Buffet

A big affair might seem overwhelming at first blush, but the scale actually works in your favour: you can streamline the process by focusing on fewer dishes and mass producing them. Langley explains the pros and cons:

Advantages: “The costs are set. Menu development is less progressive – it’s more traditional. You can stay in your comfort zones with decor choices and your top dishes. [Buffets] are also one of the tried-and-true money makers. Once you do one big buffet, you know everything for next time. It gives you some financial security – you’ll know the cost and the profit.

Challenges: “If I’m making sliders for 300 people, the challenge is buffets are less creatively-driven. They’re more for the general public diner consumer.”

What to look for in a space: “A full-scale kitchen. If you do a dinner for say 100 plus, you need counter space. You need platter space. You need tables. You need a lot of things to cook food effectively and efficiently.”

Cocktail Party

For a chef, there’s nothing more fun than throwing a cocktail party, as it lets you really revel in the details and make every aspect feel special.  

Advantages: “They’re the most fun. They’re teeny weeny, finicky little funky things. You’re putting together a 17-component canapé that’s one-and-a-half-to-two bites. Plus, I’d rather cook for a small group than a giant ocean of people any time.”

Challenges: “Convincing people that something that’s really tiny is worth as much as it is. Even though it only took a bite and a half to eat it, it still requires the same amount of time to prep and source and process – whatever it may be for that product to get to your mouth. Chefs like me aren’t just charging cost, this is how we make our living.”

What to look for in a space: “It’s the most whimsical option. You have the most venue options, and they can be fun, interesting or quirky spaces. You can do anything, anywhere – on the rooftop or along the ocean.”

Small Sit Down

An intimate affair with a slower pace allows each detail to shine through, whether it’s a delicious appetizer or a tasteful centerpiece. The smaller guest list allows for interaction that just isn’t possible with bigger soirées.

Advantages: “The clients are usually the most chill and the guests are usually the most chill. They’re not dressed up to the nines like for a cocktail party. You are also able to adapt. If someone has an allergy, you can mitigate the experience immediately, because you’re there, one-on-one.”

Challenges: “It is so casual that organizers don’t always take it as seriously. They may not be as diligent with their reservation or their plan. The number of people might change 17 times before dinner begins. They’ll be like, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s two more people. We’ll be there in 20 minutes,’ and you have to pull a lobster out of your butt.”

What to look for in a space: “Look for an intimate setting that has access to a reasonable kitchen and bathrooms. Something home-style, like someone’s farmhouse or a barn.”

Matching your space to your menu is a finely honed art. There are nuances to watch for: enough counter space to prep canapés, outlets for a sous-vide, the perfect table dimensions to fuel conversation. If you’re struggling to track down the just the right fit, chances are we can help you find it.

Are you looking for a space to host your next brand event? We’ve got the space to help you create – start your search for a loft, studio or warehouse right here.