Pop-up restaurants and gourmet food trucks have become ubiquitous in many American cities, drawing in customers who follow trends, enjoy food, and don’t mind waiting outside in extreme temperatures for schnitzel, grilled cheese, or fancy slushies (and actually might tweet about the whole experience to all their followers). So it’s no wonder cookbook authors and publishers are using pop-ups and food trucks to promote their books, either by actively selling the books via those venues, or in more subtle ways.
Publishers have opened pop-up shops, which stay open for a limited amount of time in other businesses’ locations, in the past; one a memorable food truck/book tie-in took place in 2009 for This Is Why You’re Fat by Jessica Amason and Richard Blakely (Harper Paperbacks). But the combination of books and pop-ups or food trucks has become even more popular this year. Dorie Greenspan wrapped up her second pop-up bakery, Cookie Bar, in February. The author of Baking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) and Around My French Table (HMH, 2010) sold cookies in a high-end hair salon on New York’s Upper East Side.And a week ago in New York, Martha Stewart opened a pop-up shop selling pies and tarts from her new book, Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts (Clarkson Potter). The shop, which was open March 26 and 27 at Little Owl the Venue in Greenwich Village, sold four-inch mini pies. Customers who bought the $27 book got a free tart and entry to an hourly raffle, which featured such prizes as tickets to The Martha Stewart Show and gift baskets filled with Martha Stewart Collection at Macy’s products to make a perfect pie. Sarah Gormley, svp of communications and marketing at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, said, “The reaction was overwhelmingly positive: we had a line around the block when we opened and people absolutely loved our mini pies (they were flying off the trays) and tasting the recipes from the new book (which were also flying off the shelves).”
More cookbook-related pop-ups are coming: Matt Lee and Ted Lee, who are together known as The Lee Bros. and cowrote The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook (Norton, 2006) and The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern (Clarkson Potter, 2009), are planning to open a pop-up in Manhattan at the Inn at Irving Place near Union Square in October. Matt Lee said, “It's really not something we're seeking to tie directly to a particular book, but more a move to scratch an itch” (he said he and his brother have dreamed about opening a restaurant but have “worked closely enough with [their] restaurateur uncle over the years to know it's too hard!”). Still, the Lees have more books on the horizon, including Charleston Kitchen and a memoir. Other cookbook authors are using pop-ups as a testing ground, such as Jeremy Fox, who is writing a cookbook for Phaidon tenatively titled Seed to Stalk: A Modern Culinary Handbook and is hosting a series of pop-up dinners in the Bay Area to test recipes for his book.
A close relative of the pop-up is the food truck, which often parks in a different location every day and alerts fans to its locale via Twitter. Debbie Supnik, a TV food producer who produced a one-hour special on food trucks across the country that aired on the Cooking Channel last fall, said food trucks “cater to a younger demographic” that is often open to trying new things. Supnik said using food trucks to promote cookbooks “is a fabulous marketing idea. It’s a lower-cost way to get into a business that normally would be prohibitive.”Last month, Hyperion and Food Network Magazine partnered with SweeteryNYC, “New York’s premiere mobile bakeshop,” which has also worked with brands from Capitol One to MTV. This promotion was for Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals, just out from Hyperion and was based on the book’s easy dessert recipes. Wrapped with images of the book jacket, the truck stopped to give out samples at three Manhattan locations on March 1. Although the truck did not sell the cookbook, the book debuted on the New York Times’s April 3 Advice/How-To list at #6.
More obvious but no less ambitious is the national tour planned for Food Trucks by Heather Shouse, which Ten Speed will publish April 19. Each of the book's event will involve food trucks or carts featured in the book. Highlights include an April 23 event at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market (with books provided by Book Passage in Corte Madeira) that will sell food from a truck called Roli Roti; an April 27 event at The Strand in New York that will sell food from NYC Cravings and Treats Truck; and a May 7 event at Book People in Austin with food from trucks East Side King and The Best Wurst.