Mobile yet more spacious than a food truck. No brick-and-mortar overhead and eye-catchingly cool. Custom shipping containers used for food service, craft breweries, and wine tasting rooms already had a ton of great things going for them. Now with hints that America might soon begin to slowly reopen, says BoxPop®’s VP of Specialty Construction Matt Egan, it’s time to add another big benefit to the list.
“A comfortable, uncrowded experience in the clean, open air,” he says. “Heading into summer and with physical distancing so much on people’s minds, we might one day look back at this time as a Golden Age for shipping container food and beverage service.”
Even in good times, running a restaurant or bar at a brick-and-mortar location was tough. High overhead. Thin profit margins. With millions of Americans out of work, many insiders are wondering how the industry will recover.
“While larger restaurant chains and well-funded restaurant groups will likely be able to [make a comeback],” wrote Resy Senior Writer Deanna Ting, “many independent restaurants—which account for two-thirds of American restaurants—may not.”
The timeline for returning life to normalcy is unclear. But when the economy turns back on, everyone agrees it won’t be like flipping a switch. A trickle is more likely, with the new practice of social distancing being a hard habit to shake. So, what does the future of going out to dine with friends and family look like?
“It’s only natural to assume that people are probably going to avoid crowds, cramped seating indoors, and breathing other people’s air,” says Egan. “A shipping container business is different because it’s all about outside flexibility, mobility, and space. You can set them up anywhere outdoors. Inside, they provide floor space for stoves, coolers, taps, and your workers. For your customers, it’s grab-and-go or you can configure comfortable seating around your pod anyway you want.”
BoxPop®, based in Traverse City, Michigan, made a name for itself building shipping container bars, pop-up shops, elaborate tradeshow booths, and event activations for America’s top sports teams and Fortune 500 companies. MGM Resorts. Tropicana. The NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
“It’s all fun,” says Egan. “But definitely the work that gives us a lot of joy is when we’ve helped a small business owner get their idea off the ground.”
Egan says BoxPop’s craft brewery and food service partners—like those the company created for Philadelphia’s 16-unit Piazza Pod Park—now appear to be uniquely positioned to make an easier, more natural transition into whatever the future of the restaurant industry holds.
“Shipping container bars and restaurants allow you to run super lean with minimal staff,” he says. “You’re not bound by a monthly lease and paying high rent. Wire them for electricity, running water, and propane—anything you want. You can transport them anywhere. And they’re lockdown secure. In this current climate, it’s a perfect combination.”