BRUSSELS: Regine and Aline did not know what they would face when they opened a temporary pop-up restaurant at Pop-up Kokotte in central Brussels in March 2020. They still remember the day, a Tuesday. Little did they know that by Saturday, they would be shut for good in the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Their concept was that of introducing African burgers to gastronomic burgers. The name of the concept, AfroBurgers. The two childhood friends had already tested their concept with a food-truck which worked well and their intention was to get a new experience which would help them open a permanent location.
Despite their lack of fortune, they quickly pivoted to delivery and that turned out to be successful. “Even if we closed in September 2020 it was a huge learning experience for us,” they said. In their journey, they have been guided by Pop-up Kokotte, an initiative in Brussels which allows young entrepreneurs to test their culinary concept without risk and at a lower-cost.
It is a hospitality incubator that has already welcomed different concepts. Currently two friends are testing Konchu, a Japanese curry concept and the next project that starts in December is Refoodgees. It will engage refugees in the kitchen and each one of them will propose part of their history and culture in a dish they create for the pop-up restaurant.
Hub Brussels is behind the concept. They make the 75m2 space in central Brussels available for EUR 800 per month which includes access to a professionally equipped kitchen.
The next applications open from December 6 to January 17 2022 and then from April 18 to May 30. The people behind Hub Brussels accompany the participants along the journey helping them with food, marketing, public relations, circular economy. Retail design experts also provide advice and technical solutions based on the needs of each project before, during and after their stay at Kokotte.
At a recent press event, Pop-Up Kocotte welcomed food writers and bloggers for a dinner with Afro Burgers, Konchu currently utilising the space and Refoodgees.
Elie and Raphael, in charge of the Japanese curry concept have seen Japanese fermentation work and are using local ingredients like sirop de Liege and chocolate in their curry to give it a local twist.
They opened in August and so far the response for their concept has been very positive. They hope to open a permanent location after their four-month trial ends.
The pop-up Kokotte concept started as a way to help young entrepreneurs test their business idea before they launch. This was in a pre-COVID world. Today, more than ever, this concept is certainly helping future culinary entrepreneurs on their path to a post-COVID world.