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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 2 1 Verts Mediterranean Grill Austin, Texas Verts Mediterranean Grill has just hosted several pop-up dinners. What's unusual is that the fast-casual chain has been throwing one-night-only fine- dining events inside its own stores. The semiprivate pop-ups "are de- signed to introduce the capabilities of Verts' chefs and showcase our culinary prowess, so they're for mostly the media and influencers, though sometimes we extend an invitation to partners or col- leagues in the community," says Public Relations Manager Sarah Pendley. Verts hosts two types of pop-up events. Fine-dining pop-ups cater to up to 35 invited guests. Tasting pop-ups feature the restaurant's regular menu and are held to introduce a new unit to an area. For the fine-dining events, a por- tion of the fast-casual restaurant is closed to the public and outfitted for the event. "We decorate to the nines with fine china, tablecloths, vases with flowers, votives, centerpieces, silver- ware," Pendley says. However, the restaurant's decor remains, she says, "since our restaurants are very mini- malistic. And we try to keep the lighting somewhat bright because people like to take photos of our food." The events have a DJ and an Instagram table with a crisp white background, where guests can photograph their food. For one event, Verts worked with Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas. "Our entire menu was paired with a Deep Ellum beer, and a brewery representa- tive was at the event to describe why each beer complemented the flavors of our menu," Pendley explains. The design of the brewery incorporates graffiti and has pops of bright color, so Verts incorporated those elements into the unit's decor. They also covered the tables with black paper and gave guests chalk markers so they could create their own graffiti. The tasting menu pop-ups serve hors d'oeuvres. Guests are also mostly bloggers, media and influencers, but the restaurant doesn't change its decor for these events since the goal is to introduce the brand and the food it regularly serves. For Verts, the eventual goal is to run pop-ups as ticketed events to the general public, as well as holding them in other locations such as local farms or breweries. "But short term, it's about awareness and reaching influencers in our community and building a relation- ship with them," Pendley says. During the pop-ups, the restau- rants are cordoned off but remain open. During the pop-up, only to-go meals are offered at the restaurant counter. "We want to showcase what we serve on a regular basis, but we also want to display that we think about the food. We think about not just what's on our cur- rent menu, but we are always trying to push ourselves to finer cuisine," Pendley explains. "We truly want to blur the lines between fast casual and fine dining." + Photos courtesy of Verts Mediterranean Grill