iSchool’s Pop Up Restaurant eyes November 10th one-day event


Zach Kaplan, Editor-in-chief

If the NYC iSchool had to be summarized in one class, Pop Up Restaurant would fit the label very well. 

Underclassmen and upperclassmen alike have seen the posters on classroom doors with the black, retro font advertising the iSchool’s one-day “6th Avenue Diner” that will be held in the cafeteria on Wednesday, November 10th, with two seatings from 5:00-6:30 and 7:00-8:30 pm. Unfortunately, those who just found out about it or were on the fence about buying tickets, which were available for $20 each, are out of luck this time around. The 6th Avenue Diner sold its final two tickets Tuesday, and the total of 103 tickets sold for both seatings brought it over the seating capacity. 

The class is a staple at the iSchool, and this will be the 5th restaurant that the class has planned and run. Students learn about microeconomic concepts like scarcity and labor, and then split off into multiple teams, where they create and draw up business plans for restaurant concepts. The class teaches a number of crucial skills, but people taking the class all agree that the class has taught them a lot. 

“I’ve learned how to run a small business. There’s so much that goes into running an actual restaurant, and it’s a ton of work to do it for one day, and it’s even more to do it full time,” said Nick, who’s on the Sales and Marketing team at the restaurant. “It’s really a testament to the hard work of the restaurant industry,” he added.

Behind the scenes, the customer service team at the restaurant has been hard at work making things run smoothly. One member of the customer service team, senior Margot Fitts, agrees.  “I’ve definitely figured out how to reach out and do outreach to people when they purchase a ticket,” she told me. “I’ve also learned how to make sure the customer is happy but make sure things run smoothly and are organized.” 

Yuljanse Ramos, a senior who is on the finance team, says that the whole group being on the same page was a crucial aspect of the restaurant’s planning. “Everybody’s focused and doing their thing, and on top of their tasks,” he said. “Communication in general with everybody is crucial when it comes to participating in a group,” he added.

The food on the restaurant’s menu will be made by a group of talented student chefs in the group. Dov Alperin, who is a key figure in the kitchen, said the experience has been challenging. There’s a real “logistics challenge,” Dov said, adding that the group has had to “balance having enough people in the kitchen to effectively make what’s needed.” 

Students will learn “what it’s like to be responsible for designing and running your own business,” said Ms. Strassler, who teaches the class.

The restaurant features a classic diner menu, with a choice of appetizer between a grilled cheese and tomato soup or a chopped salad, choice of entrees between a cheeseburger and fries, veggie burger and fries or stack of pancakes, and for dessert, people can choose between a vanilla oat milk milkshake or a chocolate/vanilla milkshake, each topped with a maraschino cherry.

The sales and marketing team thought up a lot of ways to build anticipation for the event. One of those promotions was 3-D printed cars, fitting with the Diner’s retro theme, that were hidden around the iSchool. Nick, being the brains behind this idea, commented on how he came up with it. 

“The iSchool has a history of hiding little things here and there whether it’s turkeys or little babies,” he said. “It creates an excitement in the air, when people are looking for something, and I thought, we had a 3D printer in the classroom, let’s take advantage of that.”

Although the car idea was a success, executing a restaurant with multiple courses comes with its challenges. 

“The hardest part is that everything is in a different place, and it’s my job to organize it and put it all together,” Margot told iNews. “Ms. Strassler gets all the receipts and payments, but there’s also in-person purchases which is a whole different system, and fitting it all together is very difficult and that’s been a challenge,” she said. 

On the sales side, Nick said getting interest at first was very difficult. The biggest challenge was “ensuring that we were getting the message across and that the tickets were actually worth $20,” he said. “At first people were reluctant to purchase since it was more than they usually spent on things.” 

Nick wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Piper DeMartino, the appointed leader of the sales and marketing team, said that it was tough to sell tickets at first. “I feel like selling the tickets was the hardest part, especially during school hours when kids may not want to buy or are reluctant to buy them,” she said.

Aside from sales, the finance, customer service, design and food and beverage team worked hard behind the scenes. 

In the kitchen, it was challenging picking recipes and testing how they’re cooked, according to Dov. “Trying to narrow down individual recipes and getting all of them tested,” was difficult. “We’re hoping to have good quality food that you would get at a restaurant,” he added.

Teaching the class, according to Ms. Strassler, can be a little tough to coordinate. “Every team and every person has their own tasks that they’re responsible for, and managing everyone who’s doing something different can get a little crazy,” she said.

Before the group collectively chose 6th Avenue Diner as the restaurant, there were two other finalists that tied each other. Concept that finished behind 6th Avenue Diner included “The Open Book,” a dinner-theater experience and Miyazaki’s Meals, with food such as bento boxes. 

Being the first Pop Up installment after the pandemic, steps were taken to ensure the safety of the guests. At this installment of the Pop Up Restaurant, vaccination will be required, as per the New York State COVID guidelines. 

As the restaurant nears its one-day event date, students have a lot of pride with how 6th Avenue Diner is shaping up.

Ms. Strassler says that at each event, students feel a definite “sense of satisfaction” from pulling it off. There’s always a “sense of community” that comes with giving the iSchool community a “fun evening experience and making money off of it.”

“We did a really good job with making sure everyone’s needs were filled, and everyone who wanted to sit next to people were able to do that,” Margot said. “I think people are very excited for the restaurant.”

Nick said that it should be a really great time. “The whole theme, I think it’s really strong. I think we’re going to create a really great atmosphere where everyone’s having a good time,” he said.

Yuljanse added that he was happy to see how quickly the tickets sold out. “I’m most proud of the amount of tickets we sold,” he said. “It was very nice and surprising to see how many people bought into the restaurant and tuned into it,” he added.

“We sold out quickly, which is definitely a product of the hard work of the sales and marketing team.” Piper said.

Members of the original 6th Avenue Diner have an extra reason to feel good about the result. Dov was one of them, and he agrees. “I was part of the original concept group, and I feel proud of seeing it come up to the finish line from the beginning.”

Those who are interested in either taking the class or attending the event can be on the lookout for it in the 4th quarter.