Pop-Up Series: Brisketlab
What: Underground BBQ series aimed at creating the best possible Texas-style smoked brisket.
Where: Brooklyn & Manhattan
When: Summer of 2012
Dreams of Brisket
Brisketlab was the solution to a problem: I needed brisket. Specifically, I needed the type of brisket that I had fallen in love with in Texas. At the time, I couldn’t find any of it in NYC. So I set out on a mission to create it myself, an effort which would lead me to opening my first restaurant - BrisketTown. To accomplish this goal I headed to Austin, TX where I got my hands on a 18’ offset smoker, which I hauled up to NYC along with a truck full of wood and the help of a friend. Without any legitimate plan or place to cook, I popped the smoker along the side of my family’s home and set out to find hungry carnivores.
In order to get the word out about Brisketlab I put up a super cryptic “coming soon” website, which teased out the idea that an underground BBQ series would soon be launching in NYC, and that it would have tremendously limited space. The website’s sole function was to collect email addresses. To encourage participation, I incentivized sharing by rewarding the person who shared the most with a brisket all of their own. I then sent it out to a number of major publications, who were all eager to cover it. Within a week I had gathered over 7,000 email addresses. Then it was off to pre-ordering.
Concerned that people would bail once we launched, I was determined capture customers while they were engaged. So, I built a pre-ordering system. With the help of my good friend Johnny Benson, we launched a pre-ordering mechanism. The website included a countdown which continuously ticked down while customers shopped, which enticed people to act quickly and decisively before everything sold out. And boy did that happen! Brisketlab sold over $90,000 worth of brisket in just under 48 hours!
With unending thanks to Hunter Augeri, Angela Coronel, and Miko Mercer we were able to put together a total of 33 ‘labs’ in just 60 days! A lab was essentially a pop-up food party where folks that had pre-purchased brisket would show up redeem a portion of what they had purchased. To attend, people would log into a website we built which would allow them to manage their ‘meat bank account’ and RSVP for the labs. When they arrived, they claimed their smoked brisket, helped themselves to sides, and enjoyed live music from a number of local hot jazz and western swing bands. We’d host the events wherever we could find free space, which meant they took place on rooftops, undeveloped warehouses, and even in a cemetery! All in, we had over 2,000 attendees. It was a wild summer.