Phofest: My Experience With Running a Pop-Up Restaurant

Last Friday, April 26th, my friend and I hosted a pop-up Pho restaurant for the UVA and greater Charlottesville community. As service chairs for the Vietnamese Student Association at UVA, it is one of our main responsibilities to host a bi-annual event called Phofest to raise money for our Collective Philanthropy Project. All of the proceeds from the event this semester will go to the Children of Vietnam, an NGO that helps poor and homeless children in Da Nang, Vietnam. After about four weeks of organizing spreadsheets, collecting supplies, and gathering volunteers, it was go time.

    The actual day of the event felt like a blur. I finished class at 1PM and headed straight to the venue (St. Paul’s Memorial Church). The event did not actually start until 5PM, but we had to prepare extensively for it. We had to start cooking the food, set up the church to make it look like a restaurant, and train volunteers. The broth for the noodles came from an authentic Pho restaurant in Northern Virginia, so two volunteers had to drive up there to get it early in the morning (bless their hearts).

Photo courtesy of Shirley Chu

    Once the event started, time flew by. I was in charge of checking orders and passing them to the servers. I barely had time to leave the kitchen area, but from the small glimpses I had, the venue was packed. We played music in both the dining area and the kitchen, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. We had a lot of customers during dinnertime, and ten people even participated in our Phofest Fastest food eating competition. With all of the energy, excitement, and chaos in the air, the event was over before I knew it. Volunteers started to clean up, the treasurer was counting our total profit, and my co-chair and I were busy once again with managing the closing process. It was one of the longest days I have ever experienced, but I can honestly say it was incredibly rewarding. We ended up earning around $1470, which will all go towards the Children of Vietnam.

Photo courtesy of Shirley Chu

    Just reflecting back on the blur that was last Friday, I still can’t believe it happened. I have always wanted to connect a business activity to service, and this event truly allowed me to make it happen. The whole experience was quite stressful, but in the most pleasant way possible. I am so thankful for everyone who either volunteered or came out to attend the event. Without my hardworking co-chair and the support of others, this experience would not have been possible.