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What makes a pop-up successful? The brain behind this ‘Saved by the Bell’ restaurant has the cheatsheet

What makes a pop-up successful? The brain behind this ‘Saved by the Bell’ restaurant has the cheatsheet

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LOS ANGELES (CIRCA) — In the last few years, cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago have been a breeding ground for novelty pop-up restaurants and bars. Most are based on shows, movies or pop culture in some fashion, but with varying degrees of success.

A clear stand-out in the field is the "Saved by the Bell" pop-up restaurant in Los Angeles, Saved by the Max, which is closing out its year-long run in April before heading to a new market.

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The main dining room at Saved by the Max.

The restaurant's main dining room is a near-perfect recreation of diner The Max featured in almost every episode of the '90s teen sitcom, with a separate seating area in both Zach Morris' bedroom, and Mr. Belding's office.

Unlike some short-term installations, Saved by the Max is a fully licensed "Saved by the Bell" tribute, with the show's original network, NBC, endorsing this recreation of The Max -- something its co-owner, Derek Berry, says was key to its success.

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A recreation of Zack Morris' bedroom at Saved by the Max.

“Number one advice to anyone opening their own pop-up is get the rights from the company, says Berry. "When NBC reached out to us and didn’t say ‘We’re shutting you guys down’ but said ‘Let’s do a partnership,’ it really elevated the concept."

Luckily for Berry and his team, NBC was more than happy to look over their mock-ups before construction to make sure that every detail, even the angle of door frames, was accurate to the show. While some pop-ups have managed to fly under the legal radar of the original concept's owners by calling it a "tribute," Berry preaches caution to any pop-up hopefuls.

"I’ve seen horror stories where the company let them get the whole build-out done and then came and shut them down."

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Saved by the Max also features a row of school lockers with personalized props based on each character from the classic show.

But despite the legal challenges, Berry believes the restaurant industry is indeed moving toward pop-ups, though there are two types both entrepreneurs and patrons should be aware of.

"Not that we're a holy thing by any means, but there's a level of Saved by the Max pop-up where you spend the actual money for a restaurant start-up ... then there's the second level of pop-up where you go into a bar that's existing. You name the menu, you get some stuff on Etsy, and people flock to it. We could've done the 'Saved by the Bell' bar, but we wanted to be the real deal."

Saved by the Max is open now through April in Los Angeles, but check its website for information on its next location.

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