10 min 9 sec

Longtime Friends Cook Tasty Food for Pop-Up Events

Two friends in Los Angeles blend their heritage flavors to cook up tasty pop-up dinners centered around the shape of a rectangle.
Events Food Pop-Up Service

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What It's About

Two friends serve up a side hustle sharing their food and culture with others.

Business Model
Skills Required
Coordination & Catering
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Ralph and Marco recommend saying "yes" to as many opportunities as you can so that you can learn and adjust as you go. When they accepted their first catering job of 50 people, they were terrified. They had never done anything like that before, but they wanted to learn and knew the only way to do that was to jump in and trust the process.

Fun Fact

Studies have shown that humans recall memories more easily and clearly when they are attached to a physical sensation as well as an emotional experience. From the sounds of war to the feeling of first touching snow, when we use our five physical senses we create stronger memories.

Food has the ability to activate multiple senses—smell, sight, and of course taste—to help us remember some of life's most meaningful and magical moments, whether large or small.

Notes from Chris

Episode 907

Ralph Hsiao and Andrew Marco have been friends for many years. After hitting it off in college, they became roommates and coworkers at a digital media production company in Los Angeles. When they weren’t working, they’d find themselves in the kitchen cooking up various dishes to serve around the table. Friends would come over to enjoy potlucks with various dishes like burgers, pasta, tacos, and more.

Neither Ralph nor Marco were trained chefs; they were just two normal guys who enjoyed sharing food and good conversation with friends.

A few months after hosting potlucks, they took a trip to Italy for a friend’s wedding. It was on that trip that their eyes and stomachs were opened.

While enjoying Italian food, they realized how fresh everything was and how much locals and foreigners alike enjoyed indulging in Italian heritage. It gave them the inspiration to take their potluck dinners to the next level. What if they could tap into their own Filipino and Taiwanese heritage and explore more vibrant flavors to share with others?

They immediately began to cook up new ideas and brainstorm ways to enhance the potlucks. This led them to a new concept for pop-up dinners focused on Filipino and Taiwanese dishes with an LA twist. Los Angeles has a mixture of lots of different cultures and flavors and they wanted their pop-up dinners to be the same. While brainstorming around the table they also found the inspiration for their name, rctngl. As Marco and Ralph mention on their website:

"A rectangle (rctngl) is the shape of most dining tables. To us, tables represent connection. Far more than a flat surface upon which to eat, the table can be the heartbeat of a family. It’s a place to gather, talk and to reconnect."

And thus their idea began to bake. When they started their pop-up dinners, they kept the concept small and invited a few family and friends. They wanted to gain confidence in their amateur cooking skills and get more experience in trying various cuisines. They charged a small price to cover the cost of food and equipment. As time went by, their pop-ups expanded from friends and family to friends of friends and beyond. More and more people wanted a taste of what Ralph and Marco had to offer.

When strangers began attending their dinners, they knew they were onto something. Their confidence was growing so they felt more comfortable charging more for each experience.

As their confidence and menu prices began to rise, they were able to buy better equipment to support their growing business. For pop-up dinner pricing, they typically charge $75 to $100 for a tasting menu and around $45 for a kamayan event. Catering events are based on time of the event and cost per person.

Since going full-time with their side hustle, Ralph and Marco have expanded their pop-up dinners to include several day feasts and catering events. Last month they hosted a 3-day sold out event which fed about 60 people, and they catered their first wedding for more than 100 people.

With expansion in the recipe, they have now rented a space in a commercial kitchen and began offering delivery services, with the goal of earning enough money to invest in their own brick and mortar restaurant. These two friends are on the right track for grilling a profitable business.


  • rctngl: Learn more about the success behind this delicious side hustle over on Ralph and Marco's website!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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—Ralph Hsiao & Andrew Marco #SideHustleSchool

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