Are you thinking about becoming a mobile coffee entrepreneur? If so, congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming your own boss and living the entrepreneurial dream.
But before you get to pouring lattes, you need to figure out which coffee cart on wheels is right for your unique offerings. Not sure where to start? Here’s a helpful guide.
Starting Your First Mobile Coffee Cart Business: Is It Worth It?
Without a doubt. Why?
Americans Love Their Coffee
Did you know that collectively, Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee every day? As possibly the most in-demand global beverage, it’s no wonder that vending coffee continues to be a wildly lucrative business model.
With 64% of American adults currently consuming coffee daily, starting a mobile coffee business is guaranteed to result in a sweet return on your investment.
You’re probably jumping to order a coffee cart on wheels right now—but before you get ahead of yourself, let’s examine what a mobile coffee business looks like and how to look out for the proper equipment to ensure success.
What Is A Portable Coffee Cart?
A Mini Café On Wheels
A coffee cart is essentially a miniature coffee shop on wheels. It comes with all the equipment you need to whip up different types of caffeinated beverages.
It’s also a great way to launch your first coffee business without taking out a massive loan. It can be used to sell at events or in busy areas, and you can even cater coffee to local businesses and office buildings.
So Many Models To Choose From — Where Do I Start?
There are many different types of coffee carts, from mini carts that just sell coffee and pastries to more complex ones that offer a full menu of fancier drinks.
These days, there are mobile coffee carts that come fully stocked with the gear and add-ons to make upscale drinks, such as lattes. This includes espresso machines, sinks, grinders, and brew taps.
However, it’s not necessary to start out with a fancy coffee cart. For starters, a small, portable coffee cart will do just fine.
How Do I Pick The Right Mobile Coffee Cart?
When it comes to narrowing down a coffee cart on wheels for your first mobile shop, there are three main things you’ll need to consider: cost, durability, and aesthetic. Let’s break each of these down in more detail.
This will obviously be a major factor. Fortunately, there are models available at a variety of price points, so there should be no problem finding one in alignment with your budget.
However, take into consideration that the initial cost inevitably reflects the cart’s quality, size and menu options. For a more complex menu with fancy drinks and gelato for serving affogatos, you will have to put down a bigger investment.
Another important consideration is durability. After all, you’ll want your coffee cart to last for years to come! Look out for a cart that’s made from high-quality materials, such as steel, that are built to last.
Look for carts that have a canopy of another type of covering to handle inclement weather.
When planning your coffee business investment, there is no detail too small—check the quality of everything from the wheels to the countertops and storage functionality. Avoid flimsy carts that will fall apart at the first sign of trouble.
Of course, you’ll also want your very first mobile cart to look good! After all, first impressions are everything. Take the time to pick a design that matches your brand identity and sets you apart.
Some brands even offer custom paint services to really stand out from the competition.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of the style of coffee business you’ll be running, you can get down to the nitty-gritty.
What Other factors should I Consider When Picking A Coffee Cart On Wheels?
When it comes to mobile coffee carts, there are a few less obvious details to smooth out before making your final pick.
Where Are You Vending?
If your idea is to do a route of several locations each day, then you’ll want to choose a small coffee cart that is lightweight and easy to maneuver. On the other hand, if you’re planning to set up at a single location each day, then a bigger one should work.
How Fancy Are You Planning To Get?
If you’re hoping to offer a variety of drinks, then you’ll need a model with multiple compartments for different types of coffee beans and flavorings.
In addition, consider whether your mini café will offer additional products, such as gelato, cold brew, different milk varieties, or treats to compliment your drinks. In this case, it would be wise to get a coffee cart with ample storage space that can support the necessary tools for those tasty add-ons.
How Much Coffee Will You Be Brewing Each Day?
This will depend largely on your location—an office building in a small town won’t require as much coffee as one in an urban center.
Also, consider where your busiest vending spot will be. Will you need to expand eventually? A large coffee cart will be able to accommodate a higher volume of coffee than a smaller one.
Additional Tips For Starting Your Mobile Coffee Business
At this point, you’re getting a clearer picture of what your portable coffee cart is going to look like. Before you jump to it, consider these 3 additional tips for the aspiring mobile coffee cart entrepreneur:
Branding And Marketing
This is a crucial step to smooth out before getting on the road. With an abundance of cafés and other coffee businesses already out there, you’re on a mission to make yours stand out. If someone really loves your coffee, how can they find you again?
Are you sharing your vending locations on Instagram? Will you have branded coffee cups to make it easy for clients to get in touch with you online? What’s your selling point? What’s the story behind your brand?
Will you require a special permit to operate your portable coffee cart in your neighborhood, and how difficult is it to obtain them?
Many municipalities require permits for street vendors, and some even have special hygiene requirements, such as running water on site. It’s important to figure this out and work it into your budget before investing.
How do you find the right location for your small coffee cart? Start studying your neighborhood. Get to know the areas with lots of foot traffic, start a list of community events, concerts, and shows, and find out how you can sell there.
Check out some of the busiest office buildings in the area to see if you can set up there. And there’s no need to worry about competition—even with 2-3 coffee shops on each block, there will always be enough coffee fans for everyone to win!
Now that you’ve got a good idea of what to look for, it’s time to get all your coffee ideas onto paper and start planning your new mobile coffee cart venture. Your entrepreneurial dream awaits!