How to Build a Menu for Your Mobile Coffee Truck
I get a lot of questions about menus and how to generate them. People ask me what should be on the coffee truck menu and how to price the items. I answer a lot of these questions in my Mobile Barista Course. In this course, I cover every drink on my menu and I show you how to make these items. I also teach you how to do mobile coffee truck and cart catering. It’s a really awesome course if you want to learn how to be a mobile barista.
Today, I want to break down my menu and answer some of the most common questions . Remember, what you put on your menu at the start of your journey is going to be different than what you ultimately decide your menu will become. It is important to be flexible and treat the first menu as a beta test.
Let’s start out with iced drinks. At Green Joe Coffee Truck, I always have frappes, iced lattes, cold brew, and some kind of iced tea. For iced tea, I offer black tea with mango and green tea with mint.
Every now and then I will also do smoothies and something I like to call caffeinated lemonade. The caffeinated lemonade is pretty popular. To make it, I use a smoothie mix and a caffeine supplement which I add to a lemonade and smoothie. Blend and serve with berries..
These kinds of drinks are something I do on the side for fun, they are almost never my big ticket items. As far as the menu goes, my main iced drinks consist of frappes, iced lattes and cold brew coffee.
For hot drinks, I will usually offer traditional drip coffee and anything espresso based. This includes all variations of macchiatos, cappuccinos, flat whites, lattes, and cortados. I also offer hot lattes and flavored drinks like mochas and caramel macchiatos. We don’t typically prioritize these beverages and I will tell you why in the item placement section of this article.
My big four flavors are caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and chai tea. I carry sugar free vanilla as well. There's some other flavors that come and go such as white chocolate, pumpkin spice, and mint, but the big four are the ones I usually keep on year round.
For non-coffee drinks, I like to have hot chocolate on my menu. I consider myself an oddball because I like to make specialty hot chocolate. At Green Joe Coffee Truck, we will go on the deep end when it comes to quality hot chocolate. Hot chocolate with mint, Hot Caramel, Hot chocolate with peanut butter.
Hot Caramel is one of my specialties. To make this drink, I use caramel sauce instead of chocolate.
Once you add a blender into the equation, the world is your oyster.
For our S'more Chocolate, we blend graham crackers into the milk and will use that to steam a hot chocolate. Then we top it with marshmallows, crushed graham crackers and a chocolate drizzle.
As for teas, I am a big fan. Although I am a coffee drinker first and foremost, I really enjoy tea so I carry a lot of options. We offer latte-based teas like the London fog and Chai Tea Latte. There are three versions of the Chai Tea Latte : sweet (think Starbucks), semi-sweet, and traditional (think Tea House). All of that is covered in my Mobile Barista Course.
We also cover how to make London fogs, which are an earl grey latte with a hint of vanilla. Hint: Use a little cream to thicken up the milk after adding your tea.
I also have regular chai tea, earl grey, green tea, and some herbal teas. For the herbal teas I usually like to offer peppermint or hibiscus.
For food, I usually offer to grab and go items. This includes muffins, croissants, turnovers, and danishes.
I like to have bread on hand as well. We sell a lot of lemon poppy, pumpkin spice, and banana nut. Breads are very popular and they have a long shelf life. They are easy to grab and go and can be fairly low priced, which means they are more likely to sell, keeping your average ticket high.
How to Organize your Menu
The most important part of the menu is actually creating it, however. One thing you should consider is having pictures. I know it sounds silly, but any of you that have traveled to another country like Europe or South America know when you go to a foreign restaurant, having a menu with pictures is very important.
Pictures are a fantastic way to help people decide on their orders quickly. Now, do I put a picture up for every menu item? Absolutely not. I only put up pictures for the big ticket items like my cold brew and my caramel macchiatos. I have pictures for items people get often and have a decent profit margin. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Another thing to keep in mind is menu placement. I didn't think menu placement was super important until one day, my chalk menu had been destroyed. I had to rewrite my menu. My coconut latte used to be on the very bottom of the menu and that day, I decided to put it at the top of the menu. Previously, I sold maybe two coconut lattes a month. It’s sales were so low I considered removing the option from my menu entirely. That particular day, I sold five coconut lattes. I then realized how important menu placement is.
Then I started experimenting, and I kept getting the same results. The top left hand part of the menu is the number one placement for an item.
Macchiato, cortado, and traditional espresso drinks tend to go on the bottom right of the menu. This is because I don’t sell them very often.
People who are loyal to their personalized drink already know what they are going to order.
The people who are interested flavors are the type of people who will be looking at your menu in detail.
The best real estate on the menu is at the very top. I will always put my provided services there. It is where I state that I cater to weddings and business events. I also like to phrase it in a fun way to bring attention to it.
Instead of just saying Green Joe Coffee Truck caters, I will say something like, “Make your next event special, ask for a card!” When someone who wants to learn more, give them your business card and chat with them.
Find a way to personalize your services. Maybe they really love caramel macchiatos. Say you can provide amazing caramel macchiatos at their wedding.
At the very very top of the menu is where I put my website and hashtags. I put all my social media there so people can recognize me immediately and help me spread the word. That is how I get more catering gigs in addition to walk-up coffee.
Where do I put my Coffee Truck Menu?
Two questions you need to ask yourself: How big should it be and where you should put it? Originally, I started with a chalkboard menu.
As I developed, I learned where you put your menu is important. If your menu is on the truck, then people standing in line will wait until they get to the window before they decide on their order.
This is especially true if the customer has bad eyesight. When you are busy, this can make every order much longer. You want your customers to decide what they want before they get to your window. So use an A-Frame menu and place it 10-15 feet back, where the 3-4 person in line will be.
It is preferable to have a “coffee” sign at least head height or above. If you put your coffee sign at waist or chest height, then people can’t see what you sell when a crowd is in front of your truck.
Other Types of Signage
I recommend using marquee signs. Marquee signs are battery operated, so you can turn them on while driving and market yourself. They are also magnetic so you can move them into different places if needed
If you are doing a drive up and a walk-up window, on the back of the trailer it is always good to have a set of arrows to tell people the direction of the drive-thru and/or walk up.
I absolutely love flags. I didn't think about using flags until my barber got them. When I saw the amount of business brought into his barber shop once he got flags, I knew I had to get some. They work especially well if they have a picture of a coffee cup on them because, again, a picture is worth a thousand words.
You can get custom made flags, but I don't because the weather will ruin them quickly. I have found it much easier to get the generic ones.
What kind of a Menu should I use?
Instead of using a chalkboard, I have upgraded to a plastic A-frame menu. If you are curious which menus I use, please visit my resource page. Personally, I prefer to use a 24x36 inch board. You can get these printed fairly cheap on a corrugated plastic and they hold up fine in bad weather. I attach them with velcro strips that I super glue to each side.
It is good to have two other 18x12 menus. I use these to offer my best selling items and I put them anywhere there is a congregation of people. If I am at a 5k then it will be at the registration table and by the bathrooms. These will help you draw in business.
If you are debating starting a mobile coffee shop, I have a great mobile barista class where I show you how to build your own business from the ground up. You will get training, no previous experience required, on how to make fantastic coffee drinks, how to cater, and anything you could possibly need.