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How to Start a Coffee Truck

The rise of coffee trucks and trailers is astounding! What was once considered to be a risk is now an opportunity for a business investment. If you are interested in how to open a coffee truck or coffee trailer, lets give you some tips to get you truckin! 

 How Much Does It Cost to Start a Coffee Truck? 

The average cost to open a coffee truck is between $20,000-$50,000.  Coffee trailers can be started for less, ranging from $10,000-$50,000. Espresso carts cost even less, ranging from $2,000-$5,000.  The cost of a coffee truck, trailer or cart is greatly dependent on the equipment installed. 

 

how to start a coffee truck

 

Coffee Truck Start Up Cost 

The truck or trailer $2,000-$25,000

Health Inspection, Fire Inspection and Insurance $700-$7000

Professional Fees, Consultant Fees and Legal Fees $500-$3000

Truck Logo, Paint or Wrap $1000-$5000

Point of Sale System $100-$1,500

Advertising, Facebook Ads and Website $500-$2,000

Initial Supplies $500-$1,500

Equipment $2,000-$20,000

 

Recurring Coffee Truck Cost

Fuel $5-10 dollars per day

Insurance- Monthly and Yearly

Permits- Yearly

Staff Payroll

Commissary Kitchen Rent

Website Fees

Advertising Fees

Cost of Goods Sold

 

How to Open a Coffee Truck

To open a coffee truck, you will need to do plenty of research. The main focus of your research should be on start up cost, competition, cost of goods (profit percentage or net profit) and profit prediction. 

1. Research Your Competition

2. Choose a Coffee Concept that stands out

3. Know your Customer

4. Write a Coffee Truck Business Plan

5. Obtain Funding (See video on How to Start a Coffee Truck with low finances

6. Obtain the Proper Licenses and Permits

7. Purchase a Coffee Truck or Coffee Trailer

8. Purchase Equipment and Supplies (See Course: Know Your Equipment)

9. Choose a POS System (See Blog: Should I Accept Credit Cards on my Coffee Truck)

10. Build a Website and Obtain Social Media Accounts

 

Research your Competition

Having a good understanding of your market can help you create a profitable coffee truck business. It's important to understand just because there is another coffee truck, or two, in your city, doesn't mean you cannot be successful. When I started my coffee truck, there were 4 others on the scene already. Competition can often be a good sign of a healthy market. However, there is such a thing as an oversaturated market. A coffee truck on every street corner will make it hard to enter you market. Seek the Goldilocks zone: Somewhere in the middle. 

Choose a Coffee Truck Concept

While it is important to meet the demands of the market, it is also important to share your own passion through your business. Find a concept that resonates with you and is able to project your unique style. Your name, logo and business colors should reflect this. 

Know Your Customer

Are you doing large festivals and fairs? Are you catering intimate weddings or business events? Your business plan should reflect you ideal customer. Take the time to write out who your target demographic is. 

Write A Coffee Truck Business Plan

Whether you are attempting to get financing or if you just need to get your thoughts out on paper, a business plan is a great way to work through your concepts. If you need help on writing a business plan for a coffee truck, see The Ultimate Coffee Truck Business Plan. 

how to open a coffee truck

Get Funding for Your Coffee Truck

If you are obtaining funding from the SBA or a bank, you will definitely need a business plan. Other ways to obtain funding: 

  • Community Sponsors
  • SBA Micro Loans
  • Rollover of a Business Start up from a retirement account
  • Business Credit Card
  • Angel Investors
  • Equipment Loans
  • Home Refinancing

Get Permits and Licenses for your Coffee Truck

Permits and licenses vary from state to state but often coffee trucks will need to obtain a health permit, a fire permit and a sellers permit. They will also need to open a business license and register for a tax identification number (EIN). Some municipalities require a coffee truck to have a food handler certificate and/or a food manager certificate. 

permits regulations coffee truck

Although not a permit, you may also be required to have a commissary kitchen, which is a refuel depot for food and coffee trucks. 

Buy A Coffee Truck or Trailer

The coffee trailer or truck will be the largest purchase of your investment. Here are some considerations when deciding what to purchase. See Blog post on How to Pick a Truck or Trailer.

1. Coffee Truck vs Trailer vs Van vs Cart

2. Purchasing used or new

3. Choosing a reputable builder of coffee trucks

4. Deciding customizations of your coffee truck

Purchasing Your Food Truck Equipment and Supplies

Once you have the coffee truck or trailer picked out, your next large purchase will be your equipment and supplies. 

 For a full list of equipment needed for a coffee truck see our Free Starter Guide which includes sample floor plan, equipment list and cold brew recipes: Free Starter Guide.

To See Equipment I use, visit my Resource Page. 

Coffee Equipment: 

  • Espresso Machine
  • Espresso Grinder
  • Coffee Grinder 
  • Commercial Coffee Maker
  • Hot Water Urn
  • Water Filter
  • Water Pump
  • Bartender Rinser
  • Blender

Cooking Equipment

  • Panini Grill
  • Toaster
  • Microwave
  • Toaster Oven

Food Prep Equipment

  • Work Tables
  • Espresso Tamper
  • Steam Pitchers
  • Long Spoons
  • Thermometers
  • Cutting Boards

Serving Equipment

  • To-Go Coffee Cups
  • To-Go Coffee Lids
  • Coffee Sleeves
  • Coffee Totes
  • Coffee Trays
  • Creamer Dispensers

Refrigeration Equipment

  • Under-counter Refrigeration

Janitorial Equipment

  • Sinks
  • Triple Sink
  • Handwashing Sink
  • Sponges
  • Sanitization Chemicals
  • Test Strips
  • Brooms and Mops
  • Rags

Choose A POS System

Not everyone carries cash. It's important to chose a POS system that will work for you. Some POS systems will require internet, while other may not. Some POS systems will track inventory, others won't. Some POS systems allow for separate employee log ins, others just have one account. 

  • Square
  • Shopkeep
  • Clover
  • Lightspeed 

 

Build a Website, Obtain Social Media Accounts, Other Marketing 

Advertising and marketing are going to be key components to a profitable coffee truck. Here are some methods to help increase your awareness. 

  • Start a website Shopify, Wix, Square and Squarespace make it easy and intuitive to build your own.
  • Design an eye-catching menu board Pictures are worth a thousand words.
  • Create Social Media Accounts Customers will need to be able to find you. Each customer uses a different media account on a daily basis. Start the accounts you can stay consistent with. 
  • Merchandise with your Logo Coffee cups, coffee t-shirts and stickers are all good ways to get your brand out. 

Advantages and Challenges of Opening a Coffee Truck

Coffee Trucks certainly have their ups and downs. Here are some of the pros and cons...

Pros

  • Mobility Not making enough? Try another place. See an opportunity? Seize it.
  • Flexibility Adjust your schedule. Adjust your hours. Adjust your location. Adjust your menu. How you run your business is in the palm of your hands. 
  • Tax Deductions Home office space, the truck itself, rental fees. 
  • Responsiveness Need more money? Just pull the coffee truck out. 

Cons

  • Competition Markets can become oversaturated, making it hard to make a living. 
  • Long Hours Maintenance, Sourcing, Cleaning all take time and effort.
  • Zoning Laws Some municipalities will limit how food trucks operate.

Final Thoughts

Opening a coffee truck can have as much rewards as setbacks. The key to creating a successful coffee truck is research and passion. 

 

Related Resources

The Ultimate Guide on How to Build Coffee Trucks eBook

The Ultimate Coffee Truck Business Plan

4 Week Coffee Truck Crash Course

Coffee Truck Franchise For Sale

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