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.
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
Recurring Coffee Truck Cost
Fuel $5-10 dollars per day
Insurance- Monthly and Yearly
Commissary Kitchen Rent
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
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.
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.
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.
- Espresso Machine
- Espresso Grinder
- Coffee Grinder
- Commercial Coffee Maker
- Hot Water Urn
- Water Filter
- Water Pump
- Bartender Rinser
- Panini Grill
- Toaster Oven
Food Prep Equipment
- Work Tables
- Espresso Tamper
- Steam Pitchers
- Long Spoons
- Cutting Boards
- To-Go Coffee Cups
- To-Go Coffee Lids
- Coffee Sleeves
- Coffee Totes
- Coffee Trays
- Creamer Dispensers
- Under-counter Refrigeration
- Triple Sink
- Handwashing Sink
- Sanitization Chemicals
- Test Strips
- Brooms and Mops
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.
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...
- 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.
- 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.
Opening a coffee truck can have as much rewards as setbacks. The key to creating a successful coffee truck is research and passion.