10 Steps for Starting a Mobile Coffee Business

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mobile coffee business

This article is your ultimate guide to capitalising on rising demand here in the UK and starting your own mobile coffee business. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of this type of model and how you can get cracking if you want to.


Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. In the UK, we consume around 95 million cups every day – and many of these are consumed outside of the home. 80 percent of those who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week, and 16 percent of the UK population buys coffee outside of the house on a daily basis.

This is great news for those working in the coffee sector. The nation’s love of the invigorating hot drink has allowed for more than 210,000 jobs, from coffee roasters and production managers to sales representatives and baristas.

Mobile coffee businesses

If you’re hoping to break into the sector, one option is to be involved in a mobile coffee business. The modern world is a busy place and increasing numbers of people are taking advantage of places where they can buy food and drink on the go without compromising on quality. This means ‘quick service’ businesses like fast food restaurants and mobile food trucks are good choices for budding entrepreneurs.

So, with the popularity of coffee as prominent as ever, why not seek out an opportunity with a mobile coffee business?

Advantages of starting a mobile coffee business

  • Continual demand Gone are the days when coffee was only enjoyed hot and favoured more in the winter. Now, we drink coffee all year round, and there are so many different options – from the macchiato to the iced latte – we never get bored.
     
  • Flexibility Because demand fluctuates throughout the day, mobile coffee businesses can be run on a part-time basis. This means you can work around your personal commitments for a healthy work-life balance.
     
  • Low start-up costs By operating out of a vehicle, you can avoid the heavy costs associated with renting a shop on the high street. You will also save on utilities and taxes.

Disadvantages of starting a mobile coffee business

  • Crowded marketplace There are some big players in the coffee shop sector and many coffee lovers have their go-to coffee brand; Costa Coffee has 2,655 outlets, Starbucks, 992 and Caffé Nero, 683. This can make it difficult for new businesses to make their mark in the market.
     
  • Early starts Many mobile coffee business owners start their days as early as possible because the majority of sales take place in the morning. On the plus side, setting up on a popular commuter route is bound to bring in plenty of customers.

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10 steps to start a mobile coffee business

1. Research, research, research

It goes without saying that your first step – in any business venture – should be to do your research. If you want to set up a successful business, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of the market; how it’s performing, how competitive it is and what trends are currently affecting businesses.

2. Design your business

This is the fun part – making the decisions that will influence the type of business you create. Ask yourself:

  • What type of vehicle will I use? You can convert any car, van, cart, caravan, bike etc. as long as you conform to health and safety standards. At this point, think about the style of your business. A coffee shop with a vintage feel might suit a bicycle cart set-up, while a more modern outlet would benefit from a clean, simple van or caravan.
     
  • What will my brand identity look like? This will probably depend upon the style of business you’re building; for example, a ‘old-fashioned’ coffee cart should be accompanied with branding that reflects the era it’s trying to recreate.
     
  • What equipment will I need? Of course, it’ll need to fit into the space you’ll have, so if you plan to operate out of a van, you’ll probably be able to buy more equipment than you would for a basic coffee cart.
     
  • What other products will I sell? Aside from different coffees, you could think about offering soft drinks and cakes and pastries. The options are endless, so think about what would differentiate you from your competitors.
     
  • What will my pricing structure look like? You’ll need to set prices that are affordable, but high enough to help you turn a decent profit.
     
  • Will I have a card reader? Although this may be difficult to arrange, having this convenient payment option should boost your sales.

3. Write business plan

Although this step isn’t as fun, it is vital. Writing a business plan will not only help you set out your intentions and ambitions clearly, but it’ll also enable you to get funding from established lenders. Make sure you have carried out thorough research and calculated accurate financial projections. If you’re joining a franchise, your franchisor should be able to help you with this.

4. Apply for funding

Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to finance your venture independently, you will need to apply for funding. During this process, take the chance to speak to financial advisors and legal professionals to check you’re making the right decisions.

5. Buy your vehicle

There are two options here – you can buy a fully equipped vehicle or standard one with the aim to convert it yourself. Either way, you’ll need to make sure it complies with all the necessary health and safety criteria. Also, set a budget for your vehicle and stick to it; overspending here could spell disaster for the future of your business.



6. Find suppliers

If you’re starting an independent business, you’ll need to look into local suppliers with competitive prices and strike a deal with them. On the other hand, if you’re joining a mobile coffee franchise, it’s likely the franchisor will already have approved suppliers in place.

7. Get the relevant licences and permits

Any food or drinks business needs the right licences and permits in order to operate within the law. You can find out which ones you need by heading to GOV.UK. Get this process started as soon as possible, as some permits can take a while to be approved.

8. Sort your marketing campaign

As a minimum, you should consider setting up a website, but you could also create flyers, business cards and adverts to play on local radio stations. You could also consider introducing a loyalty scheme to encourage customers to return again and again. If you’re becoming a franchisee, your franchisor may launch regular nationwide marketing campaigns to help you out.

9. Recruit staff

If you’re planning to run your mobile coffee business yourself, you can skip this step. But, if you want a helping hand, you’ll need to spend time recruiting employees who can provide fantastic customer service. Consider overlooking a lack of experience in favour of a great personality, as you can teach them on the job if you have to.

10. Celebrate your hard work!

Setting up your own business is difficult – whether you do it through a franchise or not. So, take the time to give yourself a pat on the back and stand back to admire your efforts. There is probably still a lot of work to do, but give yourself a moment to congratulate yourself on how much you’ve achieved.

Mobile coffee franchise opportunities

Cafe2U

Cafe2U is a mobile coffee franchise that sells hot beverages and snacks to hungry customers in a number of locations. This is a flexible business opportunity; being able to move to areas of high demand will help you maximise profits - and you can adapt your working hours to fit in with your other commitments.

  • Becoming a Cafe2U franchisee: If you capitalise on our love of freshly brewed coffee by joining Cafe2U, you’ll operate out of a fully equipped Mercedes-Benz Vito premium van within your exclusive territory. To learn more and sign up, click here.
     
  • How much you need to invest: You’ll need £81,000 to set up your own Cafe2U franchise unit.
     
  • What you get for your investment: This innovative franchise has developed a four-week training and support programme called the Acceleration Package. The pack provides new franchisees with classroom and on-the-job training, as well as valuable one-to-one time with a franchise development manager. And, to make sure your business gets off to the best possible start, Cafe2U offers an income guarantee for the first two weeks of business – so you’ll know exactly what you will earn in that crucial initial stage.

Really Awesome Coffee

This mobile coffee shop franchise launched in Coventry in 2010 and now has a chain of more than 50 franchisees. Really Awesome Coffee offers a wide variety of food and drink options, from gourmet coffees, frappes and smoothies to hot and cold food.

  • Becoming a Really Awesome Coffee franchisee: If you have a friendly, enthusiastic attitude, this franchise wants to hear from you. To learn more and sign up, click here.
     
  • How much you need to invest: If you want to make really awesome coffee, you’ll need to make an investment of £69,000. But after two years, you can expect to see a revenue of between £80,000 and £100,000.
     
  • What you get for your investment: Every franchisee benefits from Really Awesome Coffee’s dedicated training programme. You’ll spend two weeks at the coffee franchise’s Coventry training centre before you get two weeks of support in your territory. After this, the franchise development manager will visit regularly to make sure you’re on the path to profitability.

Start your business today

To view our entire selection of mobile coffee franchises, click here.

>> Read more articles on the Coffee Van sector

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