I'm looking to get into a mobile espresso business but I can't find many existing businesses in the market, does this mean they are not viable? Also if anyone knows the best place to buy fitted out vans please let me know. Thanks for any information.
There were more units on the road a few years ago. In spite of recent relief in gas prices, the cost of fuel probably had a lot to do with operators moving on, as well as the fact that they may have ridden a wave of novelty and enthusiasm in the 90's surge of espresso popularity.
I am concluding a 3 year run with one. I followed comments on forums generally, and occasionally spoke to other operators. I think it is fairly easy to create daily route that offers a fair-to-middling income - and a better one based on operator hustle and insight. Office buildings and campuses are usually tied up in Aramark-type contracts, and you can't complete. You look for stand-alone business. The two biggest business types that can make a stop worthwhile are auto dealers and beauty parlors. At the dealer, you have salesmen, mechanics, and customers. Similar mix at a beauty parlor, which has a trendy atmosphere to boot. Stylists buy for themselves, buy cappuccinos for regular customers, etc.
Regarding myself, I only experimented with routes, and focused on festivals. There were a few festivals where I made an insane amount of money, many where I puttered along modestly, but could pay my bills, and a few where drove home swearing to never go back to that one.
My last year of activity I kept my best festivals and blended in a couple farmer's markets, which were quite satisfactory. I am getting out to the business because I roast coffee now, and have a cafe project waiting for a break in the economy.
There are two espresso trucks on sale right now on ebay. They have both been relisted a couple times, with price reductions. A few months ago I put my own truck for sale with links to pictures on this website, and got no inquiries at all. You can see the post by scrolling back a few pages or clicking my profile to search my posts. I did start to disassemble it, to cannibalize equipment for the cafe, but it is not so far undone that I couldn't put it back together for a buyer. If you read the post, there is a pre-recession "firm" price that you can ignore. I'm not sure how low I'd go right now, but any offer would be considered. My plan is to strip it down and sell it as a tool or delivery truck.
These types of 'kiosk' coffee franchises seem to do well in highly populated areas. Even Starbucks has them in areas such as the Los Angeles court house area. So they must be profitable for many owners.
I have 2 mobile kiosks for sale right now. They are not trucks but have a hydraulic lift system and are easily towed with any pick up. Equipment too. I was in business for 6 years and did pretty well. I'm closing now because I have other things I want to pursue and simply don't have the time it requires.