mobile concept

curbsidecoffe

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Sep 27, 2005
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My wife and I are considering a concept of a Mobile Coffe truck. Unlike a tradtional coffe truck our truck would severe Gourmet coffee along with tradtional blends, Ice coffee when in season,pasteries, brand donuts, water and kids drinks. Our target customers are local sporting events, nieghborhood routes (ie ice cream truck) , office buildings. We are also considering a possible expansion of the menu to include low carb salads and small news stands items. We have ex. in small buisness start-ups but no experience in this field. Is it possible for this concept to work. Where could we start to I find infortmation on mobile cafe style trucks,and information on start-up cost and product cost. All and any information is welcomed. Thank you
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
Going mobile is more of an experiment then actual advice. Most of it will depend on the vehicle and the maximum gross weight it can handle. After you figure all this out then you can design your mobile coffeehouse.

Things to consider, size of espresso machine, size of coffee brewer, electrical (wiring and generator 110v vs. 220v this will also determine the type of espresso machine and coffee brewer), water (hot and cold), waste water, refrigeration, and storage. After all this don't forget to tack on how many people will work in the van (its added weight too).

Your weight is a key component and it determines everything. The last couple of mobile coffeehouses I saw failed because they overloaded the vehicle and couldn't keep up on maintenance to keep it rolling. That and the overhead was probably killing them (maintenance cost and gas mileage).

I would probably be looking at a delivery vehicle of some type. Nothing that sits to high. The big question is do you buy new or used. If you’re a handy mechanic, or have a cheap one then used isn't a bad option. But if you’re paying $70/hour and loosing $60/hour than that’s not going to look to good on the books either.

If you look elsewhere in this forum, you will find other people who are doing or are trying to do the same thing. I believe if you truly want to do this and do it right your going to have to spend more then you'll want to invest.

If I was setting up a mobile coffee shop I would buy new vehicle, new espresso machine, used coffee brewer, used refrigerator, maybe used storage and waste tanks, and new generator. Cars, espresso machines, and generators are complicated pieces of equipment and have a high price tag to fix. Most coffee brewers rely on gravity so there are very few moving or complicated parts. I could say the same thing about fridges but they to can become expensive.

Lastly, don’t forget to check your local and state codes. Nothing sucks worse then being inspected and told you have to dump another $2000 in to something you hadn’t planned for. Especially if you redesign or even scrap the whole project.
 

Jumpin Java Bean

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May 27, 2005
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It is definately true that there are a number of threads on this forum, including links to customizers, advice for do-it-yourselfers, etc. Peruse carefully. Also, search "mobile espresso" and other combinations, and you will find people in the business.

Regarding the inspection routine, you should definately plan to submit blueprints in advance to your Health Department for approval. This is called Plan Review and is the same as if you were going to open a restaurant. which in fact is what your truck will be. Expect to include a hand wash station, for instance.

One thing I would encourage you to think about early is maximizing the high-traffic, stationary venues. Driving around routes, selling a latte here and there, is a low return on the gasoline expended. The cool thing about a truck is that you can drive it to where there are hundreds of people - your sporting event idea. Pick up your County tourism package and see how many festivals you can find.

Another thought: don't be afraid to limit your menu. Since the truck can be expensive to run, don't have lots of items you make small margins on: a shop can do this because they have room.

Just going to your County Health Department website for Food Manager certification should be eye-opening. Your truck will also need a commissary - inspectable, approved water source, vector control, three-compartment sink. A lot of truckers make arrangements with a local deli, bakery or restaurant to refill their tanks and clean up blenders, pots, etc. Offer to sell their doughnuts.

There may be some slack counties out there that aren't as particular - but then you might have trouble going to nearby counties for permitting. The most populous counties will have the most potential customers and the tightest restrictions.

I second the notion that mechanical competence/confidence is a bigger item here than in other coffee businesses.

Good luck. As with any business, there are people who get overwhelmed, and people who do very well.
 

Espresso911

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May 30, 2005
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SF Bay Area/East Bay
Go for it!

I purchased a Mobile Espresso Truck from Seattle Coffee Trucks in Camarillo,CA. Works well and havn't had any problems. They handled all the permiting and inspections for me. Check out their website.

Where are you located at?
 
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curbsidecoffe

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thanks 911

I spoke with Bruce seems like a nice guy. After looking around the truck seems to be a nice fit. Did you buy the walk up or walk thru? the truck will be located on the east coast in Boston. I do have concerns though with our climate and how the truck will respond to the snow? Any information that you could help me. I would really welcome it. Thanks for responding
 

Espresso911

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May 30, 2005
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SF Bay Area/East Bay
Looks like we are on at the same time

Yeah, buy a 4 wheel drive cab and chasis or you'll never make it in the snow. I live in Sunny California and we DON'T do snow here, EVER :grin:

I have the type that you open the sides and do business face to face with the customer. I'm not sure I would want to be stuck inside a vehicle. But then again it rarely gets below 50 degrees here. I imagine I would think a bit differently if the temp was lower. or it was snowing, sleeting, ice-pelleting etc..
 

beans

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May 28, 2004
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What areas of Boston will you be doing business? I am doing this south of the city and am doing very well.
 
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curbsidecoffe

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Beans

Hingham to Boston. Ill be based out of Hingham covering local events, office parks along with the comuter boats . Where are you located?
 
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curbsidecoffe

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Feed back

Beans if you don't mind. I would really welcome any feedback you might have about things that you have found typical of the South shore market
or of Bostonians in general. I'm pretty nervous about not carring tradtional coffee and flavors. We both know Bostonians some times do not welcome change.
 

Jumpin Java Bean

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May 27, 2005
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By this winter I will be (Seattle) truckin' in the Philadelphia area, so I have snow issues too. I did not buy a 4 wheel unit, but my life in pickup trucks tells me that they will go almost anywhere in snow with some cinderblocks in the back. With the equipment, generator, water tanks, etc, this is a darn heavy truck, so if you have good mud and snow tires you should be fine.

Anyway, who said you have to get out there during the blizzard? Just shovel your way out to the truck, make yourself a Mocha, then go back inside and chill! Let the plows do their work, and then go out.
 

beans

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May 28, 2004
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Curbsidecoffee,
What I have found so far is that people like good coffee and will be your customer if you sell good coffee. All of the feedback that I have gotten is that they like the concept and the convenience. So the reputation that the locals have does not apply with coffee drinkers. If anything, they will walk past a DD shop to buy from you if you sell a better cup of coffee-which I do.

My first piece of advice would be to find a good local bean supplier. The freshly roasted stuff does make a difference. Also, keep it simple. You will have to fine tune what you sell by getting feedback from your customers, but there has been no requests for flavored coffee yet. People seem to like basic coffee either hot or iced. I sell a few espresso based drinks in between, but the basic coffee is what I sell the most.

A second piece of advice is to be consistent. If you start going to weekly or daily events, make sure that you are there consistently. If people know that you are there, they will not stop at a drive thru on their way. If they are not sure, they will get a coffee on their way.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Good luck
 
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curbsidecoffe

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Thanks every one

Thank you everyone for all the feedback. Beans where are you based out of on the South Shore? Coffee 911 thanks for all the feedback. If it’s not an inconvenience I’d like to talk you further about Seattle Coffee and the overall process. If there is a time that works for you best let me know. As I mentioned I’m on the East Coast so there's 3 time diff. Again everyone thanks for all the feedback
 

Espresso911

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May 30, 2005
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SF Bay Area/East Bay
No problem Curbside, hmm.... lets see, about 4:00pm my time is best for me. I'm done for the day have a rather boring 1 hour drive back home to Alameda. Soooo lets say 7:00 pm-ish your time? I can even put you into contact with a couple of other operators who also drive the same type of rig.

Talk to ya soon:
Denis

Gold Coast Coffee
Mobile Espresso
510-978-8766 cell
Espresso911@hotmail.com
 

Espresso911

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May 30, 2005
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SF Bay Area/East Bay
Hey Jumping Java and Beans,
Good advice, your both totally on track about being consistent. I've been chewed out by more than one customer if I'm not where they think I should be:)

Your also right about going with a good local coffee. For awhile I went with a VERY GOOD roaster in So-Cal (Lillo Cafe') but the logistics tail was a bit long for me and not flexible enough in case of unexpected needs. Now I go with a local roaster (Petaluma Coffee Company) which has local name recognition and my customers appreciate me supporting local business's.

Keep up the great thread

Denis
aka: Espresso911
 
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