Running a mobile coffee franchise involves weaving your business life around other people’s work breaks, and for people with the right mindset and work ethic, can be incredibly rewarding.
Free from the confines of spiralling property prices and expensive overheads, mobile coffee vans are a great way to get great coffee straight to the people who need it, sparking conversations and connections in the process.
After all, not every office is based in a major metropolitan area, and there are always people who need a pick-me-up on their morning break, at lunchtime and in the afternoon.
Generally, the people who would be best served serving fresh coffee to a motley crew of customers will already know if it is the right life for them
If essentially running a coffee club with an engine is appealing, if they are great with people, if they have a passion for coffee beans, and they are willing to put in the hard work, a career in mobile coffee might just be perfect for them.
But before anyone commits to buying a van, starting a franchise or investing in one of those really sleek cafetierés, here are some important aspects you need to know.
It Pays To Explore Your Options
Before you make any commitments, buy a van or buy any equipment, take a walk or drive around your local area and take notes (mental ones if you are driving, of course) on where you notice groups of people travelling around and where a supply of fresh coffee is nowhere to be seen.
You may find a spot that flares up your imagination; plenty of industrial estates are miles from decent coffee.
Once you have confirmed that this is the future you want, it’s time to consider the most suitable options for establishing your business. You could buy a van yourself and convert it, buy a ready-to-go coffee van and run it independently, or become part of a franchise. Each has its pros and cons but we believe that becoming a franchise partner outweighs the rest.
Besides anything else, the franchise you are buying into will often do the research on potential coffee stops for you, essentially finding your customers before you have even begun.
You Get Out What You Put In
This is an essential fact to know in two important respects.
The first is in terms of your budget; whilst initial startup costs are relatively low compared to some other businesses, it is essential to have enough money to get your business off the ground and contingency plans to prepare for any eventualities and setbacks.
Practically all new businesses will have a first year or two that will feel like a blur as a new mobile coffee shop owner juggles their owner, accountant, marketer and barista hats, all whilst getting used to their new routes, breaking the ice with new customers, networking and making amazing coffee.
As you build yourself up and establish your mobile coffee shop, you need to make sure you have the financial runway to ensure you can weather those first few months if they do not go as well as you hope.
The best way to do this is to set up a business plan of your expected initial starting costs, budget, expected monthly costs and how much it would cost you to run the business for that first year or two. At Really Awesome Coffee, we have a dedicated team of development managers who will do the heavy lifting for you.
Not only is this useful information to have to hand, but it can also be the difference maker when enquiring about business loans with banks, as they are more likely to lend to you if it seems like you have a sensible idea of where their money is going.
The Legal Stuff Is Important But Easier Than You Think
One of the big worries new small business owners have is the complexities of registering their new business, but in practice, it is not as complex as you may think.
Basically, if you are going it alone with your mobile coffee business, you have the choice of setting up a limited company, which would make your franchise a separate company to you personally, and you pay corporation tax, or setting up as a sole trader.
A sole trader is the easier way to set up a small business up to a certain size if you do not plan to employ anyone else, and you can switch to establishing a company if your circumstances change.
However, in practice, a limited company provides better security and more options for the future, especially if you plan to expand, so registering as a company early helps you adjust to the change quicker.
After this, you need to make sure you have a driving licence for your mobile coffee van and a food business licence with your local authority. Again, going down the franchise route will often mean a lot of this stuff is taken care of for you.
Your Brand Has Just Three Ingredients
When running a mobile coffee van, marketing is a hugely important part of success, especially since you do not have a rigidly defined space and will regularly move around.
A mix of word of mouth, social media and carefully curated advertising will go a long way, but a lot of people new to mobile coffee have a tendency to overthink their marketing efforts.
Ultimately, only three parts of your coffee business matter to your customers and therefore should be the three aspects you prioritise most.
Your van is the most prevailing icon of your coffee vending, and whether you opt for a vintage campervan look, a sturdy and dependable land rover defender or something more exotic and stylish, it will make an immediate impact when you arrive on the forecourt or street corner.
Your coffee is the most important part in the long term, as marketing matters right up until that first sip. If you serve fantastic coffee at a good price with a winning smile, you have a customer that will not only come back but tell their colleagues and friends.
The final ingredient is yourself. You are the face that will welcome customers, enquire about their day and make small talk as you fire up the barista equipment. If people like you and how you treat them, they will respond in kind.
Really Awesome Coffee has been serving up coffee from our eye-catching coffee vans since 2010. With over 100 vans on the road, we are an unmistakable force in the mobile coffee market, and the perfect partner to help you realise your dreams.