A coffee van is the ideal starting point for both skilled baristas and coffee loving entrepreneurs to have their own business. However, like everything else, setting up a coffee van business has some prerequisites. It starts from having to decide whether to buy a custom made coffee van or a second-hand coffee van, whether it be an established business or someone who is selling just their fitted out van. You also need to decide on whether you have the confidence to start your own coffee van business or whether you would prefer to purchase an already existing business (or franchise) that has proven results.
If you do believe that you are the entrepreneurial type who is willing at going out on their own and start their own business, congratulations! You are halfway there if you can believe in yourself. You will then need to find a manufacturer that can fit out your coffee van. Here is how you do it:
•Look up the various manufacturers who fit out coffee vans
•Call them and talk to them about what they can do to help you. Is there a particular type of van they recommend for the type of business you are thinking of starting?
•Check if they are willing to fit out second-hand vans and if so, can they help source you one within your budget.
•Ask them if they can purchase the equipment at a discounted price and include it in the van or whether you are better off to provide your own equipment to supply to them to fit.
•Check their lead time – once you have made the decision to buy a coffee van you don’t want to have to wait 6 months or more. Make sure it is a respectable timeframe, i.e. no longer than 3 months.
•Compare prices and make sure you are getting a good deal
You need to consider factors such as size of the van, the price, the maintenance costs, etc. before you make your choice on van. This is the key step and you should make sure your decision is based on sound objective judgement. This is something that a good coffee van manufacturer can help guide you upon. Here is why these factors are important:
•Size of the van: A coffee van is generally a conversion of a small van such as a VW Caddy. This type of vehicle is ideal for serving coffee & cold drinks but little else. If you are planning to offer some other foods such as sandwiches, burgers, croissants, cakes, muffins, salads, pies, etc. you will need space for cooking equipment, refrigerators, etc. and may be better at looking at a walk in food trailer or food truck. Maybe a coffee ute (smoko van) might better suit your needs if you are simply planning on selling food such as pies and sandwiches and not preparing it in your van.
•The price: Your budget will govern the type of van you buy, whether it’s new or used, and the quality of the equipment and generator that goes into the van.
•Maintenance costs: You are buying the van to run a business, and too much maintenance can put a big dent in your profits. Buy a van that has low running costs. Obviously if you can afford it, purchasing a new van is best, but if your budget will not stretch that far, a late model van will serve you better as downtime due to car troubles means your business can simply not operate, which will only cost you more money in the long run.
Once you have decided on the van, you need to decide upon a coffee machine. Whilst there are many different commercial coffee machines on the market, there are only so many that will be compact enough and be able to run on the right fuel type for your van. Being the core of your business, it is better to try and allow enough funds for a good quality, 2 group coffee machine that will not only be reliable and efficient but be able to keep up with demand when necessary.
Your coffee van manufacturer will ensure that other equipment such as refrigeration, a coffee grinder, sink and water tanks, a hot water system, stainless steel benches and serving areas, a cash drawer, coffee cup dispensers, etc are all included in their quote. However you will also need to keep some extra cash handy for starting your business, for things such as vehicle signage (your coffee van manufacturer may or may not include this in their quote), branding, a basic website, business cards, cups, cutlery, uniforms, and of course, the coffee.
About the Author:
Bo Pfromm is the owner of Van Demons Vans in Brisbane. He has a passion for helping people realise their dreams by helping them join the food van revolution. Call Bo or any of the Van Demons team on 1300 886 773 to get a quote on your custom built food truck.