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Mobile coffee van business. Sydney.

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  • Mobile coffee van business. Sydney.

    Hi all, loooong time lurker, looong time coffee drinker.... So as the title goes, im considering setting up a mobile coffee van business! Now i dont know if i am crazy and stupid but i feel like i can make it work.. I have been working for the last 7 years as an espresso tech in and around Sydney. I also scored a tour of the Lamarzocco factory just north of Florence last year. I know how to make a good coffee to say the least. But is that going to be enough???

    Being in cafes for most of the day i get to meet a lot of owners, some with a very good idea and some who sadly can not even string a sentence of english together so it got me thinking (for a few years) if i could do something on my own. Maybe not on a larger scale like a cafe so i came up with the idea of a mobile coffee van..... Its in the thinking stage now so i thought i could get some opinions on here before i call up any councils or waste my time with in other areas.

    Is the market flooded with these vans?? I have seen a few around and something tells me the quality of the coffee would not be any good compared to some of the better Sydney cafes.... Anyone ever done this before? Any help would be greatly appreciated

  • #2
    Welcome to CoffeeSnobs hot-shot.

    Here are a couple of strings in coffee snobs that may help.



    • #3
      Welcome Hot-Shot,

      If the coffee from these set-ups is 'not any good', I'd suspect that is down to the operator and beans (both of which would notionally be in your control). I've had some great, and some ordinary coffees from these set-ups in many places around the world. Largely comes down to the person running and looking the machine, the beans + milk used and their freshness etc. Remember 90% of your business is milk-based drinks so whether your ratio of 'god shots' on espressos is slightly lower isn't going to be a big deal. But then you need to crunch the numbers.........there's some advice in the links provided by Barry above, and I think if you search this site you might find a spreadsheet that details a simple budget for a coffee cart business.


      • #4
        To be honest, as an espresso tech myself (4 years in Melbourne and around Vic) I think you'd probably make a more reliable living as a tech than as a coffee van operator or cafe operator. My boss probably makes a better coffee than 80% of our customers, but he doesn't want to do that for a living, and neither would I .


        • #5
          We looked into a van a couple of years back - found a place that supplied it all and, unusually, provided in writing a guarantee they would hand over a route actually doing business to make $65,000 per year. In fact the franchiser was insistent he would not turn the business over without reaching that level.

          Find the right provider and I thin it could be a good livelihood. Find the right route and it could be gold. Note that driving is not what it is about - driving is an expense so you want a route with a few very good, close together stops.


          • #6
            Welcome +3 hot shot.

            I know from here in WA that the Sydney market is certainly flooded with franchises and independents of various quality.

            I am in the process of planning for a future mobile coffee van business here in Perth.

            Being an espresso tech will come in handy during the course of running your own business which will save quite a few dollars and time.

            Success in Sydney,s competitive mobile coffee van environment comes from this.

            Excellent product and technical knowledge together with the know how and speed ( which can only improve with time on the road).

            Excellent product quality at the right price.

            Excellent service. Remembering your customers and what they usually order makes them feel important.

            A good, reliable and clean van with some individual flair comes in handy.

            If there,s psychological fear of going ahead, it would be:
            Fear of the customer. ie. Getting knock backs when you're trying to source customers, especially in established areas in Sydney. Some operators are naturally good getting along with customers, and some will struggle, perhaps being introverted or shy.

            Fear of delivering a quality product every time. Hence the need to deliver a quality and consistent product day in, day out,5, 6 or 7 days a week with a good dose of speed.

            Fear of reaching their business goals. A major concern people have is wondering how they are going to make a living while they are building their business. While you are building your business, right from the start there are fixed overheads like business loan repayments, insurance premiums etc to pay.

            Finally you will want to be busy and work hard to achieve your sales targets, as well as always looking at ways to improve how you do things, or how to do it more efficiently.

            Do your market research, talk to your council and get to know them. Survey your competition. Look at potential markets, not just industrial/commercial areas but also schools and clubs for weekend static events.
            If you can, take a ride for a day with a van on a run and see how you like it, this is important.


            • #7
              Mobile coffee van business. Sydney.

              I've seen so many coffee carts at markets around Melbourne that lose business because they can't satisfy demand quickly enough. For whatever reason they pump the coffee out too slowly and have a line of 10+ people.

              While some people will queue, hence the 10+ people in the queues, many others won't. Capturing those people who won't queue could be the difference between making a decent living or struggling to make ends meet.

              Whether that just requires a skilled and motivated barista, or needs two or three baristas working the machine/till, or even if it needs a high end machine like a Slayer, is beyond my expertise.


              • #8
                One of the best and one of the worst coffees I have ever bought have been from coffee vans. I once bought a surprisingly good coffee from a van, at a public function in Sydney’s Hyde Park. So it can be done well with the combination of top equipment, great coffee beans and a skilful barista.



                • #9
                  I know what you mean jonathon.

                  This kind of business really suits a 2 person system.
                  One to take orders, put lids on drinks, general assistance and communication with customers.
                  The other free to concentrate on making great coffees and iced drinks without much distraction. Still, the ability to interact with customers while pumping them out is a must if required.
                  Also handy for static events when queues of people will happen. I have attended events like a classic car show where the whole family like the kids dragging out the cool drinks out of the spare esky to replenish the fridge or dispensing slushies while mum takes orders/money and dad is on the machine.

                  Because this is a business, you should be aiming for $60,000+ net. I know of one couple of a well known franchise who do well on $100,000 plus working weekends together with their weekday run (7am til 2pm)

                  If operating alone as a sole operator, you will be struggling to sneak past $40,000 net unless you are fast on your feet and machine. It will be hard work. Most people want coffee in the period of 6.30-7.00 til 11.00am and this is the time frame when one should be going at 100% without so much as a toilet break anywhere.

                  I don't want to detract anybody from venturing into this field. Just want to reveal some realities of business life.

                  As long as the homework is done and anyone is willing to face a few hurdles along the way, it can be a fun and rewarding way to run a coffee business without risking heaps on a cafe.

                  Barry, had a great coffee from a operator who had experience as a barista previously and is now a successful van operator. Was as good as any good cafe i,ve been to.
                  Those who had very average coffees would most likely come from those who only had limited experience and only a week's training at a franchise center who are housewives, butchers, dissillusioned engineers but without real passion for coffee, though they get along well with customers which help them stay in business.


                  • #10
                    Hi to all in this thread,

                    I have not been on here for very long but I have been running my mobile coffee van business in Melbourne for 4 years now and it has had its ups and downs along the way.

                    I would be happy to point you in the right direction if you have some more specific questions. I think I have seen and done it all by now


                    • #11
                      I work a mobile business occasionally and the most lucrative days are at markets and there is always a queue, doesn't matter how fast we are. The only problem with markets is that they are hard to get into as they have established suppliers already in place and you basically have to wait for someone to retire or die! On really busy days we have one barista doing shots and one doing milk and someone on counter. A lot of wages, but you can't do a busy market day on your own.


                      • #12
                        Hello BeanAroundTown,

                        If you don't mind me asking, how did you go about establishing a customer base and how was your general feeling when you got started in the first few weeks?

                        BangalowBarista, I have thought about a coffee trailer which is a low investment venture just for the purpose of weekend work at markets, local sports events, or community events.

                        Do you utilise a van, trailer or cart?


                        • #13
                          Hi sidewayss we use a trailer. Lots of storage, big water tank and looks the goods and room for workers to move. We put a couple of tables out and a stainless bench at the front.


                          • #14
                            Thanks BangalowBarista.

                            Wouldn't mind asking...was your trailer sourced from a certain company in Queensland that supplies vans, carts and trailers?

                            Everytime I look at that website and the one from NSW, I start daydreaming...

                            So how has it been generally? Hard work but rewarding?


                            • #15
                              Yes, Queensland.
                              It is hard work, but market crowds are fun. People are generally not in a hurry and just out enjoying themselves so this puts them in a better frame of mind whilst waiting for coffees. Great fun trading with other market holders. As I said, markets can be hard to get into and watch out for site fee's at other events. Once you have paid fees, wages supplies etc there's not much left.