Many people love coffee right now. As a result, many people take advantage of this love for coffee by opening their cafés.
Coffee shops are profitable businesses. The top names in the business usually earn 70 percent of the industry’s profits. Larger businesses tend to earn higher profits, but this shouldn’t discourage small business owners from trying their hand at the coffee shop business. You don’t have to start big ASAP. In fact, why not start with a small coffee stand? A drive-thru coffee stand to be exact.
Drive-thru coffee stands are common retail concepts that consist of a small structure with a service window or two — a big difference from common cafés with all the tables and chairs. Customers need not stay in the shop; they can just drive up to the window to order their coffee and food.
Each drive-thru coffee stand is unique. These coffee corners vary in design and size but they serve the same purpose: they conveniently offer coffee to drivers. Customers can either drive up or walk to the stand and get their daily cup of Joe.
Drive-Thru Coffee Stands: A Profitable Venture for Small Business Entrepreneurs
According to the National Coffee Association (NCA) US survey, the average American coffee drinker can drink up to three cups of coffee per day. Also, seven in 10 Americans drink coffee weekly; 62 percent consume coffee every day. The country’s overall coffee consumption is also up by five percent since 2015.
With these numbers, there’s no denying that people will always look for coffee. But with the current situation we are in (due to the pandemic), people are also looking for convenience. So, if you can offer coffee in the most convenient way possible, people will flock to your business (especially in the cold winter season).
One of the best things about opening a drive-thru stand is that it saves you more money compared to when opening a full-blown coffee shop. The traditional coffee shop setup comes with additional expenses, such as chairs, tables, restroom needs and more. With a coffee stand, you’ll just need a small coffee corner (positioned in a convenient location), the right equipment and ingredients.
Plus, if you pick the right location, you can make as much revenue as the regular coffee shop for less money.
Why Do Some Drive-Thru Coffee Shops Fail?
Not all drive-thru coffee stands are successful, though. Many business owners think that their coffee could be the cause of their downfall. But that’s never the case.
One of the reasons behind their failure is the lack of planning. A lack of preparation leaves business owners susceptible to common traps that reduce sales, drive up costs and increase headaches.
Unlike traditional coffee shops, the lower-cost investment model of a drive-thru coffee stand can feed a business owner’s overconfidence. Many aspiring coffee stand owners can think that they don’t need plans, but they do. There’s no such thing as winging it, even if you’re just planning a “small drive-thru coffee corner.”
Other reasons behind coffee shop failures are poor accounting, lack of operational knowledge, insufficient funding and mismanagement. So, instead of dealing with these problems, it’s best to plan ahead.
How To Start a Coffee Stand
Determine the Concept of Your Coffee Stand
How do you want your coffee stand to look? What is the café aesthetic? Also, what type of experience do you want your customers to have? Answer these questions by developing your concept and vision of your coffee stand.
Put down your thoughts on paper as you start brainstorming concepts for your coffee shop. Initially, your thoughts might be all over the place. That’s OK! Track them by writing all of them down. Come back to them later so you can sort your ideas.
Many of the thoughts you take down can build your business plan, so always keep your notes available. If you don’t know where to start, visit nearby coffee stands and pay attention to their food, coffee, location and branding.
Write Down Your Business Plan
The most successful businesses started with a plan. Creating a business plan before you open your drive-thru coffee stand can help you develop, execute and launch a business model that works. Also, having a business plan can save you more money from the start, ensure you cover everything and help you avoid mistakes. It can also streamline your spending and efforts.
Find a Convenient Location that is Easily Accessible
Your location impacts customer traffic. The selling point of drive-thru coffee shops is its convenience. As we mentioned above, you can save more money on operation and start-up costs. On the other hand, the customers will immediately get their affordable coffee fix quickly.
When opening a drive-thru coffee stand, your location can be something as simple as an empty parking lot. However, if you’re nearby a large shopping center that receives a lot of customers, get in touch with them.
Another thing to consider when looking for a good location is your county/city/state regulations. Get in touch with your local government officials and make sure your business’s location complies with the local regulations.
Decide If You’re Going to Buy or Build your Drive-Thru Coffee Stand
You have two options when it comes to starting your drive-thru coffee stand business: build it or buy one. Building your coffee stand from the ground up is possible, especially if you have access to the right equipment and tools. You can save more money by building your coffee corner. If a DIY build isn’t a viable option for you, get in touch with a contractor. They can help you do this at a low cost.
If you don’t want to build the stand, you can always buy pre-existing coffee stands. Many businesses sell their drive-thru coffee stands, which they can deliver. Some business owners even buy old food trucks or RVs and convert them into a drive-thru coffee corners.
Develop Your Menu
While serving coffee is a priority on the list, many drive-thru coffee stands have fancy menus. The menu depends on your target market’s needs and location. If you want to start simple, that’s OK. Just let it grow from there. For example, you might want to provide the following:
- Cold-brew coffee
- Drip coffee
- Espresso-based drinks (Americans, lattes and espresso shots)
- Cream-based drinks
- Soda and water
- Pre-packaged goods (e.g. bagels, cookies and muffins)
Once you get to know your customers, expand your drive-thru menu options. Cookies, scones and muffins are popular menu items for drive-thru options. All of them go well with coffee drinks. Other popular options are energy drinks and smoothies. If you are planning to offer these, you’ll need commercial blenders and ovens.
Buy Equipment That Fits Your Space
Equipment creates good coffee. In a traditional café, size isn’t a question, but with a small drive-thru stand, you have to think about the size.
In this case, you’ll need a grinder and an espresso machine. With espresso machines, two or three group heads should do. In small spaces, having three spots to pull shots can be chaotic, though. You need two people to work with the machine at a time.
Hire Amazing Baristas
Apart from the equipment, another secret weapon behind successful cafés is the baristas. The quality of your staff can make or break your business.
Hire baristas for their reliability, trainability and personality — not just their experience. While experience is important, training for personality isn’t as easy. You can train for skills, though. So, hiring personable, energetic and bright employees is essential to your coffee stand’s success.
A good action plan is the first step in any coffee business adventure. The same applies to your coffee stand dreams. So, here’s to making more cups of Joe for people on the road!