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How Much Does It Cost to Start a Coffee Truck

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Justin GuinnAuthor

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Coffee Truck

There are coffee shops, and there are food trucks. So why shouldn’t there be coffee trucks?

If you’ve ever asked how much does it cost to start a coffee truck, you’re likely well aware of the business potential these mobile coffee shops can provide. It’s a way to take your coffee business to the people — and Americans seem to be infatuated with food trucks.

In this article, you’ll learn about the startup costs for opening a coffee truck business and how it differs from both a food truck business and a traditional coffee shop.

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Is a coffee truck profitable?

How much does it cost to open a coffee truck?

The cost of opening a coffee food truck can start around $60,000.The bulk of the startup costs go to the food truck cost itself — as a used truck can start around $30,000 and a new build starts around $50,000.

The rest of the costs are made up of coffee brewing equipment and other coffee-making tools. This can range around $10,000 - $20,000 for espresso machines, grinders, water filtration and treatment, and much more.

Is a coffee truck just a combo food truck and coffee shop?

Coffee trucks and food trucks share some similarities, as both involve operating a mobile business. However, there are significant differences between the two.

While food truck owners typically offer a variety of food items, coffee trucks primarily focus on providing a range of coffee-based beverages.

Coffee truck owners, baristas, and food service aspects set coffee trucks apart from food trucks. The unique challenge faced by coffee truck owners lies in striking the right balance between serving quality coffee and maintaining efficient operations.

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What to include in a coffee truck business plan

A well-crafted coffee truck business plan is crucial for success in this industry.

As entrepreneurs and aspiring baristas venture into the mobile coffee business, a solid business plan helps chart the path to profitability.

It should encompass various aspects such as market research, defining your market demographics and target audiences, establishing your brand, developing a marketing plan, understanding the significance of social media, and considering parking lot logistics.

A coffee truck business plan can also be a critical resource when it comes to finding restaurant financing. Business plans let restaurateurs pitch their ideas to potential investors. 

Many business ventures require capital in the form of a personal loan or investment – your business plan is your ticket to meetings with those lenders, and will ensure you’re prepared for potential investors’ questions about everything from research and development to budget and your long-term goals.

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Common coffee food truck startup costs and operational costs

When starting a coffee truck, it's important to allocate funds for various upfront and ongoing operational costs.

Startup costs for mobile coffee truck

Typical startup costs include the initial investment or lease of a truck or trailer. New food trucks can range from $50,000 to $175,000 — where used trucks can range from $30,000 to $70,000.

When choosing between new vs used, operators should also consider the build time and ability to use immediately.

There are must-have pieces of equipment for mobile coffee carts, such as an espresso machine, grinder, refrigeration, and blenders if you’re doing frozen drinks. 

These coffee shop equipment costs can start around $20,000 — which is likely more in line with your mobile coffee truck — and range up to $400,000 for larger, more complex coffee-focused restaurant businesses.

Some of the most popular pieces of equipment for coffee trucks are:

  • La Marzocco GB5 S 2: $20,000+

  • Ascaso Baby T Plus: $5,000+

  • Rancilio Classe 7: $10,000+

  • Nespresso Creatista Plus: $500+

Business permits, business licenses, and liability insurance can make up a decent percentage of operational expenses. 

Branding and marketing expenses can’t be overlooked. 

And then there’s the need to stock the initial inventory, which along with coffee beans, syrups, and other ingredients, includes straws, cups, napkins, cup sleeves, and more.

Ongoing costs for mobile coffee truck

Ongoing operational costs involve staffing and labor costs and everything associated with it, such as worker’s compensation and benefits. 

There’s ongoing ingredient expenses required for everything produced on the truck. 

Being mobile, there’s typical food truck maintenance that business owners have to consider — something that may not be as important for coffee trailers that are more permanent. 

Then there’s plenty of other overhead costs and other expenditures that new business owners will have to discover.

Just like with regular coffee shop owners, coffee truck business owners may have to carefully track the average cost of their coffee beans. Operators want to maintain consistent profit margins in each latte or cup of coffee, which can be hard to do with fluctuating coffee bean costs.

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Equipment required for your mobile coffee shop

The success of a coffee truck heavily depends on having the right equipment to deliver exceptional coffee and provide efficient service.

Essential coffee shop equipment includes multiple forms of coffee maker, such as espresso machines, drip coffee pots, pour over mechanisms, and more.

Most regular coffee shops need grinders to process their whole beans, though mobile coffee shops may be better suited to grind offsite.

Refrigeration is essential for milks and creams — and the health department.

Signage can be great for displaying your menu and pricing in a fun, branded fashion.

And then there’s business technology, chiefly your point of sale systems. For your POS system, it can be important to consider something designed specifically for small business coffee shops and/or food trucks — such as Toast.

Additionally, it is important to consider equipment needed not only on the truck itself but also any equipment required in a commissary space for food preparation and storage.

Take control of coffee truck costs to protect profit margins

Monitoring costs is essential to maintain profitability in the coffee truck business.

By continuously managing prime costs such as labor costs, ingredient costs, and other overhead expenses, coffee truck owners can protect their average profit margins.

It is crucial to regularly review and analyze the total costs associated with the business to ensure profitability and make adjustments where necessary. Break-even analysis plays a vital role in understanding the minimum sales required to cover costs and achieve profitability.

By emphasizing the importance of ongoing cost control and analysis, coffee truck owners can maximize their profits and build a sustainable business.

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Catch the buzz while managing all the costs with your new coffee truck

Opening a coffee truck business requires careful consideration of startup costs, business planning, equipment requirements, and ongoing cost management.

By understanding the unique aspects of the coffee truck industry and adopting strategies to protect your profit margins, you can build a successful and profitable coffee truck venture.

With the right blend of passion, expertise, and a well-thought-out business plan, your coffee truck can become a beloved destination for coffee enthusiasts on the go.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.