Hello all,

In about a year or so I intent to be making a change in occupation. I will also be moving to another city at the same time. I have never been in the coffee business but would love to run a little cart, preferably in a fixed location in a busy business. I intend to research and study everything I can before I start much into this venture. I have also talked to a local Barista and he said if I have any questions he would be happy to help. He has been in business 8 years and owns his cart (or Kiosk I suppose).

I plan to save up as much as I can in the next year or so for this. Any advice or what to do or how to go about it would be great. I have about a million questions but going to start slow hehe.

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Travel. Visit known quality shops. Observe. Taste.

 

Visit shops first - easier known entities, ask those barista in cart-friendly cities where they would recommend (cart wise). There's a vast difference between your average shop, cart, or kiosk and an excellent one of the same sort.  Use your travels to test different roasters and give yourself possibilities of what beans you may use.

 

Look at attending at least one CoffeeFest in 2012 and SCAA (next year's). Take advantage of any applicable educational classes or seminars that you find. Continue to ask questions.

 

Even as a kiosk, make sure you find the correct legal entity to form yourself under - LLC, S Corp... Have complete understanding of basic bookeeping - in a bookkeeping class at your local community college or have your accountant (find one) set up your books/Quickbooks for you and show you what you need to be doing.

 

Remember that both the coffee and the business operation are equally important.

Don't rush. Plan for the long haul. When in doubt, find the answer before moving ahead.

 

Good luck!

 

John's post is spot on and some grade a advice

You will probably visit more reputable cafes, opposed to mobile coffee concepts or kiosks.  

I serve coffee out of a mobile truck and that was what I experienced anyways.  


Couple of unique challenges you will need to figure out early on, power, equipment selection (due to space and power constraints), security, and water (fill up and dump).  


When I started off I got a lot of feedback that I went overboard with equipment and water storage.  I now struggle with my water supply towards the end of most days : / good problems?

Best of luck

A key factor will be how you power the equipment in your cart. I've used a combination of propane gas for the water heater on the espresso machine and deep cycle batteries for all the other electricals (espresso machine, grinder, fridge) which works very well. I usually bring extra canisters of filtered water and use a Flojet pump to top up the water reservoir if I run low. If you experience inclement weather (which we get a lot of here) you may want to think about an enclosed cart kiosk. 

Best of luck with this venture.

I really appreciate the replies everyone.

John, I plan to do some more visiting in about 8 months to a year. My time frame for this is around a year and a half if all goes well. That should give me enough time to save up some cash and hopefully get a lot more educated on how to run things well. Are there any good books that I can read up on, not only the coffee making portion but also the business side? I did some checking and Bean Business basics looks like a good one, any thoughts?

Nohoana and Kevin, the town I live in right now doesn't even have any mobile outside carts that I know of. It does have the one in the hospital and one in a college library that I know of. We have a starbucks that I don't care for, and 3 local coffee shops. As for equipment, I figure I will have to narrow down where I am going before I can get too specific on what equipment I will need exactly. As for the espresso machine, I was leaning toward a 1 group like the Rancilio Classe 6. Only 1600 watts but can turn out up to 120 cups an hour. Would that be adequate to make a good many milk based drinks in an hour or would it struggle
? I thought that one like this would work if I really went mobile and could use a 2000 watt Honda generator. As for the cart, i just don't know how big or small I need as of yet but have spotted some neat looking ones. I haven't thought much about the water supply as of yet.

I kinda feel like I would be surprised if I managed to find a super busy location. I am hoping for something that I can maybe sell 50-100 drinks a day. I may however be underestimating how much people are selling from carts as I am limited in my city of around 30k people.


Any thoughts or suggestions are most welcome.

Things to think about:

Is a cart the right choice for your city?

What are the laws concerning carts in your city? 

Have you run the numbers?

Why a cart? 

 

I think there's more value in the classes being offered at the various conventions, in a three to four day convention you can get a ton of info. The number of relevant offerings for a start up gets better every couple years, and even here at Barista Exchange... lots of great information has been discussed. Use the search function often!

 

I would highly recommend Gerber's E-Myth (I'm guessing it's highly applicable to your situation). I would also recommend Positioning by Ries and Trout.

 

Rancilio is not a machine I would recommend, cart or otherwise. Your machine and grinder are central to your business. Do not cut corners. If $5-6K more is keeping you from getting a good espresso machine, you probably aren't ready. I would recommend a simple LM Linea EE or a Synesso Cyncra for a cart. Tried and true. Workhorse. Built like tanks. Both are easy to service.

 

Talk to cart owners in other cities, ask about cups per day and compare that to population density/ foot traffic at X location/ # coffee drinkers among that foot traffic. Understand what the numbers mean, the easiest example is if you try to lease space at a mall they will regale you with the huge amount of foot traffic they have. But the true number is those who are carrying shopping bags. If the person isn't buying, you can't count 'em.

 

In a city of 30K you may be hard pressed to make a living running a cart or even a coffee shop might be tight. If you really want to get into the coffee business, I would strongly recommend moving to a larger city in your state (if you want to stay in the area). The reality comes down to numbers. We are in a very small city, as cities go, in Salt Lake, with about 182,000 in the downtown area. We have been here for 7+ years, and I've seen many fail in our city due to lack of numbers. The #1 reason for lack of numbers is lousy coffee, second would be location. I believe the smaller the city, the more exceptional you have to be to get the numbers you need. Get the romance of your own business out of your head and then make decisions. City to city, the percentages are all fairly close as far as number of potential customers, it's all about the base number first. If it's too small, it may not be a wise businesses decision. Don't let your heart make your decision.

Neal said:

I really appreciate the replies everyone.

 

John, I plan to do some more visiting in about 8 months to a year. My time frame for this is around a year and a half if all goes well. That should give me enough time to save up some cash and hopefully get a lot more educated on how to run things well. Are there any good books that I can read up on, not only the coffee making portion but also the business side? I did some checking and Bean Business basics looks like a good one, any thoughts?

Nohoana and Kevin, the town I live in right now doesn't even have any mobile outside carts that I know of. It does have the one in the hospital and one in a college library that I know of. We have a starbucks that I don't care for, and 3 local coffee shops. As for equipment, I figure I will have to narrow down where I am going before I can get too specific on what equipment I will need exactly. As for the espresso machine, I was leaning toward a 1 group like the Rancilio Classe 6. Only 1600 watts but can turn out up to 120 cups an hour. Would that be adequate to make a good many milk based drinks in an hour or would it struggle
? I thought that one like this would work if I really went mobile and could use a 2000 watt Honda generator. As for the cart, i just don't know how big or small I need as of yet but have spotted some neat looking ones. I haven't thought much about the water supply as of yet.

 

I kinda feel like I would be surprised if I managed to find a super busy location. I am hoping for something that I can maybe sell 50-100 drinks a day. I may however be underestimating how much people are selling from carts as I am limited in my city of around 30k people.
Any thoughts or suggestions are most welcome.

 

Great advice so far.

Machine talk is kind of irrelevant now - you have far to go before machine selection. But since it's useful for budgeting concerns, I guess it is a little relevant. No single group espresso machine will crank out 120 quality espressos an hour. That doesn't matter though, because no barista on a single group machine can prepare 120 good espressos an hour. A 2 group compact is the minimum you ought to consider.

For sales and tech, your area is pretty well supported by Espresso Southeast in Auburn GA. They sell Nuova Simonelli, Cimbali, and others.  I'd steer clear of Synesso - as great as they are, you'd have one of the only ones in the state of Georgia (or the Southeast, for that matter), which is a bad idea.

Another good person for you to meet would be Paul Yates at Pineland bakery up in Waynesboro. One of the nicest guys I know, well-connected to the coffee world, and has a pretty good feel for how specialty coffee works in the _boros. He kicks around here occasionally, or you can hit him up on Twitter @PaulCoffeeFreak. He'll be a great source for places you ought to visit as well - there are some good benchmarks in ATL and Savannah.

Good luck. Hope that helps.

Thanks again for the help folks.

John and Brady, I hope to be able to attend some conventions and educational programs in the near future. Due to personal reason I will be leaving Statesboro, but not quite sure where I am going yet. I suppose I am trying to learn things in a non specific way because I don't know exactly where I will land. The reasons I was thinking of a cart are less start up cost and less to deal with than a full blown shop.

I will get whatever machine is needed, however I would be lying if I said budget wasn't a concern. I suppose once I lock down a destination I can get more specific on how much volume I will be doing. From what I have read the grinder is of vital importance as well. I have been eyeballing the mazzer line up with the major being a consideration. Seems to get nice reviews. As Brady pointed out, the specifics are not as important as budgeting at this point, just trying to get an idea of cost of everything.

Thanks again!

Attend The American Barista and Coffee School if you can... if you can not buy their books. We have been open for 3 years now and it is still the best investment we made into this business.

AT this time I know I couldn't get to ABC, perhaps in the future though. Their website seems to point to the books made by Bellisimo, is that the ones you are referring to? I was looking at buying the 3 pack of books that include Bean Business basics, espresso 101, and effective and essential marketing for the specialty coffee retailer. Any thoughts?

Thanks again!

Denise Smith said:

Attend The American Barista and Coffee School if you can... if you can not buy their books. We have been open for 3 years now and it is still the best investment we made into this business.

I recommend Ed Arvidson's Book "Coffee Business Success in a Turbulent Economy". I know several people who have used it - we refer to it as our little coffee business bible.

Neal said:

AT this time I know I couldn't get to ABC, perhaps in the future though. Their website seems to point to the books made by Bellisimo, is that the ones you are referring to? I was looking at buying the 3 pack of books that include Bean Business basics, espresso 101, and effective and essential marketing for the specialty coffee retailer. Any thoughts?

Thanks again!

Denise Smith said:

Attend The American Barista and Coffee School if you can... if you can not buy their books. We have been open for 3 years now and it is still the best investment we made into this business.



Neal said:

AT this time I know I couldn't get to ABC, perhaps in the future though. Their website seems to point to the books made by Bellisimo, is that the ones you are referring to? I was looking at buying the 3 pack of books that include Bean Business basics, espresso 101, and effective and essential marketing for the specialty coffee retailer. Any thoughts?

Thanks again!

After our employees learn the drinks by watching and taking orders at the POS. We use the DVDs (Barista 101 & Passionate Harvest) for training. We let them see them first. If an employee is really interested in sticking around and becoming a Baristas they usually watch it within a couple days and bring it back asking to see the next one. We then start the hands on training with the machine and give them the next DVD (Barista 501) to watch. We spend several weeks training with them and teaching, quizzing them about the drinks an making sure they understand what is in each drink and the modifications that might happen (i.e soy, # of shots...). If they are really excited about learning they will ask for the final video, Latte Art. As for starting the business the BIG Book that came with the course has almost everything you will need to get started.

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