Coffee is both mass produced and highly personal – as are coffee food trucks. Choosing the right coffee truck is an interplay of your dreams and ambitions, business needs and a base model’s capabilities. The perfect cup depends on you and your truck as much as it does your clientele and where you’ll be operating from.
Rather than building a onze-size-fits-none solution and selling you hard on that because we have half a dozen stuck on our lot, or even worse, blasting a list of specs, options and details so extensive it will leave you confused on what is actually in the truck – we listen to you and your business model to design a fitting custom coffee food truck every single time.
What is your brand about? What type of coffee are you serving? Why? How experienced are you or how much help in setting up the business do you need? How are your sourcing your coffee, and to who and where are you selling? Our discovery process walks us through that journey together to find the perfect fit for you.
Just because we build 100% custom coffee food trucks made to order, obviously does not mean we can not show some great previous builds and pre-configured units to give you an inspiring idea what’s possible for different coffee truck concepts, what to keep in mind and how they can be specced out. We showcase some of the most succesful and impressive builds in the next section.
Mobile coffee truck inspiration
A full mobile cafe with all the options you can imagine – a big freightliner or Chevy step van food truck is the all American classic food truck icon of our day. Offering a wealth of space built on a highly durable workhorse, having this much space allows you to go either way – traditional diner style “you can have any coffee you want as long as it’s black” percolator and drip coffee or serve a wide array of modern coffee options.
Using an older step van as the base these models can come in at surprisingly affordable price tags when we calculate your build. If you serve only coffee, many of the food truck code requirements are less stringent – meaning no triple sink and exhaust. Planning ahead does mean installing them – and if budget allows we do recommend it.
Serving coffee from a Tuk Tuk has several distinct advantages: they are SUPER cute, highly mobile allowing you to get indoors or outside where there’s limited space for a big rig, and being outside the truck gives you a much more direct contact with and feel for the customer.
Many customers find it important that their coffee is locally or sustainably sourced and they are buying from a green, environmentally conscious company. Chances are YOU also think this is very important – and will go to great lengths to either source locally from a local roaster or go even further and source direct from a sustainable grower.
We offer a premium 100% road legal electric Tuk Tuk for sale in the USA that is not only super cute and good for the environment but also great for your margins with the exceptionally low operational cost. The units do cost more than a regular tuk tuk but are well worth it.
A possible downside is not all counties will let you vend coffee in this, or at least not get a food truck license for it, so we need to check and confirm this with you, and it’s not a usable set up in the snow or rain.
A major part of upselling specialty coffee is what they call in the trade the “retail brand experience”, or in simpler terms why there’s a greeter at Walmart and stores do taste tests.
Selling from a quality vintage food truck or specifically a citroen hy food truck has its retro charms and putting those to work for you provides exactly this experience – your coffee is already special purely through the point of sales and having a real European vintage truck simply suggests that Italian espresso you’re getting is that much more genuine too.
Many vintage coffee trucks are used as a display or fixed service point – that certainly is the easiest and cheapest option, but Karpatia also restores vintage food trucks to mint DOT-a-okay condition. Pricing a vintage restoration is always very situational as oldtimers will have uniquely different sets of problems.
The price vs. a step van can be a pleasant surprise – as these are usually vintage European food trucks that we export to the US the majority of the work can be done at lower labor costs in Europe too without lowering the quality.
A major consideration vs. a step van is that the square footage is substantially smaller, and although price points are similar the leadtime is multiple weeks more because of the amount of work involved.
Coffee trailers for sale
Karpatia makes all types of custom concession trailers – from 7ft and up to 50ft. A small roundtop C+ trailer or small box trailer is a great way to get in to the coffee business with a practical amount of space and a low invesment.
Easily pulled on a regular drivers license your boxy kiosk can be the morning go-to especially if we apply some creative decor to the paneling or wrap of the trailer. About as basic as a cart, the C+ Coffee Trailer can keep you dry while you test out if being in the coffee business is right for you.
You can upgrade your style by going from a regular concession trailer to a brand new or vintage airstream concession trailer instead. Airstream’s classic, sleek silver bullet style is simply hard to resist as you walk by.
There are a few extra considerations when converting an Airstream travel trailer to a concession unit – it will take extra time as refurbishing is more labor intensive than building from scratch – just lots and lots of time – and it can not be customized to the same degree a box concession trailer can.
You get a lot of looks in return though – making all the time and investment worth it.
to brew, drip or percolate
Coffee trucks generally offer a healthy margin on every cup sold and you can add increased overall margins to that as there are little to no losses from spoilage. That is a healthy percentage margin though, so keep in mind you still have to make the sales rain before your coffee turns in to black gold.
Many food truck parks and festivals will serve their own drinks and restrict sales strictly to food vendors, excluding your coffee truck. Plus these events are generally lazy weekend destinations or popular on Friday afternoon and some weekday evenings. Crowds will be in a mood for street food and beer, not necessarily quality latte art.
Your sales as a coffee food truck operator are going to be mostly from morning rush traffic, office workers stepping out for coffee and being booked for specialty events as the corporate – or wedding – coffee option.
Thinking about the balance between quality and uniqueness on one hand and volume and speed on the other is a must and will depend on your location. Being able to sell a $7 coffee with a $5 margin is great, unless it takes you so long that multiple other would be customers drop out of your line on the corner.
If you are inside a corporate lobby though, that wait time is usually appreciated (by everyone except the manager).
You can get coffee anywhere – from Costco to Costa Rica. As setting up a food truck business is plenty difficuly and time intensive as it is you should have the sourcing of your coffee down well before you start or you need to outsource it. If you want to source direct from a grower you will spend months looking for the right one – justifiable time to invest in your coffee quality and brand story, but not something you can do when you have to get up at 05:00 AM every day.
An alternative can be to find a great small local roasting company near you or other coffee brand that is new to your market and reach out to them. Often times they will even sponsor some of your inventory, and if your sales are really picking up or projected to shoot for the moon they may even foot the bill for some of the equipment.
Lastly if sponsored inventory and equipment sounds like a dream come true and hiking through the jungle to find the right farmer does not, you may be more inclined to approach a major brand in the coffee space and ask them about their options for helping set you up as a new mobile point of sales for their coffee.
Used coffee truck vs. New
Four major differences between new and used food trucks are price, layout, quality of the vehicle and a builder warranty.
For a coffee food truck this is no different except that the layout and investment in the interior design of a coffee truck are generally a more modest expense than other food trucks, barring you installing any expensive espresso machines and even then it usually does not total to as much as a BBQ or burger truck would.
That means you can work with a pre-owned unit more easily as the flow or layout are not that unique, and even new equipment is plug and play instead of being bolted in to place.
Similarly the code requirements of a food truck differ from state to state, but are generally lighter on coffee food trucks and so you can more readily buy a used and have less of a risk of it being a cat in the bag requiring thousands in upgrades to get it to your local code standards.
BUILD OPTIONS AND SPECIFICATIONS
A lot of thought goes out to planning you coffee food truck – you can think ahead and consider some of the important aspects mentioned below to get started and can use this list as a cheat-sheet when comparing our quote and the level of quality and detail with any other custom food truck manufacturer you requested an offer from.
Karpatia does high quality certified electrical work – you do not need to think much about power at all when ordering, except tell us what you want to put in that coffee truck and we will work our way back from there for you. All models include:
By assessing your dreams we come to a shared understanding of who we are building for and why
Exploring multiple design options lets us find the solution that best suits your business goals
We refine the concept and provide you with a detailed design that meets your needs
Close monitoring during production ensures we meet your standards. You can always fly- or drive in and take a look!
We offer a range of extra services to support your operation, so you can keep your focus.
There are literally hundreds of food truck builders.
SO Why KARPATIA?
We also provide additional services to help you get started – from financing to food truck websites
Yes, we ship to Hawaii. Extra rates apply.
Yes, we ship to Alaska, although extra rates apply.
Containers go everywhere, and all units can always be shipped to the nearest port. We might not have a local forwarder in your country (yet) though, in which case we will find one together with you.
Karpatia has no showroom – but of course, we are always happy to show the workshop. You can make an appointment through our contact form and try before you buy.
We will gladly export your vehicle to Canada but need a little more cooperation with you to get it up to local code than we would for US customers.
If you do it right – yes. Food trucks and concession trailers are some of the most profitable small businesses you can operate without very specialized skills. Latte art is optional.
It all depends on your product and the effort you put in to the business. Go out there and grind every day and you’ll be selling like hot cakes – or hot cups I mean.
Kar as in car
Pa as in paw without the W
Tia as your Mexican aunt.
Quotes are 100% free no strings attached
You'll have a perfect floor plan, artist sketches of your truck or trailer, accurate 3D render and full inventory list at zero cost and nothing signed.