How to Start a Mobile Coffee Business

If you have a passion for coffee and enjoy working with the public, a mobile coffee business can be an enjoyable way to earn a living. This business provides hot and cold coffee drinks at festivals, private events, company functions, wedding receptions and outdoor gatherings. Because you do not need storefront space, the costs of starting and operating a mobile coffee shop business are lower than starting a traditional coffee shop. Income varies according to location and marketing, however, a mobile espresso cart can generate annual average sales of $75,000, according to

Register your mobile coffee business with your state's Secretary of State Office. If you are the only employee of the business, you can register as a sole proprietorship, which requires little paperwork and is less expensive than registering a limited liability company or corporation. You also may need a business license, depending on the city or county in which you operate.

Obtain a food service license from the appropriate state office – the entity regulating food service varies by state. For example, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provides food service licenses in that state; the fee is $137 for a mobile food service license, as of June 2011.

Purchase a mobile cart with a compartment for storing coffee and flavoring syrup, as well as a refrigerated compartment for storing milk, cream and whipped cream. If you plan to serve iced drinks, the cart should also have a freezer compartment for storing ice; however, you can purchase portable coolers for ice and dairy products instead to reduce the cost of your cart. Basic carts start at about $3,000; however, you may be able to save money by purchasing a used cart.

Determine how you will transport your cart to events. Small carts can fit in the bed of a pickup. If you purchase a larger cart, you may need to purchase a trailer and add a hitch to your pickup.

Purchase a supply of cups, insulating cup holders, coffee, espresso, flavoring syrups and coffee stirs.

Get heavy-duty extension cords to power coffee pots, espresso makers and blenders.

Print brochures showing the types of coffee drinks you serve, as well as your availability. Include contact information so prospective customers can call or email to hire you.

Contact local businesses to inquire about setting up your mobile coffee business to provide coffee drinks during employee lunch breaks.

Advertise your mobile coffee business in local newspapers, alternative papers, neighborhood bulletin boards, online classified ad sites and local websites. If your budget permits, advertise on local television and radio stations, billboards and park bench signs.

Contact local event and wedding coordinators in your area and provide them with brochures for your mobile coffee shop business. These professionals can help build you business and supply you with steady work by recommending your services to their clients.


  • Place a stack of brochures on your mobile coffee cart when serving guests at an event -- this can help generate referral business to keep your schedule full.


About the Author

Owen Pearson is a freelance writer who began writing professionally in 2001, focusing on nutritional and health topics. After selling abstract art online for five years, Pearson published a nonfiction book detailing the process of building a successful online art business. Pearson obtained a bachelor's degree in art from the University of Rio Grande in 1997.