Please note that if you intend starting this type of business, it is advisable to first look at the existing laws and zonal regulations in the country or state you reside in to know what is expected of you. The bottom line is that you need to pay a visit to the regulatory bodies in the city or state in Australia you intend starting the business to get the information you need before you can legally open your mobile coffee van business in the city.

You can start your mobile coffee van business from a small town in Australia and if you are good at what you do, it won’t be long before your brand becomes nationally recognized especially if you go into franchising.

20 Steps on How to Start a Mobile Coffee Van Business in Australia

  1. Understand the Industry

The Food Trucks Industry is composed of businesses that largely engage in preparing and serving meals, coffee, snacks and drinks from a mobile truck or van. Food and drinks are normally prepared, stored and cooked on the truck or van. The truck or van may or may not use the same location each day and does not sell alcoholic beverages.

There are different types of coffee drinks that you can find in a coffee van, some of them are cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee, decaffeinated coffee, alcoholic coffee (Irish Coffee and Brandy Coffee et al), filtered coffee, cold brew coffee, Turkish coffee, coffee with milk, coffee or espresso with whipped cream, and flavored coffee.

A recent report published by IBISWorld shows that Australia’s vibrant coffee culture has supported industry growth over much of the past five years. Although purchases at cafes and coffee shops are considered discretionary, many consumers treat coffee as an affordable luxury, allowing the industry to remain resilient despite movements in household income.

This trend has provided a steady base revenue for the industry. Furthermore, an increased focus on fair trade, organic coffee and premium food have boosted demand over much of the period.

However, industry revenue is expected to decline at an annualised 1.1 percent over the five years through 2020-21, to $9.6 billion. This decline is primarily due to the social distancing restrictions in place following the outbreak of COVID-19.

One good thing about this type of business is that a coffee van business can be found in any part of town as long as there are people living or working there. Generally, coffee van business are around parks, stadiums and sport centers, airports, sea ports, shopping malls, railway stations, bus stations, campuses, and other public facilities.

The turnover for an average coffee van business can be as high as 50 percent and above that is why entrepreneurs who intend making good money from a business with less struggle launch a coffee van business; they either start the business as a one-man show or buy an existing and successful coffee van franchise.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Although the mobile coffee van business concept is designed for everybody, but statistics has it that the biggest buyers of coffee from mobile coffee vans are young adults and business and working-class people. As a matter of fact, people that fall within the age range of 25 to 45 are the largest consumers of coffee from mobile vans. The average cup of coffee in Australia costs $4.13.

But studies show that both hot tea and hot coffee are popular with older Australians, and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1960) are the leading drinkers of both hot coffee (69.6%) and hot tea (61.1%) in an average week. Coffee drinkers in the Northern Territory, for example, spend on average $1 more than their New South Wales counterparts.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

It is important to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to mobile coffee business. It is niche idea in the food truck industry. Operators of mobile coffee business are involved in the preparation and sale of a wide varieties of coffee beverages and also snacks to their customers via their standard and well-equipped coffee vans.

The Level of Competition in the Industry

First and foremost, the fact that anybody with business or hustling skills can decide to start mobile coffee business means that the business is open to all and sundry hence it is expected that there will be high – level competition in the industry. There is hardly any busy community or even street that you won’t find people retailing coffee and snacks via mobile vans.

As a mobile coffee business, it is important to note that gaining a competitive edge requires a detailed analysis of the demographics of the surrounding area and the nature of existing competitors. And even if you are successful at first, new competitors could enter your market at any time to steal your regular customers.

Don’t hesitate to adopt successful strategies from your competitors, but understand that directly competing with an entrenched rival is a bad idea for a beginner who is just delving into the business; creativity and diversification are the key ingredients you would need to keep your business profitable and growing.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

Here are some of the most popular mobile coffee van companies in Australia;

  • Xpresso Mobile Café
  • Lava Carts
  • Custom Coffee Vans
  • Xpresso Delight
  • Jim’s Mobile Café
  • The Coffee Guy
  • Cappuccino Xpress Coffee Vans
  • Cafe2U
  • Hart’s Coffee Cart
  • Very Melbourne Coffee Van
  • Coffee Addiction Mobile Coffee Van
  • Perth Coffee Express
  • Yahava Koffee Van
  • Zumo Mobile Coffee Van
  • The Big Coffee Van
  • MyBarista – Sydney Mobile Coffee Catering
  • Clives Mobile Coffee
  • Van Wild Coffee
  • Common Ground Coffee Van

Economic Analysis

When starting a mobile coffee van business in Australia, you just have to get your costing cum economic analysis right if your intention of building the business is to generate profits, grow the business and perhaps expand the business and start competing at national level.

When conducting costing and economic analysis for your mobile coffee van business, you just have to critically examine these key factors; place, pricing, and promotion. As a matter of fact, you have to continue reviewing these key factors while running your mobile coffee van business.

As a mobile coffee van business owner, you just have to have a proper grasp of your competitive landscape if indeed you want to maximize profits and be in the frontline of the industry in Australia. It is important to note that trucks/vans fueling, servicing and maintenance cost are some of the most important factors contributing to the overall cost of a mobile coffee van business and should be considered as a major factor when carrying out your costing and economic analysis.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to buy the franchise of a successful mobile coffee brand in Australia as against starting from the very scratch. This is because established brands like Xpresso Mobile Café, Lava Carts, Xpresso Delight, Jim’s Mobile Café, The Coffee Guy, Cappuccino Xpress Coffee Vans and Cafe2U are already dominating the market in Australia.

On the contrary, if you think you have the magic touch to start your own mobile coffee van business from the scratch and make a success out of it, then by all means go ahead to start it from the scratch.

There are loads of factors to consider before choosing the option to follow. Some of the factors to consider are the cost of starting from the scratch or buying a franchise, your financial capacity, your vision, and your business skills and experience. If your intention of starting a mobile coffee van business is to have presence in key cities in Australia, then starting your mobile coffee van business from the scratch is your best option.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to start your mobile coffee van company today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established coffee cafés and of course mobile coffee vans in your target market location. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market; concentrate on schools, construction sites and parks.

Some other threats and challenges that you are likely going to face when you start your mobile coffee van company are mature markets, bad economy (economy downturn), stiff competition, volatile costs, and rising fuel prices. So also, unfavorable government policies, seasonal fluctuations, and demographic/social factors.

  1. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity

You have the option of either choosing a Sole trader, Partnership, Company or Trust for your mobile coffee van company. Ordinarily, sole trader should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale mobile coffee van business in a small neighborhood. But if your intention is to grow the business and sell franchise all across Australia, then choosing sole trader is not an option for you. Company or Partnership will cut it for you.

Please note that if you settle for a Company, then you should be aware that Companies are regulated by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) and you must apply for a tax file number (TFN) and use it when lodging your annual tax return.

You will be entitled to an Australian business number (ABN) if it is registered under the Corporations Act 2001. A company not registered under the Corporations law may register for an ABN if it is carrying on an enterprise in Australia and you must be registered for GST if its annual GST turnover is $75,000 or more

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Typically, it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

If you are considering starting your own mobile coffee van business in Australia, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Sydney Brothers® Mobile Coffee Van
  • John Phils® Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Lance Princewill© Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Brownies Delight® Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Noble Team™ Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Victoria Lux™ Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Creamy Coffee© Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Brown November® Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Mecléé Johnbull © Mobile Coffee Van Company
  • Er Boulden© Mobile Coffee Van Company
  1. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In Australia, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policies that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.

Here is some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own mobile coffee van business in Australia;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Risk Insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance
  • Equipment and Auto Insurance

You can contact the following leading insurance companies in Australia to purchase the needed insurance policies for your mobile coffee van business;

  • Truckers Insurance HQ
  • Seniors Insurance Co
  • Coles Insurance
  • Woolworths
  • Australia Post
  1. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting a mobile coffee business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run it without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application through the IP Australia website. Please note that applying for a trade mark using the standard filing service will cost between $250 to $550 per class.

  1. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Before you can be permitted to operate a mobile coffee van business in Australia, you are expected to apply and obtain certain certifications or permits as the case may be. You are supposed to get a clean health certificate, you are expected to have undergone catering training as well as obtain a food handlers certificate. You can also check up with your state or city to know if you will require professional certification before you can be licensed to run your mobile coffee van business.

  1. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in Australia without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hands of the law catches up with you. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your business in Australia;

  • Business Plan
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use (if you have a website)
  • Online Privacy Policy Document (basically for online payment portal)
  • Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration for trucks
  • Appropriate driver’s licenses for drivers (Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
  1. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Starting a standard mobile coffee business is not capital intensive especially if you choose to launch the business on a small scale and you are the only full-time employee on your payroll. Purchasing a truck/van, coffee making machines and equipment and supply of coffee are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital. In essence, if you choose to start the business on a small scale, you may not need to source for fund to finance the business.

When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things to consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your mobile coffee van business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell shares to interested investors
  • Applying for loan from your bank/banks
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from, government, donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.
  1. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

A mobile coffee van company can be started in any location as long as there are people that are traveling thorough the route or reside or have business in the location. As a matter of fact, you can start your mobile coffee van business in your house and still grow the business to profitability.

Generally, in business, it cannot be overemphasized that the location you choose to start your business is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people and businesses with the require purchasing power, and lifestyle.

  1. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

When it comes to starting a standard mobile coffee business, you will need a truck/van, two coffee grinders, drip coffee makers, a quality espresso machine, a water filtration system, coffee serving devices, refrigerators and freezers, storage solutions, sinks and a dishwasher. It is important to state that this equipment can be purchased as fairly used if you are operating on a low budget.

As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you would need to consider your finance before making the decision. When it comes to starting a standard mobile coffee business on a large scale, you would need the services of the following professionals; Manager, Cashier, Kitchen and Store Staff, Coffee Van Drivers and Servers.

Please note that if you are operating the business as a one man show, then you must be ready to occupy all the above positions and also outsource some key functions like bookkeeping and accounting to professionals when the need arises.

The Service Delivery Process of a Mobile Coffee Van Business

A mobile coffee business is all about preparing different types of coffee, with or without snacks for people in areas where they may find it difficult accessing coffee cafés. In essence, mobile coffee vans are mobile coffee cafés. The productions process is as follows;

Different types of coffee to be sold on the van are listed, the ingredients are bought, and different sizes of cups are also bought. Coffees are loaded in the truck (especially when they are prepared in a commercial kitchen and not on the truck) and then sold to customers.

After the days job, the truck is cleaned, cups, spoons/stirrers, plates, pots and pans are washed and cleaned and positioned for the next day’s business.

  1. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With Ideas & Strategies

The fact that the entry barrier for starting a small – scale mobile coffee business is low means that more players can come into the industry if they have the skills and training. In essence, you must come up with unique marketing strategies if you must carve out a market for yourself within the available market in your community.

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans, make sure that you create a compelling company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience in making coffee, it is important to clearly state what you have been able to achieve in time past. This will help boost your chances in the market place.

Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your mobile coffee van business;

  • Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to households, facility and park managers, sports centers, transport companies, construction sites, and schools amongst others within your location of operation
  • Open your mobile coffee van company with a party so as to capture the attention of residents who are your first targets
  • Advertise your business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business and products on yellow pages ads  (local directories)
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your mobile coffee company
  • Engage in direct marketing and sales
  • Encourage the use of Word of mouth marketing (referrals)
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your business
  • Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing for you.
  1. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One key factor that will help you offer your coffee at a price that is highly attractive is to ensure that you source your coffee ingredients from sources that will give you reasonable discount.

Another strategy that will help you sell your coffee at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products and services.

  1. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

The mobile coffee van business cum food truck industry is a competitive industry, and you must come up with a unique and highly creative strategy to be able to outsmart your competitors in the industry. Part of what you need to do in order to stay competitive in the industry is to continue to create unique coffee flavors and form partnerships with key stakeholders et al.

In other to stay competitive in this industry, you must ensure that you are always consistent and always ensure that you pay attention to details when carrying out your job. The truth is that if there are fluctuations in the products you sell, customers can choose to shift allegiance and settle for other options available.

  1. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

When it comes to business, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always. If your customers are satisfied with your products and service delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers.

If your services and customer service fluctuate, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers retaining your services. Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them.

Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.

With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).

  1. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you are not conscious about boosting your brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend good money to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them to be.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and create a corporate identity for your mobile coffee van company;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and auto magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community – based events/programs
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your mobile coffee van company
  • Install your Bill Boards on strategic locations all around the locations where you operate
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • List your mobile coffee van company in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your mobile coffee van company in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the locations where your mobile coffee van company operates.
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles and vans are well branded with your company logo et al.
Ajaero Tony Martins