Coffee consumption is at an all-time high, making it a very lucrative business venture for those wanting in on the magical bean. In fact, since 2008, the UK has seen a 26% increase in the number of cups consumed per day to a whopping 95 million. The problem is the start-up costs associated with a brick-and-mortar café can be pretty eye-watering and typically require a lot of investment. But there are plenty of other ways to get in on the country’s warm beverage of choice without the capital drain of your own café.
The benefits of ditching bricks and mortar
Selling coffee-based products outside your typical café or shop is a great way to start and grow your coffee business. The start-up costs are smaller, and there are loads of different options to choose from (you just have to get a little creative!)
Some the world’s foremost coffee companies have even started to sell their products outside of their cafés. Costa has self-service coffee machines in over 1000 different Tesco locations, Starbucks sells premade iced coffees in the Co-op, and both sell their coffee bean blends for you to enjoy from home. All of these revenue streams bring in profit without ever needing to own space to sell from.
So, whether you’re new to the coffee business world and need inspiration or already own a coffee shop but want to consider additional revenue streams, we’re here to inspire you with 4 alternative ways to sell coffee…
- Coffee Carts
One of the biggest issues with owning your own coffee shop is that you’re stuck in one location - several if you’re lucky enough to own more than one. This lack of mobility can mean events outside of your control, affecting your trade. Think road and footpath closures restricting people from getting to you or other coffee shops opening next door, creating competition that can negatively impact sales.
This is where coffee carts bring a lot of bang for their buck. Their portability means you can take them wherever the customers are. There’s a reason you’ll see plenty outside tube stations in the early morning – high footfall means excellent business. And if competitors open up shop nearby your location and you spot a dwindling in sales, simply pick up your cart and move to a new place.
Here are a few other benefits to using carts:
- Less labour required - realistically, you’ll need 1, maybe 2 members of staff running a cart at any one time
- Fewer hours required to run – typically, set-up and closing time is far less than a coffee shop
- Less licensing required – if you’re only selling coffee, you won’t need a food licence, though you may need a street trading licence.
- Flexibility – instead of working all the hours to pay the running costs of a brick-and-mortar store, you can work the hours you want
- Affordability - running costs are far cheaper than owning your own store
- Portability – think about arranging with businesses to set up shop on their premises for an hour to sell their employees premium coffee, taking your cart to food festivals, or even sports events
As with everything, there are cons too…
- Space – you’re very restricted with space, so you’ll need to ensure you’re only stocking what will sell
- Weather - how well business goes can be weather dependent. Pouring rain will likely mean less custom as people prefer places with shelter
- Building relationships - moving around a lot can make building customer relationships a little harder. We recommend only jumping between 2 or 3 locations, as any more than that and you risk struggling to build consumer loyalty.
- Online store
A key issue with owning your own café can be limited clientele. You’ll likely have the local community make up 90% of your business, with the other 10% coming from passersby. That’s not to mention having to compete with other cafés in your area, further restricting the size of your customer base.
With an online store, your customer count is basically limitless, giving you the ability to sell to people all over the world. You may struggle to sell actual drinks, but the products used to make them can sell in massive quantities if marketed effectively.
If you can market yourself successfully into a niche, you can become popular very quickly. Smaller coffee brands are often associated with quality over the likes of high street giants, who, for a lot of coffee goers, offer very average coffee (although they’d argue otherwise!) Because of the outreach the internet gives your company, you can afford to target a smaller niche as customers won’t need to be in your local area to access your products.
- Convert a telephone box
This one might sound strange, but hear us out… A lot of old telephone boxes are abandoned now or barely used and could well be the perfect location for a micro coffee pop up – with a little imagination. In fact, this is becoming quite popular in the UK, particularly in London, and allows you to bring something unique and quirky to your local coffee scene.
Here are some of the benefits of opening up a telephone box coffee stand:
- Labour – like with a cart, it’s only really going to need one person to run, making your labour costs very small. The set-up and closing time will also be short, so the wages paid when the business isn’t open will be insignificant.
- Uniqueness - coffee connoisseurs are always looking for something new. Selling your coffee out of an old phone box is a new idea which will draw new customers intrigued by the novelty of your business.
- Cost - the set-up costs are relatively small. You can buy a vintage red telephone box from as little as £2000. You’ll need the appropriate licensing to sell your coffee on public land and a coffee machine, of course, but this is far cheaper than the tens of thousands you would need for a brick-and-mortar store. And if you do have significant cash savings and want to invest further, you could even open up in multiple locations for the same price that one coffee shop would cost.
- Flexibility - due to the time it takes to open and close the box, the hours you want it open can be very flexible. You can open and close it in line with when there is plenty of business, helping to keep labour costs down.
As before, there are some downsides to opening a telephone coffee box:
- Location - as with your standard coffee shop, you are restricted to the location of the box, which means your customer base can be limited. Your business is also greatly affected by the weather as it’s basically an outdoor coffee shop.
- Security – when operating out of a telephone box, there isn’t much in terms of security which could leave your box open to becoming a target for criminals. If you do decide to open one of these up, research the area you’re doing it in and ensure there is plenty of CCTV.
Although the concept here is pretty similar to a traditional coffee shop, it’s a lot cheaper, and coffee lovers would likely love the creativity.
- White label it
This one might be more relevant to the products you’re selling than coffee shop alternatives, but it’s an important consideration when launching or expanding your business.
White labelling is the act of selling products produced by 3rd party manufacturers under your own brand and is an excellent way to source and sell coffee products as it removes the production aspect from your business, saving money and time. If you wanted to run an online store, white labelling allows you to focus solely on marketing the coffee as the production is taken care of elsewhere, while if you chose to sell via a cart or a converted phone box, you could offer a white label service alongside your brews.
How can Coffee Hit Trade help?
If you’re ready to kick-start your coffee-focused business, then we’ve got all the gear you need to get your operations fit for even the fussiest coffee connoisseurs. Open a Trade Account to unlock up to 50% off RRP on industry-leading brands like Fellow, Baratza, Rhino, Brewista, Bonavita today.