Espresso / Coffee Drive-Thru

Drive-thrus are primarily a U.S. phenomena. If business can be transacted from a vehicle, some sharp American entrepreneur has found a way to do it. From oil changes, to car washes, fried chicken to ice cream, drive-thrus are a substantial---if not the dominant–factor in many successful businesses. Major fast food corporations have revealed that some of their locations transact as much as 75 percent of their business from a drive-thru window. It only makes sense that the world’s most popular beverage would eventually be sold in this fashion.

Convenience is not the only reason coffee drive-thru businesses are successful. Usually these businesses offer a beverage that is far superior to what you can brew at home or in the office.

Today, specialty coffee drive-thrus are not only accepted by consumers, but embraced. If a drive-thru is situated in a good location and operated with good business sense, it can be a viable, profitable concept within the specialty coffee industry.

Cost of A Coffee Drive thru

The cost of starting a drive-thru varies. The average cost is around $50,000, though it is not unusual to spend up to $100,000 to $200,000. You will need capital for all your monthly expenses until your coffee / espresso drive-thru business can service debts itself.

Some of the typical costs include site development (constructing a foundation, connecting your structure to public utilities, landscaping, lighting, curb modifications, etc.), the purchase or construction of the physical building, the coffee and food-service equipment you will place inside the building, your opening inventory, professional services, pre-opening labor, etc. The start-up costs to establish your business may be significantly higher if you plan to develop a raw piece of land (a dirt lot with no improvements).


Check With Your Local Bureaucracy

There are a number of bureaucracies that may be involved in the opening of your coffee shop / espresso drive-thru business. Your local building department, health department, department of transportation, business licensing bureau, sign commission, fire marshal, and utility commission may all have something to say about your proposed coffee / espresso drive-thru business.

A good place to start your research is with the building department. Be direct with the officials here. Tell them you want to open a coffee / espresso drive-thru and you want to know how to do it. They will probably want to know where your location is, even though you most likely won’t have one at this point and time. That’s okay. Tell them you are doing preliminary research and are looking for basic information about codes, zoning, and requirements and restrictions that might be applicable to your proposed coffee / espresso drive-thru business.

We’ve found that is it not uncommon for a government agency to require several weeks or months to review your plans before it will issue a permit. We’ve also had clients who have called for inspections after they have completed their work, only to discover it will be three weeks until the inspector can visit their site. Knowing as much as you can about how the system works in advance is helpful when submitting plans and scheduling inspections to coincide with your work schedule. Ask if there are any provisions for speeding up this process. Some agencies offer express service if you pay an expediting fee.

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