Start Your Own Shipping Container Cafe!


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Old shipping container converted into a chic coffee shop, Johannesburg

Photo Source: Pinterest


If you’re thinking about opening up your own coffee shop, investing in a shipping container might be worthwhile. Entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to shipping containers as a way to start their business with minimum effort and investment.


The best thing about opening a shipping container cafe is that you can start small. Converting a 10-  or 20-foot shipping container into a coffee shop is relatively inexpensive. You can also make your container mobile, allowing you to move your shop to events and festivals.


See used shipping containers that are available for purchase.



Why Are Container Cafes Becoming Popular?


Renting a commercial space typically requires a hefty down payment and a couple of months rent in advance, which can significantly escalate your initial costs. However, shipping container cafes are easy and inexpensive to build a major benefit for small business owners who are just starting out and have limited capital.

Remember, if you use a shipping container to make your cafe, your coffee shop will be portable, so you experiment to see which location yields the highest demand.


If you're interested in purchasing a new or used shipping container for a cafe, get in touch with our representatives.



Popular Shipping Container Coffee Shops


Starbucks Taiwan

For Starbucks, this iconic project is its first among many for the Asia-Pacific region. Starbucks stacked 29 recycled containers in a grid-like design to create a convenient drive-thru. Windows and skylights allow natural light in for a bright, sunny interior. The company has used containers in more than 40 locations.




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Illy Push Button House, New York

This cafe was once a container house. The owner made the necessary modifications to design a cafe in the same place and replaced the furniture with coffee tables.




Photo Source: BigBox


Foghound Coffee Shop and Showroom, Midrand

This unique coffee shop features cantilevered stacked shipping containers. The two-story container structure also has a variety of eco-friendly and sustainable features that add to its distinctive design.




Photo Source: BigBox


Freedom Cafe, Durban

Restaurant owner Neil Roake built this intimate pop-up dining space using a high-quality recycled shipping container. He incorporated a garden setting, created outdoor seating, and replaced some of the container sides with glass to allow maximum natural light to enter the structure.


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Photo Source: BigBox


How to Build Your Own Cafe

Opening your very own container shop involves the following steps:


Determine the Size of the Container You Need

To determine which size you’ll need, first decide the type of cafe you will run. The size of the building, required area, and equipment will differ depending on the services you offer. Please read this guide to understand the various dimensions of shipping containers.


A full-service kitchen and bar require a larger space in order to accommodate cooking equipment, food storage, ventilation, and kitchen appliances. If you plan on serving just coffee, you need only equipment for brewing and lattes.


Identify the Right Location

There should be enough clear space in your chosen location to cater to your customers and have room for outdoor seating. After you select your container size, leave at least 100 feet of open space for delivery and offloading. A mobile container must also have an adequate area for parking.


Your coffee shop must comply with any local building standards and codes, zoning laws, and permit requirements. Some areas may not allow the construction of shipping containers. Always check for places with quick access to utilities, such as electricity, water, gas, and sewer lines.


Finalize a Suitable Design

It is best to work with an architect or designer who has experience designing cafes made from shipping containers. Select a design that you feel will attract customers and utilize the available space efficiently.


Fulfill Health and Safety Measures

In the new normal, people prefer bars and restaurants that cater to practices like socially distanced dining and a crew trained in appropriate hygiene and masking policies. Place safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and electrical master switches, at appropriate locations.


Remember to make your cafe ADA-compliant with measures such as ramps, so that everyone has access to your business. Create a cleaning schedule for indoor and outdoor spaces and store raw materials in a well-ventilated area in the shipping container.


Find out which storage space containers are offered in different sizes.


Create a Branding and Marketing Plan

Use your creativity to deliver a unique customer experience. Create a strong brand using innovative fonts, colors, and decor. Advertise your restaurant on relevant platforms to reach maximum customers.


Select a Reputable Shipping Container Provider

Always use a provider that will be able to deliver containers appropriate for your cafe's specific design. If you're buying shipping containers for the first time, be sure to check out this guide.


You can also watch this 3D design video to learn more about the shipping container to cafe transformation process.



What Are the Benefits of a Pop-Up Container Coffee Shop?


Portable Business Advantage

Moving your pop-up restaurant or cafe is as simple as moving the container itself. The easy portability of shipping containers means you can move from place to place in just a short period of time.


Sturdy and Durable

A shipping container offers a strong structure for restaurants and coffee shops. Containers have a steel body that makes them resistant to wear and tear and shock. A properly coated container body will remain incredibly resistant to corrosion.


Great Flexibility

You can personalize your container with art, photos, and fancy colors to create an effective brand. It is also easy to scale up and purchase additional containers for other locations.


Find shipping containers for sale near you!


It's Your Asset

When you buy a shipping container, you won't have to throw any money away on rent. You can also sell your containers or relocate to a new place.


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Photo Source: Pinterest


How Can We Help?


Want to start your own cafe? Get in touch with us.


Mobile Modular Portable Storage provides high-quality containers that are perfect for coffee shops and cafes.


We have our own fleet of trucks, so we can deliver shipping containers on time. Our seasoned drivers are skilled at navigating tight corners and can easily and quickly install containers.


Talk to a dedicated sales representative at 866.459.7600. We will get in touch with you within one business hour of sending your inquiry to guide you through the process.




Do You Need Planning Permission to Put a Container on Your Site?

Containers are not always permitted in certain areas. Some locations may allow them as long as you meet specific guidelines. However, you should check with local municipal or county authorities to fully understand which, if any, regulations you need to meet in order to bring a container to your site and convert it into a cafe.


How Much Does It Cost to Convert a Shipping Container into a Coffee Shop?

The cost of a container cafe will vary, depending on container size and whether you install features such as HVAC, make modifications to exteriors, or add decor, furniture, and utilities. Call 866.459.7600 to learn more.


Can I Ship My Own Container?

It is possible to ship a container on your own if you have the right equipment and expertise. However, a shipping container provider will not only help you ship the container but will also load and unload as required. Experienced drivers from the container provider can navigate tight corners, inclines, and gravel roadways then install your container easily.


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