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The Coffee Trailer Dream: An Insider's Guide

Imagine waking up to the smell of fresh coffee, heading to a scenic spot, and spending your day serving happy customers who can't wait to get their caffeine fix. Sounds like a dream job, right? If you're considering starting a coffee trailer business, this post will guide you through the journey with insights and tips from Tara of Kind Brew, who has successfully run her coffee trailer for nearly two years.

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Setting the Scene

Let's begin with the basics. Tara's coffee trailer, Kind Brew, operates in the beautiful beachside location of Macauley's Beach in Coffs Harbour. The stunning backdrop of the ocean not only provides a relaxing atmosphere but also attracts a steady flow of customers. The appeal of working in such a location cannot be understated—it's one of the significant perks of running a mobile coffee business.

The Startup Journey

Getting Started

Starting a coffee trailer involves several crucial steps:

  1. Choosing the Right Trailer: Tara recommends opting for a smaller trailer, like her 8ft Spitfire, over larger models. A smaller trailer is easier to tow, requires less power, and fits into more locations. This can be particularly beneficial if you have limited parking space at home or need to navigate through tight spots.

  2. Power and Water: Ensuring you have adequate power and water supply is vital. Tara's setup includes a generator that lives in her car, and she emphasizes the importance of opting for a larger generator to avoid power issues. For water, always plan for enough supply, especially for bigger events where you'll need refills.

  3. Permits and Council Approval: Securing a location often requires navigating through council permits. Tara's spot at Macauley's Beach was a lucky find, but she notes the importance of having council approval to avoid conflicts with other coffee carts and ensure a stable business environment.

Day-to-Day Operations

Running a coffee trailer is a balance of preparation and adaptability:

  1. Staffing: Finding reliable staff can be a challenge, especially if your business requires towing the trailer. Tara highlights the importance of having baristas who are comfortable with the mobile setup and can handle the ebb and flow of casual work.

  2. Inventory Management: Keeping track of your inventory, especially consumables like coffee beans and water, is crucial. Tara suggests aiming for a minimum of 10 kilos of coffee per week to maintain a steady business. However, be prepared for fluctuations due to weather conditions.

  3. Customer Interaction: The joy of serving coffee comes with the interactions you have with your customers. Tara finds immense satisfaction in the simplicity of making coffee and making people happy. This direct customer interaction is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.

Flexibility and Growth

One of the main advantages of a coffee trailer is its mobility:

  1. Events and Festivals: Being able to say "yes" to last-minute events or festivals adds a dynamic element to your business. These events not only boost your income but also expand your customer base as more people become aware of your services.

  2. Scalability: As Tara mentions, starting with a smaller trailer allows you to save on initial costs. This can be a stepping stone to eventually expanding into a commercial lease if you decide to grow your business further.

Challenges and Considerations

While the coffee trailer business offers many benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges:

  1. Weather Dependency: Your sales can be highly dependent on the weather. Rain, wind, and extreme temperatures can deter customers. Tara advises being prepared for these fluctuations and having a backup plan for slow days.

  2. Limited Space: Operating from a small trailer means limited space for equipment and supplies. Efficient use of space and careful planning of your menu can help mitigate this issue. For example, Tara keeps her food offerings minimal to maximize space for coffee supplies.

  3. Council Leases: Securing a spot through a council lease provides stability but also comes with the risk of losing the spot when the lease expires. Tara's experience shows the importance of planning for the future and being prepared to reapply for your spot.

Final Thoughts

Would Tara do it all over again? Absolutely. The flexibility, freedom, and the joy of serving coffee in a beautiful location outweigh the challenges. If you're considering starting a coffee trailer business, take inspiration from Tara's journey. It's a rewarding venture that offers a great quality of life and the satisfaction of running your own business.

Tips for Aspiring Coffee Trailer Owners

  • Start Small: A smaller trailer is easier to manage and more cost-effective.
  • Prepare for Power and Water Needs: Invest in a reliable generator and ensure a steady water supply.
  • Secure Permits Early: Navigating council permits can be tricky, so start this process as soon as possible.
  • Be Adaptable: Flexibility is key in handling staffing, inventory, and weather-related challenges.
  • Leverage Events: Use events to boost your income and expand your customer base.
  • Plan for Growth: Start with a trailer, but keep an eye on future expansion opportunities.

Running a coffee trailer is more than just a business—it's a lifestyle. With the right preparation and mindset, it can be an incredibly fulfilling and successful venture. Happy brewing!

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