Starting an Airstream Cafe: 8 Things to Keep in Mind

Maybe you’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, or perhaps you reached your early retirement goal and found yourself seeking a new challenge. If your meals often meet with rave reviews, and everyone requests your recipes, you may have considered opening a restaurant. Why not choose an Airstream cafe?

Mobile cafes offer several advantages over buying a franchise or renovating an existing eatery. You’ll often save money on overhead costs, and you can increase your profit margin by traveling to regions with the highest demand. Plus, in a COVID world, people want more places offering grab-and-go deliciousness. Here’s what you need to do to build your dream.

1. Selecting a Vehicle and a Location

You’ll need the right vehicle for your mobile cafe. You can find used food trucks on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but they have several disadvantages. They’re challenging to drive on snowy surfaces, and they heat up like rolling sweat lodges on summer days.

Why go with an Airstream? While this vehicle isn’t the least costly option, these trailers offer a host of advantages. The exterior consists of heavy-duty steel and aluminum hand-riveted for quality. When you’re not using the trailer, you can keep it parked in your driveway, placing the supplies in your garage. Just make sure you’ve insulated your garage to protect from outside temperature changes.

2. Creating the Ideal Kitchen Space

You can cook for the entire family in your home kitchen, but serving customers requires you to up your equipment game.

You might get by without a walk-in cooler, but you’ll need a reach-in model and a freezer at least. Depending on what you serve, you may want a range, oven or grill. Standing on your dogs all day can leave them barking, so remember details like rubber mats for standing. You’ll need ample soap — and a sink — for handwashing and a sizable stash of hand sanitizer.

3. Obtaining Your Food Handler and Business Licenses

Even if you plan to run your shop without hiring employees, you must register your business with the state or risk a lawsuit. This process also protects you from competitors stealing your company name.

You’ll also need to obtain your food handler permit. You can do so by completing an online training course and passing the exam. If you intend to sell adult beverages, you’ll also need a liquor license. Your customers will thank you for making their mobile margarita dreams a reality!

4. Determining a Corporate Structure

If you plan to operate as a sole proprietorship, you can do so — but if a disgruntled customer sues you, you could lose your home. Consider forming a single-member LLC to separate your business property from your personal assets. If

your business blossoms from a single mom-and-pop to a fleet, you can speak with a licensed tax advisor about keeping an LLC structure or switching to an S-corp.

5. Writing a Business Plan

Have you heard the saying, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail?” This advice is business-owner gold. You can find free templates online to help you master the process by filling in the blanks. Putting your dreams into words will prompt you to ask questions and evaluate and remedy potential pitfalls before they occur.

6. Targeting Your Service Location

Even if you run a mobile eatery, you need an ideal location to turn a profit. City metro centers make attractive targets because of the high volume of working joes and janes looking for lunch. However, you may need to buy local permits and could face stiff competition from others.

Don’t overlook opportunities in the suburbs. Get creative! Could a small charter school that lacks a cafeteria use daily delivery? Can you park in a busy mini-mall parking lot to offer shoppers a snack?

7. Developing Your Menu

Now you get to the fun part — what will you actually serve? With an Airstream cafe, you’ll want to keep your menu short and sweet so that you can stock everything you need in a relatively small space.

If you’re a morning person, you could provide gourmet coffee and croissants. Or, if you don’t get going until well past noon, you can offer grab-and-go dinners for commuters snatching an evening meal on-the-fly.

8. Bringing on the Help

You might not need assistance with an Airstream cafe model, at least at first. If you later decide to expand your operations, you may want to add a helper or two. If you’ve never sat on the employer side of the hiring desk, you’ll need to learn which questions to ask to find the right person for the team.

Start Your Dream Airstream Cafe

If you want to start a small restaurant business without all the overhead, an Airstream cafe is the way to go. By following the above steps, you can literally drive off with a tidy profit while honing your love of the craft.

 

About the Author:

Oscar Collins is the managing editor at Modded. He writes about cars, fitness, the outdoors and more. Follow @TModded on Twitter for more articles from the Modded team.

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