How to Operate a Coffee Cart

Updated February 21, 2017

Operating a coffee cart lets you make money while making others happy. You can get started with financing help from the Small Business Administration, and according to, a coffee cart has start-up costs less than £32,500. Luckily, your product is habit forming, and a good coffee cart will have repeat business. Starting up your coffee cart business requires just a few steps.

Identify a good location. Coffee carts need a steady stream of customers who can conveniently get to them. Make sure your identified location isn't already served by another coffee cart. If you intend to locate inside or outside of an existing store, discuss your idea with the manager and/or owner of that store.

Register your business name with your state if you are operating under a business name, such as "Super Coffee," that is not your own "Jane Doe."

Obtain a federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service for your business. You need to submit Form SS4, which is available on the IRS website.

Obtain the proper licensing in your area. Check with state and local business regulators. In most places, you will need a business operating license from the state and city where you want to operate your cart. Because coffee is food, you may also need health permits.

Work with a specialist (such as a lawyer or banker) to properly insure your business. If someone is hurt or killed by your coffee or your cart, your business is liable. Make sure that this doesn't end your business or ruin you financially by being properly insured.

Purchase your coffee wares. You will need a supplier for coffee, syrups, milk, cups, lids, and other products. You will also need to ensure that your cart can safely store all the products that you use.

Set your general menu of coffee offerings and your price list. Visit several other coffee carts in the area to determine what prices and offerings your customers are accustomed to. You may want to carve out your own niche, but offering traditional choices at accepted prices is one way to attract new customers to your coffee cart.

Open up shop. Once your coffee cart is operating, keep your licenses current and keep improving your offerings. Hire baristas who can make the right impression on your customers. Good communication with your customers will ensure that your coffee cart meets their needs.


You should always consult with a legal professional when starting a business. This article does not constitute professional legal advice.

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About the Author

Jae Chapman is a sustainability enthusiast who has been writing since 2006. She writes for various websites with a focus on the environment, food, fitness, computer software and other practical topics. She holds a Master of Science in engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.