Drive-Thru Espresso Shop

1. What is a sustainable drive-thru espresso shop?

This kind of business is typically a roadside purveyor of sustainable coffees, tea, and other drinks.  There is no interior space for people to hang out, like a sustainable coffee house, but rather people simply drive through and order beverages.  Typically, these types of restaurants are very small, in many cases more like a booth with the espresso and coffee machines, space for one person, and a window through which to serve drivers.

The business can be made more sustainable when it serves organic, fair trade, and shade-grown coffee (triple certified) and other similar drinks, and uses the best possible take-out materials.  It can also give a discount to drivers who bring their own mug, or to drivers of Prius’s or other eco-friendly vehicles.  You might also have an innovative program with reusable/exchangeable sealed thermoses for cyclists who bike through on their way to work, offering substantial discounts to those that have the lowest carbon footprint commute.  These can be branded with your logo, where bike commuters bring their used ones to you, exchange them for a clean, full thermos, and you take theirs back, wash it, and reuse it for the next bike commuter.  This kind of program would be innovative and fun enough to capture media attention and to generate a good deal of repeat business and customer loyalty.

Triple certified coffee costs more on the wholesale level, but with margins for coffee and specialty-coffee drinks as high as it is, this cost can be fairly negligible in the grand scheme of your business.  Triple certified coffee provides an economic incentive for rainforest conservation by providing decent jobs to workers in third-world countries where most of our coffee comes from, for a product that is grown underneath a rainforest canopy that is allowed to remain, as opposed to being cleared for row-cropping, as many traditional coffee farms have been.

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?

Food service experience is helpful for this kind of business, but not a necessity.  The work can be extremely busy at times (think rush hour) and dead at other times, so you need to be ready for a boom and bust cycle daily.

3. How much money is required to start?

$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

4. What is the income potential?

$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

5. What is the best location for a drive-thru espresso shop?

Urban (best), semi-urban (very good), suburbs (very good), rural (poor).
*In general, any area with a lot of vehicular traffic will work just fine, as 95+% of your business will come from people driving by.

6.  Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):

Do you consider yourself to be very good at making specialty food items, like lattes or mochas?
Do you thrive in an environment that can fluctuate from hectic to calm and back again in minutes?
Are you able to work by yourself for long periods of time?


Interested in starting one in your community? Where do you begin?  What permits do you need?  Who is your target customer?  How do you find them?  What is the best use of your limited advertising dollars?  What’s the best way to attract a great employee or volunteer?  What does an average day look like?  What strategic tips do veteran eco-entrepreneurs suggest for startups like you?

There’s a lot to think about.  Rest easy.  Our mission is to help you succeed, so drop us a line (  We’ll get you a business planning document to get you on your way for ONLY $199!  We also guarantee our work, so if you are not satisfied, you get your money back!*

Take a look at a sample table of contents and a few sample excerpts from similar plans here.   In essence, we’ll provide you the What, When, Where, and How…you provide the Who!

*Subject to the terms of our Licensing Agreement.

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