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2022 Guide to Shipping Container Coffee Shops

Shipping Container Coffee Shop
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New and recycled shipping containers are providing everyday people, construction workers, and entrepreneurs with a valuable way to build cost-effective homes and run a successful business. One of the trending businesses being constructed from these sturdy steel frame structures is quality coffee shops and cafes.

Eco-friendly trends in housing and businesses are on the rise and one such way people are looking into how they can utilize environmentally friendly practices is through unique installations, recycling, reusing, and reducing their climate impact. Shipping containers are supporting this new lifestyle trend in distinctive ways.

Small businesses like cafes and bars are benefitting greatly from the portable option of shipping containers because their unique design can attract customers, their structure is durable, the interior provides enough space for the necessities of many developments and services, and typically the main focus of using a shipping container for a café is to create an environmental appeal.

20 Shipping Container Coffee Shop Ideas from Around the World

If you’re looking for inspiration to design a coffee shop and café, look no further. We have searched the globe through the world wide web and found 20 unique, wonderful, and cost-effective shipping container café’s to pass on some valuable motivation for your own café concept.

From the US to the glorious streets of Italy to the sunshine coasts of Australia and further, take a look at these container ideas below to light a spark of innovation and inspiration in your very own café idea.

Non-Profits are changing the coffee scene

Johannesburg Coffee Shop - South Africa
source: inhabitat

This coffee shop was built by a non-profit organization in Johannesburg and is run by young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds to give them a chance at running a successful franchise. Architecture for a Change converted an old shipping container and used recycled materials to build Roast Republic.

Starbucks know what’s good for business

Starbucks Shipping Container Café
source: today

Large franchises such as Starbucks have seen the environmental appeal of storage containers and commissioned mini Starbucks cafés to be built throughout the US to provide indoor and drive-thru options for their customers.

Construction for this Colorado Starbucks in Northglenn only took 21 days and Starbucks is satisfied that their mini cafes save on water, electricity, and overall energy to run efficiently.

Not just a shipping container

Coffee Can Edmonton
source: the star

When you think of a shipping container you probably imagine a steel frame box rather than a prosperous small business.

In some cases, you wouldn’t be wrong, but in the case of Coffee Can, a mobile café that sometimes sits on the side of a street in Edmonton Canada, you’d find a well-established café that is popular with locals and students at the nearby college campuses.

Puppaccino anyone?

Dog-friendly Phoenix coffee shop
source: 98fm

This converted coffee shop was once a cargo container used for shipping goods across the ocean.

Dash offers more than just great coffee, sweet treats, and dog-friendly puppaccinos. Customers can also join in with numerous activities in the park including running tours, Pilates, and meditation, and Dash also provides tasting events and coffee masterclasses for coffee lovers.

Dash is all about community, sustainability, zero-waste policies, and promoting a healthy lifestyle straight from their coffee bar in Phoenix Park Dublin.

Earthworld Architecture for sustainability

Foghound Coffee shop and showroom
source: ewarch

Earthworld Architects designed and created this café and showroom for the Foghound Interactive Coffee Company who has strong policies on sustainability.

Featuring a ground floor café and an upstairs showroom with the company’s wide range of coffee machines and equipment, the construction also has floor to ceiling windows to allow for natural light, polyurethane insulation to avoid overheating in summer, and a solar powered hot water heating system.

Earthworld Architects won an award in 2012 for Commercial/Brand related architecture because their design so accurately represents the ethos of the Foghound Coffee brand.

Rack em and stack em

The Sprout Coffee Company South Africa
source: trendhunter

Made up of two stacked shipping containers, the Sprout Coffee Company in South Africa quickly became a hit with coffee lovers in the area.

Containers are producing quality spaces for customers and employees in the general location to enjoy but are also attracting customers from afar who have been looking for exclusive places to spend their time.

The downstairs container is host to a walk-up coffee bar while the downstairs area also features plenty of outdoor seating for customers to enjoy the fresh air while the second story container hosts limited indoor furniture for those looking for a little more privacy.

Working in a dream

A tranquil container cafe in Taiwan
source: infeel architects

You could say that HOH café is a barista’s dream coffee shop.

Designed by Infeel Architects, this café in Taiwan is found by many to be a place for tranquility, relaxation, and great coffee right in the center of a busy city.

The café, made from just one recycled shipping container, is located within a park in which winding pathways lead customers there and back with a walk-in nature through a forest like scene.

Indoor and outdoor screens provide generous air quality and sunlight for the barista who greets their stress-free customers at the coffee bar once they find their way there by following the aromatic coffee scent they pick up on the unknown path.

Tampa Bay residents love Kahwa

Kahwa drive thru coffee in Tampa Bay
source: ilovetheburg

There’s no denying that residents in the Tampa Bay area are firm lovers of coffee, and that includes coffee and treats from the Tampa-grown franchise Kahwa.

Kahwa has now opened a few of these refurbished shipping container sites, proving that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure with their container refurbishments being a cost-effective hit for the business and customers in their numerous locations.

It’s not just about coffee at Island Joe’s

Coffee with a conscience at Island Joe's
source: island joes cc

Island Joe’s Coffee and Gallery on North Padre Island Texas, is constructed out of 10 cargo containers. The father and son duo, Bryan and Andrew Tumlinson, had a vision to create an eco-friendly and family-friendly environment with games nights, movie nights, open mic opportunities, and more.

Through their charity work, a percentage of their profits also goes to a Dominican Republic feeding program the father and son team helped to set up.

It’s not the size that counts

10ft Cargo Coffe container in Aukland
source: archi expo

Cargo Coffee in the CBD of Auckland New Zealand is striving to show people that being socially responsible and environmentally friendly is the way to go.

This small but unique container café is a simple coffee bar set-up upcycled from a used 10ft shipping container and is one of the cheaper options to go for in container cafes.

Cirque du coffee

Cirque Coffee Roasters 20ft container
source: reddit

For something a little different, Cirque Coffee Roasters has come up with a quick way for people to get coffee through an app and drive-thru concept.

They call it App-only coffee and you can find it at 14th and Utica in a 40ft refurbished shipping container. Reviewers in the local vicinity of this different but effective drive-thru café are happy to have their coffee in a hurry, and some reviewers are glad it’s something other than their local expensive Starbucks.

Designer coffee

Burr & Berry serving up delicious coffee in South Carolina
source: Burr & Berry

South Carolina residents are extremely lucky to have Burr & Berry walk-up and drive thru coffee right on their doorstep.

It doesn’t look like it to the unknowing eye, but this café was built in a warehouse with one 20ft shipping container and delivered to its location by truck. One of the many benefits of using a shipping container for your café or business is that they’re portable.

A connoisseur who puts community and coffee first

The Red Bay Coffee Box Oakland
source: foursquare

Did you ever think you would be purchasing a coffee to go out of a shipping container?

The Red Bay Coffee Box in Oakland is serving up delicious and ethical coffee and customer service in their stylish converted shipping container and it’s a huge hit with the locals. It might look small, but this 20ft shipping container café hosts 17 employees over its 7-day roster, all of whom alongside the café, make a huge and important impact on the community.

Don’t waste any space

The Grind & Co Cafe in Sydney
source: broadsheet

The Grind & Co café can be found in Sydney’s Heritage Business Park in an appealing and welcoming 20ft shipping container.

With vertical gardens, an open coffee bar and breakfast bar for customers to sit, floor to ceiling tiling, and custom container doors, the design use every possible inch of space for this small and pleasant café so that not one corner is wasted.

Coffee on the sunshine coast

Happy Turtle Cafe
source: sunshine coast

For as little as AUS$150K, this 20ft shipping container café in Happy Valley of the Sunshine Coast is providing happy customers with amazing views and access to a nearby playground for kids.

The shipping container café exterior adorns art from local and east Queensland artists, the bar sells coffee, snacks, and lunch items with a fully functional and operational kitchen inside, and the design of The Happy Turtle Café blends well with its surroundings to create a fun and inviting atmosphere.

What a unit

Unit Cafe
source: decoist

An incredible 14 shipping containers make up this giant café structure at Ukrainian National IT (UNIT) Factory in Kiev.

Due to lack of space for the original cafeteria design, architects decided to go with a shipping container development that would fit everything the UNIT Factory needed for their campus.

With the use of these 14 stackable shipping containers to make up what is known as the student’s Unit Cafe, designers were able to fit, with plenty of room to spare, a café area, kitchen, coffee bar, and a pantry.

Is Goldilocks here?

Adding to the many benefits of a shipping container for a business, the flexibility in its temporary structure can be seen as a great way for many café owners to expand themselves and gain loyal customers by seeing who follows them when they change up locations.

The Hungry Bear café in NSW Australia is what’s called a pop-up café because it’s built and mainly fitted out in a warehouse, then moved and placed in a designated location. In this case, the Hungry Bear has been placed in a well-established business estate so customers are able to walk to the café rather than drive to a further location.

Customers are plenty and they’re plenty grateful for this container concept.

Taking in the views alongside the coffee shop

20ft container cafe on Rabbit Island
source: comunicaffe

The Rabbit Island Coffee Co, found in a tiffany-blue shipping container is a rare find on a rare and quiet island in New Zealand.

The café boasts an open design with large customized doors on the long side of the container so that customers can get close to the shipping container bar to view the roasting process, sample new brews, and check out the roasting style for themselves.

Nothing beats a hot cup of Joe

Grab a hot cup of joe at Cup'A Joe's
source: wotbox

The design brief for Cup’A Joe’s was for a company to convert or transform an existing roadside outlet into an attractive and operational outlet for a small café.

WotBox did just that with Cup’A Joe’s by using a 20ft shipping container and creating a bright and bold exterior to lure curious customers in for a good hot cup of coffee and some decent snacks.

The container features a fully operational café kitchen and plumbing, security cameras, air conditioning to keep staff consistently comfortable, and more and with a budget of only AUS$75K.

Italians love luxury and coffee

Two 20ft containers create B1 Coffee Container
source: archello

Two 20ft containers joined together to make up this Italian B1 Coffee Container in Sondrio.

The shop is simple yet elegant, the café offers some light snacks, it’s location is perfectly situated in a business park, and the coffee comes with friendly and happy designs to make customers feel welcomed.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Coffee Shop Cost?

Depending on the size, layout, design, and materials used for your shipping container coffee shop and café, you could be looking at prices as low as US$2,200 and as high as US$225,000.

There are multiple things to consider when designing a shipping container business like:

  • Land permits and rent
  • Labor
  • Shipping
  • Design and fitting
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Furniture and décor
  • Marketing, social media, websites, advertisement, and employment

It’s safe to say that the minimum start-up costs can be less than US$3,000 to purchase the initial container and possibly even to have it delivered to the right location.

If you’re fitting out the container yourself and have friends in trades to help, you’ll save a lot on labor and equipment, but we’d suggest offering your friends a lifetime of free coffee at your café!

The other factors will add up, but again it depends on you, your style, and your budget. Keep in mind that buying used containers usually works out cheaper, but they might also need more work than new containers. If you’re fond of the idea that you can upcycle and refurbish what’s already been used to reduce your carbon footprint, a used container is the way to go.

Interior Design Tips for Your Coffee Shop

Shipping container designs already have something exceptional.

They’re attracting customers like bees to honey so they don’t tend to need much else.

It’s important to stick to the concept of the café. Shipping containers are generally cost-effective and carbon neutral when recycled, so this should already tell your customers that you’re more than likely an eco-conscious brand wanting to deliver for the customers and for the planet.

Here are a few design tips to consider when feng shui-ing the interior of your container café:

  •  Containers don’t offer much room so keep the furniture light and simple
  •  For smaller containers that won’t have indoor seating, less is more. Instead, utilize the area around the outside of the container
  • Think of the employees and any hazards that can harm them (too much shelving, hanging plants, etc.) and ensure everything is solid in its place
  •  Use bright lighting that illuminates the ti so that it appears bigger than it is
  •  Organize seating in a way that doesn’t create crowding, people like their privacy
  •  Get creative with the space you have and use every corner so you’re not wasting even an inch
  •  If you’re going dark consider mirrors along with neutral colors, potted plants, and warm lighting
  • If you’re thinking bright and bold, give your café an energy boost with local artwork, colorful and Scandinavian tiling, hanging plants, and lots of yellow

This is your opportunity to create something “you” and share it with the locals who will love your container café design as much as they love your coffee.

Conclusion

Not including how cheap and easy they are to build, there are so many other reasons to create and open your new café in a shipping container. There are various locations available for small businesses but one of the best parts of a shipping container café is that they’re mobile and you can take the coffee to your customers!

The unique, affordable, and eco-friendly appeal of using recycled shipping containers for new businesses is just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

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