Drive-Thru Coffee Stands vs. Traditional Coffee Shops

A friendly employee handing a cup of coffee to a customer at a drive-thru coffee shop.

When determining what type of coffee business to launch, the decision may come down to what type of brand you want your establishment to become. Every entrepreneur is different, and the perfect choice of coffee shop business model ideally comes down to what the market needs and wants and what goals the entrepreneur has.

For some, a traditional, sit-down coffeehouse is the dream. Others may be interested in a more simplified, efficient drive-thru model to be a trusted and convenient favorite in the community. There are differences in operation and costs as well.

If you’re moving toward planning and opening a coffee-centric business but can’t quite decide between a traditional model or a drive-thru franchise, here is a comparison of the two. Consider which is a better fit for your own goals.

The Traditional Coffeehouse

From the consumer’s perspective, the traditional, sit-down coffeehouse is a place to stay awhile, or at least to not necessarily be in a hurry. A traditional coffeehouse is perfect for the laptop-wielding professional or student looking to enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee while getting work done. It’s a great place for old friends to meet and catch up over their favorite roast.

Patrons park and go inside, or walk there, and while they may need to be somewhere soon, this way of getting coffee is still markedly less convenient than pulling up at a drive-thru window.

Have you always pictured yourself as the gracious host of a sit-down experience, filled with the rich aromas of the beans you’re roasting and the chatter of lively patrons in conversation? If that’s your goal, the traditional coffeehouse model may be for you.

While all coffee operations require certain supplies, the overhead for a traditional model of coffeehouse will be substantially higher than for a drive-thru kiosk. Real estate purchase costs and taxes, or rent, will be a large line item, as will the labor costs of staffing a full-size coffeehouse.

Furnishings and improvements to the space aren’t cheap, and renovations typically will be necessary every few years due to wear and tear — as well as to freshen up the aesthetics to keep people coming back to hang out.

An important factor to consider is that because people like to hang out, turn-times are much slower, and you cannot serve as many customers.

The Drive-Thru Coffee Stand

There is a time and place for everything, and though sometimes it’s nice to kick back in a chair inside a coffeehouse on a Saturday morning, people commuting to and from work and other engagements value the ability to get an amazing cup of coffee quickly, on the go, from a drive-thru coffee stand.

The value proposition is simple, straightforward, understood, and appreciated. As a result, more customers can be served than in a sit-down coffeehouse.

Costs are significantly lower for a drive-thru than for a traditional coffee shop. Real estate is less expensive, as the drive-thru coffee franchise typically has a much smaller footprint and need not be in a hip or upscale area to succeed; it must only be convenient for motorists. Fewer employees are needed in a smaller operation, helping contain the important metric of labor.

The costly interior decor and furnishings necessary to set the scene in a traditional coffeehouse are not an issue for the bottom line of a drive-thru operation.

A drive-thru coffee stand is also an efficient model for multi-unit franchising. As more units set up shop in a market or region, consumers become even more familiar and comfortable with the brand and rely on it for convenient coffee.

Scooter’s Coffee utilizes both models, a coffeehouse and a drive-thru kiosk, and according to a report by QSR, which covers the quick-service food and beverage industry, the brand’s two business models offer excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs. Depending on the model, the cost of entry to open a Scooter’s Coffee is only in the $381,000 to $587,000 range, which includes the franchise fee of $40,000.

Whether you dream of serving coffee to relaxed, seated patrons or appreciative go-getters on their way to the next adventure, Scooter’s Coffee can help. Find out more about how you can start your Scooter’s Coffee franchise today!

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