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Shipping containers are being used for all sorts of creative things these days, from coffee shops to pop up shops to tiny homes. They’re much less expensive than traditional construction, plus they take up less space and can be moved as needed. If you have decided to open up a shipping container restaurant, there are some things you should know.

First of all, you don’t have to use your shipping container for the restaurant itself. Even if you have a traditional restaurant building, you can use a shipping container for storing equipment during renovations or seasonal items when you’re not using them. You could also store nonperishable items on site in the container without taking up valuable space inside your building.

But using the container for the restaurant itself is also a genius idea.

Factors That Affect Your Project

As with any other type of restaurant build-out, you should work with a designer to come up with the best solution in regards to your business model. You’ll also have to come up with a budget so you can keep things in line. Factors that will impact your project include:

  • How will you build your restaurant: repurpose or purpose-built?
  • How many containers will you need to construct your restaurant?
  • What type of food do you plan to sell and how will you serve that food?
  • Where will it be located?
  • Do you plan to move around from place to place?

Shipping container restaurants are constructed with the use of shipping containers to form the structural foundation. Many things will affect how much you pay for your shipping container restaurant.

Repurposed vs. Purpose Built

You can either create your restaurant with repurposed shipping containers, or you can build them from scratch using parts of a shipping container.

Single-Unit vs. Combined and Stacked

A traditional restaurant features a kitchen, dining room, and restrooms, so if you’re going this route, you’ll need to connect several containers. If you’re going for more of a food truck vibe, you’ll only need one. This will require you to take orders and serve food from one window, like a drive-thru. For this, a purpose-built option is best so you can ensure you have enough space left over for your employees, extra equipment and supplies, and an employee restroom.

Full Kitchen vs. Partial

A full kitchen will be the most expensive option, with warm service, beverage service and concessions being least expensive, respectively.

  • Full Kitchens: These are best for cooking and prepping menu items that require the use of fryers, ovens, and stove-tops (you’ll need hoods and ventilation units). Those items are quite costly on their own, but you’ll also likely have to add extra structural supports which also increases costs.
  • Warm Service: This is when most menu items are prepped off-site (soups, salads, sandwiches), then assembled and warmed on-site before being served to customers. Refrigeration and a method of heating will both be required.
  • Beverage Service: This is when you only serve drinks but no food, or if you do serve food, it will be pre-packaged such as cookies or chips. You can serve coffee, juice, smoothies, or alcoholic beverages in this type of container. You don’t need a lot of equipment because you’re not cooking anything, but you will still require refrigeration.
  • Concessions: This is when you only serve pre-made food and drinks, with nothing to cook or prepare. In this scenario, you would only need dry and cold storage.

As you can see, there’s a wide range of options available to you when thinking about what type of shipping container restaurant you want to open. This will take a lot of soul searching and budgeting to make happen. Sit down and think about what you want to serve, where you want to be located, what equipment and supplies you will need, and what your ultimate goal is.

If you get very fancy with your shipping container restaurant buildout, costs can quickly add up and not be too far off from traditional construction costs. So you will have to take a good look at the numbers to see if it’s worth just building from the ground up, or if you can save a lot of money by going with a container restaurant.

Contact Aaron Supreme

Aaron Supreme provides shipping containers of all sizes for all types of needs, including restaurant service. To get more information or a free quote, call us at 800.243.0403.