To Buy or Build Your Drive-Thru Structure...
That is the Question.

When it comes to opening a coffee drive-thru business, how will you acquire your building? Up until now, there have only been two basic options:

  1. Buy a prefabricated building, and have it transported to your site - or,
  2. Attempt to design and construct your own building.

However, both of these options can present some challenges.

Table of Contents

Considering a Prefabricated Building

Designing & Constructing Your Own Building

Using Our Plans to Construct Your Building

Considering a Prefabricated Building

Before considering buying a prefabricated building from a manufacturer, and then having it transported to your site, there are some important factors to consider.


What will this building cost to purchase? (as compared to if you had it built on site)

How much will you be paying in profit to the manufacturer? - and, while no one denies the right of the manufacturer to make a profit for their efforts, realize that in some cases this may be $25,000 to $50,000 or more. Wouldn't you be better off starting your new business with this money in your bank account?

Also, realize that in almost all cases you will be the one bearing the expense to bring utilities to the site, and to provide the necessary foundation and other features of site development. So remember, when considering the expense of a prefab unit, you are usually only buying a building.


Will the manufacturer supply you with detailed plans related to the site preparation? (foundation plan, locations of needed plumbing & electrical stub ups)


How much will you pay for the transport of the unit, and it's placement and securing to the foundation? (And, what happens if the unit is damaged in transport? Or you don't like the look of the workmanship when it arrives?)

With current gas prices, transporting a structure half way across the county won't be cheap, and will you need to rent a crane & operator to move you building from the transport vehicle onto its foundation? What will this cost?


Will your state or local bureaucracies allow you to use a building that was constructed outside of your area?

It's not uncommon for bureaucracies to require that construction, or portions of construction (such as electrical), be facilitated by state licensed contractors only.

We know of instances where buyers of prefabricated buildings have had to hire local craftsman to travel to the building manufacturer's site to facilitate a portion of construction to meet the local requirements. They not only had to pay these craftsman their normal hourly rate, but also pay for their travel time, airfare, hotel, and meals. These out of pocket expenses were in addition to the purchase price of the unit.

Also, what happens if you have taken delivery of your building before you find out it's unnacceptable to your local bureaucracy?


Will the construction techniques & materials used meet the standards required by your local bureaucracy?

If your local codes require special provisions for hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, or significant snow loads, will the prefabricated unit you may be considering meet those standards?


If the building does not come equipped with coffee & food service equipment, then how will you know what to buy?

What brands should you purchase? Will they fit into the spaces provided? Will the electrical outlets supplied provide sufficient voltage/amperage for the equipment you have selected?


If the building comes equipped with all or some of the coffee & food service equipment & fixtures, what equipment & fixtures have been chosen?

Are they of top quality, and will they be sufficient for your needs? We've seen pre-fab units with sinks that were too small to accommodate items in need of cleaning, and the espresso machine chosen would not allow for the placement of paper cups directly under the groups, etc. Also, is the building manufacturer making an additional profit on the equipment they are providing?


Who designed the building, and how much time have they spent working in coffee drive-thrus?

While any equipment layout may seem acceptable to the inexperienced operator, any shortcomings in design will not be realized until you are actually open for business. If the placement of equipment and fixtures do not promote an efficient flow, then speed in preparing beverages will be impaired, and valuable revenue will be lost. Remember, those driving by may decide to not stop to purchase a drink, if there are an excessive number of vehicles waiting in line. Speed in preparing beverages is critical, and a good layout is essential to this goal.


Will the pre-fab building you may be considering be set up to accommodate the demands of your market?

If you live in a warm weather climate, does the unit have substantial blended drink capacity? -a granita machine? - room for an ice maker that will produce a significant amount of ice? If you are in a cold weather climate, or in a location that will produce significant volume, will the unit accommodate a 3 group espresso machine? - a dual air pot coffee brewer? And, if you are in high volume location, will the unit permit 3 or 4 employees to work efficiently, without a conflict of working space?


Will the pre-fab unit you may be considering allow you to express your vision of the unique and eye catching exterior you want to project?

Standing out in a crowd (or a crowded parking lot) is important factor in being recognized! Will you be able to create a "visual splash" with your building, or will you be confined to decisions made by the manufacturer?


Designing & Constructing Your Own Building

Before designing and building your own drive-thru structure, here are some important considerations to think about:


Who's going to design your building?

While a drive-thru building may be small, and seem simple, there are hundreds of decisions to be made, and details to be addressed. Interior layout is critical to the efficiency, and thus the income potential of your business. A less than optimal layout will slow down beverage production, increase the number of cars waiting to order, and as a result, discourage passing motorists from stopping to make a purchase. An intimate understanding of how things work and flow in a drive-thru operation is critical!

Also, while the structure may appear to be simple, it will involve extensive electrical, plumbing, HVAC, storage, and food service code requirements. Will you or your contractor understand which pieces of equipment will require special plumbing or electrical? Will you be able to design a building that will meet ADA standards? Will you provide enough refrigerated, dry, and paper goods storage to get you through a week, or at least several busy days of business?


How will you know which coffee & foodservice equipment to buy?

While designing your drive-thru, you will need to make important decisions related to the equipment it will contain. What brands and models should you purchase? Will they allow you to produce your intended menu? Is the equipment sufficient for your expected level of business volume? Will the equipment be acceptable to your local health department? Will the equipment be easy for your employees to understand and use?


What will you spend on architectural services?

You will more than likely have to provide detailed construction drawings to your local bureaucracies.
What will it cost you to have the following drawings produced: floor plan w/ equipment ID, floor plan w/ critical dimensions, foundation plan, electrical plan, plumbing plan, HVAC plan, interior elevations, exterior elevations, roof truss drawings, construction notes & details, etc. And, if you don't design the perfect building on the first attempt, what will it cost you in architectural revisions?


How much can you trust your contractor?

When you select a contractor to build your design, will they possess the expertise necessary in building food service establishments? Will they understand the plumbing and storage issues required by your local health department? Will they know which wall mounted storage shelves will be designated to hold significant weight, and will they they make provisions for secure anchor points for those shelves during the framing of the building? Will they understand which pieces of equipment will require special water filtration or manipulation, and how to plumb for those needs? While any competent contractor can follow a set of concise blue prints, without all features and requirements being specified, and with a limited knowledge of food service requirements, costly and potentially devastating mistakes can be made.


Using Our Plans to Construct Your Building

We believe that the best option for acquiring a drive-thru structure for your coffee business, is having a contractor build it for you using our plans.
Here are the advantages:


Our plans are designed by a coffee business design professional, with hands on experience working in drive-thrus.

While there are a number of people you can hire to design a coffee drive-thru building, few have actually worked in one preparing drinks, and waiting on customers. From this valuable and irreplaceable experience, we've created designs that allow for maximum productivity, with minimal effort. We have also corrected or eliminated the commonly seen design mistakes and shortcomings experienced in many prefabricated, or "owner designed" structures.


Our plans will create a drive-thru building with impressive structural integrity, and that will meet or exceed most, if not all bureaucratic requirements.

In essence, our plans specify materials and construction techniques which will result in a building of uncompromising integrity and durability. All exterior walls are specified to be double sheeted with OSB, creating shear walls of significant strength. Owners should possess peace of mind in knowing that their building will provide them, and their employees, with protection from high winds, seismic activity, and substantial snow loads.

Designed to be ADA compliant, and to meet the standards of the most stringent health departments, layouts and equipment selected should meet or exceed the standards set by the vast majority of state & local bureaucracies.


Our plans will provide your contractor with all the information necessary to smoothly facilitate the construction of your drive-thru building.

Drawings included are:

  • Equipment/Fixture Identification Floor Plan
  • Critical Dimensions Floor Plan
  • Foundation Plan
  • Plumbing Plan
  • Electrical Plan
  • Exterior Elevations with Construction Details
  • Interior Elevations
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, & air conditioning) Plan
  • Cabinet Details
  • Roof Framing Plan
  • Conceptual Exterior Design Ideas

Note: Some local architectural services may still be required to produce a "site plan", and to make adjustments to our drive-thru plans if the specifications or construction techniques shown differ from your local codes. CAD files can be provided (no extra charge) for your architect so that modifications can be made as quickly and economically as possible.


Our plans will specify all coffee and foodservice equipment / fixtures for you.

We will specify all equipment by manufacturer and model number, and will also provide you with a highly respected and competitive source for purchasing that equipment. The equipment we have selected is in essence, the "Toyota" of equipment. Equipment is from long established reputable manufacturers, with extensive service networks.
Purchasing equipment will be as easy as picking up the phone, or sending the included equipment list by e-mail.


Our plans can help you economize the price of construction.

Two of our designs, (the "Basic" and the "Classic"), call for no or minimal costly custom cabinetry.
Work top refrigerators, and stainless steel work tables are used extensively to serve as the counter tops for equipment.
At $500 to $1,000 per linear foot for custom cabinetry, eliminating or reducing the amount needed, will result in substantial savings.


Our plans will allow you to create your own, unique, exterior look.

Because you are constructing your own building, you can make decisions about themes, colors, materials, awnings & facades. We will supply you with 12 artistic, color renderings of different exterior design options. Have your contractor pattern your structure after one of our designs, or create your own.