How and Why You Can Build a Shipping Container Cafe

Shipping containers are a common sight on board large transport ships today across the world’s oceans. They are rectangular metal boxes that hold vast amounts of goods that go around the world, are are built from tough steel to keep the contents organized and safe during long trips across the world’s oceans. They even come in a variety of colors, and may have numbers stenciled on the sides for organizing and tracking materials inside them. Not all of these containers are currently in use, however; in fact, many of them have been effectively retired, and are merely gathering dust around the world. Many would argue that this is a waste of perfectly usable metal and pre-made boxes, and for this reason, efforts are made to gather retired shipping containers from around the world and make them into something new. A modified shipping container is no longer just a box; it can be made into a shipping container cafe, or even a shipping container studio or more, depending on what the new user wants to make with them. Even trade show shipping containers can be used for this purpose, and a shipping container cafe is a great deal because it provides a ready-made box and eliminates a piece of waste at the same time.

Shipping Containers Today

Just how common are shipping containers today, and how often are they used or remade into new things like a shipping container cafe? Today, globally, if all shipping containers were somehow gathered and laid end-to-end, this long line would in fact go around the entire world twice. How many is that for such a long line? Estimates show that nearly 17 million shipping containers exist around the world, but only some of them are actively being used. IN fact, just six million of them are in use today, which means that the remaining 11 million are just taking up space, representing a lot of unused steel. These containers are an ideal size for new purposes such as a shipping container cafe; most of them are eight feet wide, nine and a half feet tall and 20 to 40 feet long, making for ideal dimensions for a small but cozy commercial space like a shipping container cafe or small eatery.

Some companies and individuals have already pioneered the idea of using a custom shipping container building to save costs and reuse old steel. In 2015, the major fast food retail chain Taco Bell created a pop-up store made from a shipping container, and by 2017, the retail chain opened a permanent shipping container store in California. Starbucks attempted this even earlier in 2011, when it opened a 450 square foot shipping container cafe, or a coffee shop cafe, in Washington state. Even more of these shipping container sites can be found in Las Vegas. The Downtown Container Park in that city spans some 19,000 square feet and it features a mix of about 30 different shipping containers and 41 multi-functional, modular cubes to form its perimeter.

What are the advantages of creating a shipping container cafe or similar site? For any small retailer or a major chain wanting a small location, it may be very cost effective to make use of an existing steel box rather than fabricate a small store from scratch, and these containers are certainly big enough for employees and associates alike to work in. Such a container may have electronic and plumbing or gas utilities added as needed, in addition to food storage and preparation units, a cash register and counter, and maybe limited seating as well. Such little stores might also have extra fabrication done for the walls to make for a cozier atmosphere, and they can have windows installed to make them feel bigger. A shipping container cafe, if built right, might even be mobile, and can act as a sort of RV and rove around from one location to another, taking advantage of its small size and sturdy metal frame. This mobile cafe or store could plug itself into local utilities to start running, and it may attract customers wherever it goes, and can even be a novelty for those who find it, and this may add to its quaint charm.