Shipping container cafes – pop up café ideas

May 26, 2023

Shipping containers are extremely versatile and can be modified for use as site offices, sleepouts, kiosks, retail stores and more. One of the most popular options is to modify a shipping container for use as a café.

Shipping container cafes are becoming increasingly popular here in Australia and throughout the world. As the cost of renting commercial spaces continues to increase, business entrepreneurs are looking at alternatives when it comes to setting up their own businesses and shipping containers are providing a cost-effective, versatile, and flexible solution.

The beauty of a shipping container café is that it can be moved. Whilst many people choose to set up a container café in a permanent location, there are also lots of opportunities for people to move around, set up in new locations or maybe even work at major sporting events and music festivals.

At OZBOX, our shipping containers can be modified to suit your needs. Whether you are looking for a more permanent solution or perhaps something that is more flexible, we can carry out modifications to our 10ft, 20ft and 40ft containers.

It’s not just cafes either. Our shipping containers can be modified into restaurants, bakeries, juice bars and more. If you have an idea, talk to the team and we can see how we can take your idea and make it a reality.

A shipping container modification can also be a great way to extend an existing business. If you already have a thriving business but you have no space to expand, a shipping container can provide extra space, either for catering or even just for additional covered seating.

Pop-up Container Café Ideas

Of course, just because you can convert a shipping container for use as a café doesn’t just mean you have a ready-to-go business. A big part of any successful business model is finding the right space to position your pop-up container café and we have a few ideas that might help you to think about the potential spots for a successful and thriving business.

A derelict or under-utilised car park

As city centre planners encourage more people to travel by public transport, the number of car parking spaces required in towns and cities starts to reduce. This often means that valuable real estate is not being put to good use.

Whether you own a car park, or you want to look to lease a section of a car park, these can prove to be extremely valuable spaces on which to locate a shipping container café. Not only can you secure a premium city centre location, but you also have a captive audience of people that still use the car park, desperate for their morning coffee fix when they park up.

A marina

A shipping container cafe at a marina
A shipping container cafe at a marina

If you live near the water, a marina can be a great place on which to locate a shipping container café. Marinas are bustling places and typically, they have only been there to provide a mooring for boaties. Today, however, they are becoming much more than that.

They are becoming popular tourist destinations as people enjoy the environment of being next to the water and admiring the boats and yachts moored in the marina.

This definitely creates business opportunities and a pop-up container café is a great way to provide a service, not only to tourists and locals who may use the marina for recreation purposes but also for those who moor their boats there as well.

A local market

A good option for those who can keep things flexible is to set up at local markets. If you have the capacity to transport your shipping container café from one location to another, then local markets are an amazing opportunity.

Local markets are thriving in Australia and provide café owners with a great opportunity to drive customers. Whilst some markets may operate weekly, or even on multiple days of the week, there are often bigger local markets that might take place once a month, attracting a much bigger crowd. If you can target these and set up your café at some of the biggest markets, then you can make a killing.

A dog park

A shipping container cafe at a park
A shipping container cafe at a park

Dog parks are becoming increasingly popular in Australia, not only as a place to walk your dog and for dogs to interact with other furry friends but also as a community space where people go to chat and catch up with fellow dog walkers.

This again presents a great opportunity for a pop-up shipping container café. Anywhere where it is likely that you will get large numbers of people gathering throughout the day is a good spot and dog walking is a 7-day-a-week activity which presents a great opportunity.

Dog parks are usually located not too far from residential areas and this presents further opportunities. If you deliver great service to the dog walkers, word of mouth means you will also pick up customers that don’t own dogs as well, helping to grow your business.

The beach

Here in Australia, setting up a pop-up shipping container café at the beach is a no-brainer. Getting permission to set one up can be trickier and will vary from region to region, however, as locations go, the beach is ideal.

During the summer months, you can maximise your profitability, whilst, during the quieter winter period, you can take more time off and open for limited hours, on the weekends for example in the morning when you know people work out or walk their dogs on the beach.

Of course, a café is not the only business that you can set up from a modified shipping container. At the beach, a juice bar, or even a bar serving alcoholic drinks can be a good option, although licencing issues will play a part in this as well. Some people choose to go one step further than a container café and set up a shipping container restaurant. Whilst these typically require more space, they can be extremely appealing in beach locations where planning permission allows.


A shipping container café is a great way to set up a business without tying yourself into expensive and potentially long-term commercial leases. With the flexibility to pick up the café and move it to a new location if your existing site is not working for you, it also means that you can be flexible in where you set up and if your circumstances change, you can also think about moving your business with you.

If you are thinking about a shipping container modification, whether that’s a café, juice bar, restaurant or something different, talk to the team at OZBOX and we can give you ideas for your new business.

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