How to turn a Shipping Container into a food or drink business

If you are considering setting up a food business, you will no doubt be looking for the right venue to suit your new bar, café, or restaurant.  Investing in bricks and mortar can seem a risky investment for a small business owner when cash flow is tight, and the commitment of a mortgage or rental costs and business rates are a big expense to someone who is just starting out.

This is one of the reasons that Shipping Containers are an excellent option for a food and drink business.  Shipping Containers are more cost-effective than a permanent unit and depending on where you decide to place your container, the rental costs can be much lower too.

Singha Beer Pop Up Bar made from a converted container

Shipping Containers are adaptable and versatile enough that you can transform a simple steel box into something really cool and very functional!

The world is waking up to the importance of living more sustainably and up-cycling an ex-Shipping Container is an excellent way of doing your bit for the environment.

In a few years, you might decide to move the location of your business or even upgrade to a permanent address once you have grown enough to expand your empire.  If so, you can quite easily up-sticks with your Shipping Container and move it to pastures new.  Or even sell it on to someone for a profit!

Which type of Shipping Container works well for a food or drink business?

Budget Shipping Containers have converted many, many containers over the years into bars, cafes, and catering units.  So, we know a thing or two about what works, and what does not work so well.  Truthfully, it really depends on what your business needs and what you want your Shipping Container to do for you.

20ft Shipping Containers are a good size for a pop-up bar, or café.  They give you a reasonable amount of workspace and can fit nicely into a relatively small area like a business park, or on your driveway – wherever you decide to base your business.

20ft Shipping Container Food and Drink Businesses

A few years ago, we converted a used 20ft Shipping Container into a pop-up Cheese Toastie Bar in London!  This was a great project and the finished bar looked fantastic.  At our customer’s request, we repainted the container in jet black and added a piston-operated upwards serving hatch.  The hatch was covered by a small canopy to offer some shade or shelter from the Great British weather.

A secure and easy to open serving hatch is a must-have modification for your Shipping Container food business.  We can provide anti-vandal serving hatches to deter any trespassers and a range of options for how your hatch will operate.

Another option for customer access to your Shipping Container Bar or Restaurant is a fully side-opening Shipping Container, like the one we sourced for this pop-up container street bar for Singha Beer a little while ago.  The customer wanted a structure with strength, maneuverability, and plenty of unobstructed access for customers so a side-opening container was the perfect option!

A side-opening container is also great for access if you are loading large equipment into your Shipping Container.  The entire length of the container can be opened up, creating an accessible cross-section view of the interior.  Side-opening shipping containers are also a great option for mobile exhibition stands and micro-art galleries as they allow people to directly access the container without creating a bottleneck for customers.

If you prefer not to open the entire side of your Shipping Container but you still need access to load larger pieces of catering equipment into it, you can stick with the more traditional cargo doors which are at the end of the container and open wide enough to allow plenty of access to load and unload those larger items.

10ft Shipping Containers for Pop-up Bars and Cafes

Cladded Kiosk / Bar
10ft Container Bar conversion

You might be on the hunt for a smaller unit for your business, and a 10ft Shipping Container is a more compact option.  We have created lots of 10ft Shipping Container Bars in the past, like this one we supplied for a customer in East London.  If you are clever with space, and how you position shelving and storage you can create a fantastic micro-bar or café to serve from with all the usual serving hatches and access points that we have mentioned above.

How will your Shipping Container Bar or Café look?

The design of your Shipping Container food business is obviously a personal decision!  You might like to paint the exterior in your brand colours, we can offer a repaint in all standard RAL colours or match to something more specific if needed.  You might prefer to leave the original shipping livery exposed for a more rustic appeal, or you might like to opt for some timber cladding to the outside which looks really smart, and can hide the fact that you are working from a Shipping Container completely!

In 2019 we created a Shipping Container catering pod for Studley High School, they opted for timber-cladding around the entire outside to match with the look and feel of the school grounds.  It blends in perfectly and is a big hit as an outdoor snack stop for the school pupils.

Other Modifications for your Shipping Container food or drink business

The Hutch Shipping Container Bar

The sky is pretty much the limit here!  You can add essential modifications like electric and water points, lighting, ventilation, and shelving.  As with any food or drink business premises, it is important that you adapt your spaces so that you can work in your own way as easily as possible.  And that is the beauty of using a Shipping Container!  You are starting with a blank canvas that you can transform anyway you wish.

If you have an idea for a new Shipping Container food or drink business, or you would like to use a Shipping Container to adapt your existing business – like this fantastic outdoor bar that we discovered at the March Hare Inn, in Broughton Hackett, Worcestershire.  They introduced The Hutch Shipping Container Bar in summer 2020 when they needed an outdoor area to serve customers during the COVID19 lockdown.  A fantastic addition, we are sure you would agree!

Case Studies

You can view some of the many container conversions we have produced for food and drink suppliers in the case studies section of our website.

We would love to help you create your new Shipping Container food or drink business so please do get in touch with your enquiry. offer the UK’s largest online range of shipping containers for sale with a nationwide network of storage and conversion yards and crane equipped delivery vehicles.

If you need a shipping container feel free to browse our online range of shipping containers for sale, which also includes our ranges of flat pack sheds, container canopies and more. You can also call us on freephone 0808 1234 215 any time 9am – 7pm weekdays and our team will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, you can use our online shipping container quote form or request a telephone callback. In both cases we aim to get back to you within 1-2 working hours (may take longer for more detailed quotes).

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