Get All Access for $5/mo

Franchise Takes the Cafe Concept on the Road BikeCaffe, a British franchise concept, brings the coffee house to the customer.

By Jason Daley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Mike Ash, who had worked in restaurants since he was 15 and earned a degree in hospitality management, hoped to one day open his own eatery. But as the years went on and he managed various restaurants and cafeterias, Ash, now 35, figured he was unlikely to ever save enough money to open his own place.

Then, flipping through a Costco circular in 2010, he saw an ad for the BikeCaffe, a British franchise concept that had recently come to the U.S. The idea was as simple as the name--a mobile coffee shop mounted on a four-wheel cycle, complete with Astoria espresso machine, blender, pastry bin, refrigerator and sink.

Ash signed on as one of the first U.S. franchisees and began fueling up downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. Today you can find him on the corner of Fourth Street and Central Avenue--or sometimes, especially if it's extra hot or rainy, inside the BB&T bank building. On weekends Ash sets up his mobile java machine at festivals and events.

Eventually, Ash hopes to step back from the grinder. "I would love to own multiple carts and spend my time marketing them," he says. "But until then, I still enjoy it. It's a pretty awesome job."

He filled us in on what it's like to be the go-to guy for to-go coffee in downtown St. Pete.

BikeCaffeCoffee from a bike?
That can't be very good. The coffee is really, really good! It's all fair-trade organic tea and coffee, and I think we're the only place in downtown St. Pete that carries that. The biggest comment I get is, "You can't make all that stuff on your bike, can you?" Our menu is the same size as Starbucks'; we can make macchiatos, lattes, chai--everything. We also make smoothies.

All the drinks are made to order. It's a little slower than pouring drip coffee, but the quality is 10 times better.

How do you like making your own schedule?
It's kind of weird to start a business thinking you can work your own hours. But you end up working the same number of hours as before, usually more. At the same time, it's kind of cool that it's yours, and what you put into it, you get out of it. I'm always working. I get here at 6:20 a.m. to set up and leave around 4:30 p.m. I also work weekends, so at least 50 hours a week. In 16 months, I've missed only three days.

What's your biggest seller?
Lattes are always popular. People also like my seasonal drinks. I have a chalkboard and carry three or four specials per day. I usually create them myself, things like eggnog lattes, mocha peppermint hot chocolate or caramel toffee nut lattes. We have a lot of freedom to experiment.

Do you get a good workout riding the bike?
Well, the thing weighs about 400 pounds. I don't think I've ever ridden it more than half a mile at a time. It's geared super low, so if there are no hills or rough terrain, it's easy. You wouldn't win any races on it. Florida is pretty flat, so I'm lucky with that.

What's the biggest misconception about your BikeCaffe?
People assume I sell hot dogs. Every day someone comes up asking for one.

Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

This Former Disney Princess Lived 'Paycheck to Paycheck' Before Starting a Side Hustle at Home — Now She Makes $250,000 a Year

Victoria Carroll's income was "sporadic" until a friend encouraged her to take her talents to Fiverr in 2018.

Growing a Business

Beware of These Risky Sales Tactics That Are Doomed to Fail or Backfire

Every business owner can learn from the failed sales tactics of a defeated car salesman. Know what they are to avoid losing your sale.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Can ChatGPT Help Start a Business? I Tried the Latest Version, GPT-4o, to Find Out.

I tried ChatGPT for business advice, from the perspective of a first-time founder looking for ideas and guidance.

Business News

Here's What Sora, OpenAI's Text-to-Video Creator, Can Really Do

Toys "R" Us used Sora, an AI filmmaker, to create its latest ad.