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Modular Restaurant Construction


Modular construction is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to conventionally built structures. Modular units offer consumers numerous benefits over their traditional stick-framed counterparts: cost savings, eco-friendliness, and a distinctive aesthetic appearance.

Modular construction is a great option for restaurants, diners, and other commercial applications. By choosing to house your business within a modular unit, you can complete your build faster while equipping yourself with a modern, comfortable, and fully customized facility.

Shipping Container Restaurants

At BMarko Structures, we specialize in a wide range of commercial modular buildings, including modular restaurant construction. We fulfill orders to our customers’ unique specifications — we can help you assess your needs and develop the perfect modular design for your restaurant.


Let’s examine a few facets of the modular design and construction process and consider how utilizing a modular unit for your restaurant would make a great choice.

Modular Restaurant Design Process

Each of our modular restaurant components starts with a re-purposed shipping container. Shipping containers are available in a wide range of sizes, but we use a 20’ or 40’ long unit for most commercial applications. Modular units can be stacked on top of one another or placed side by side for additional floor space.

We work with suppliers around the country to find the right containers for your needs and budget. Generally speaking, any unit can be a candidate for converting to a modular restaurant. While newer containers are more expensive, they require less cleanup time to remove dents, rust and other imperfections.

Benefits of Modular Restaurant Construction

Cost savings

Modular restaurant buildings are an economical choice. Compared to renting or buying an existing property, you’ll get a fully customized facility that doesn’t require expensive retrofitting to accommodate your needs. In addition, when compared to conventional construction processes, modular construction is less expensive. It requires fewer labor hours and material costs as the frame of the unit arrives intact. In addition, modular construction can be completed faster, which means you can be up and running in less time, allowing you to focus on increasing your sales and building your brand. You won’t have to sacrifice any of the comforts of conventional construction with a modular unit, either. You can still outfit the interiors with drywall, top-of-the-line appliances, and the flooring of your choice. You’ll get a restaurant that embodies your unique vision of an excellent dining experience.

Energy efficiency

In a busy restaurant, utility bills make up a large portion of your overhead costs. Any improvements in efficiency translate to considerable savings on a month-to-month basis. With a modular restaurant construction, it’s easy to include high-efficiency appliances, solar panels, insulation and other green technologies. In addition, your choice of a modular unit is an investment in an emerging green building technology: the repurposing of building materials. Choosing to house your restaurant in a modular space keeps perfectly usable material out of landfills and helps encourage consumers to re-use materials in a creative and innovative manner.


Modular restaurant construction gives you free reign to design the best kitchen area and front-of-house for your team. Rather than forcing you to use a set floor plan, BMarko’s modular restaurant designs are flexible and modifiable in plenty of convenient ways. Modular buildings are also easy to expand when you need to accommodate future growth. Simply stack a modular addition on top of your existing structure or add a couple on to the side for several hundred extra square feet. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to provide new customers and staff with a comfortable space.


Décor and design play a large role in how your restaurant is perceived, and the type of crowd it attracts. While BMarko’s modular construction process gives you plenty of options for creating a comfortable, conventional space both inside and out, many clients find the industrial look of a repurposed shipping container to be one of its key selling points. Choose a modular restaurant to give your eatery the edge it needs in a fiercely competitive culinary landscape.

From giving your team the freedom to move to attracting a hip crowd to your restaurant’s unique look, modular construction is a great choice for your establishment!

Shipping Container Coffee Shops & Bars

Customized shipping containers are excellent choices for new coffee shops and hip bars. A recent study conducted by Ohio State University revealed that 60 percent of restaurants fail in their first year of existence and 80 percent fail within five years. As reported by BusinessInsider.com, Robert Irvine, celebrity chef and star of the hit show, “Restaurant Impossible,” lists the following as the top causes of restaurant failures:

While Carrie Luxem, president and CEO of Restaurant HR Group, agrees with many of the things on Irvine’s list, she considers poor location and overspending to be two of the biggest reasons why restaurants fail. Luxem warns that some of the pitfalls of a bad location include poor visibility, insufficient parking and a lack of foot traffic. When it comes to overspending, Luxem says that some restauranteurs spend too much even before they open their doors on remodeling projects that aren’t always necessary.

Overcoming the reasons Irvine cited as being responsible for failure in the restaurant industry can be done with hands-on training and education. You can get experience by working in someone else’s restaurant before you strike out on your own, for instance, and learn how to prepare food and execute the menu you’re going to offer. You can also learn about the level of service customers expect at the same time, which will help you train your employees to tend to your customers appropriately down the line. You can learn how to manage others by taking a class or consulting with a seasoned mentor. You can also pick up the accounting skills you’ll need to succeed as a business owner by taking a class in a formal setting or online.

Conquering the obstacles to success that Luxem discussed is also within your control. You can research the demographics in a few areas where you’d like to open your restaurant to see which market your establishment will be most likely to succeed in, for example. You can also avoid overspending by identifying the projects that are critical to your success and stay within your budget by not adding unnecessary ones to your to-do list.

Sometimes, no matter how much research you do about the demographics and competition in the area and regardless of how careful you are to stick to your budget, your business may still be literally and figuratively positioned to fail. Often, this is due to a change in the neighborhood, a “jinxed” location that once seemed perfect, or something else. You can avoid pitfalls like these, however, by sidestepping a traditional retail location such as a strip mall and opening your restaurant as a portable pop-up eatery instead.

One of the biggest advantages that pop-up restaurant ideas have over conventional brick-and-mortar commercial locations is that they give you the option of relocating your business if you picked the wrong retail space or the consumer market around your restaurant changes. Another benefit is that a mobile pop-up is normally less expensive to customize to your exact standards than it is to build a permanent structure.

Shipping Container, Modular & Pop-Up Restaurant Idea


Even though you may not have thought about alternative building materials such as shipping containers before, the versatility they provide has been recognized by industry leaders, including Taco Bell, Subway and Starbucks. Taco Bell debuted its first shipping container store at an annual film and music festival in Austin, Texas in 2015. Starbucks introduced its drive-thru shipping container outlets in 2014 and is already using them in Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Oregon, Kansas City and Colorado.

During the construction of the Freedom Tower in New York City, Subway was tapped for what is perhaps the most creative pop-up restaurant idea to-date, and it was certainly one of the highest. While construction continued on the 105-floor structure, workers found it increasingly difficult to make it to ground level, eat their lunches and return to work on time the higher the building became. Subway solved this problem by using shipping containers to make a portable restaurant that could be lifted to the height of whatever floor the workers were on, saving them valuable time.

Pop-up restaurant ideas aren’t limited to national chain operators, though. Many independent restaurant owners have also recognized the practicality and flexibility that shipping containers provide and have used them to either add onto an existing structure or to create a new one. Asheville, NC residents Matt Logan, Kristie Quinn and chef Mark Rosenstein, used 19 shipping containers to open America’s largest shipping container restaurant in the spring of 2015, for instance. Amazingly, the structure was installed in just three days.

Ska Brewing opened the Container Restaurant to offer guests fare that would complement their beer tasting experience when they visited the brewery’s Durango, CO campus. The Container Restaurant consists of two containers that are positioned on top of each other. The Container Restaurant uses its lower level to prepare food while its upper container serves as an outdoor patio where people can eat their food and enjoy an elevated view of the brewery’s property.

While shipping containers are ideal for large-scale operations because they can be used to build outward as well as upward, they are also perfect for smaller businesses. If you’re trying to think of a pop-up restaurant idea that will enable you to enjoy the many benefits that come with having a mobile structure made from durable materials and the strong structure of a modified shipping container, you may want to consider the following popular ideas:


Shipping Container Coffee Shops & Cafés

If you’re interested in a modular café or mobile coffee shop, you have a lot options if you choose to establish your business using a shipping container. Standard shipping containers range in size from 20-feet to over 50-feet in length. While a shipping container’s usual ceiling height is eight-feet, six-inches, containers that have a nine-foot, six-inch ceiling are available.

Shipping containers are made with 16-gauge corrugated steel which provides a modern industrial look, but you can alter the appearance of a container with materials such as siding. While Taco Bell decided to leave the external appearance of the containers used to make its first shipping container outlet intact, Starbucks chose to alter the look of its drive-thru shipping container locations by adding reclaimed wood paneling to the outside of each one.

Since shipping containers can be positioned next to or on top of each other and can bear hundreds of thousands of pounds of weight as a function of their design and the materials used to make them, the options you have for the configuration of your shipping container coffee house are nearly limitless.

Although shipping containers can be made to construct a permanent structure, the fact that they were originally made to be transported on boats, trucks and trains makes them ideal for mobile businesses. Since they were moved from location to location and from one form of transportation to another during their shipping careers, shipping containers are outfitted to be picked up and loaded onto a truck with ease.

Locations for portable coffee shop or café:

Car Parks


Dog Parks


Construction Sites

Commuting Stations

Business Parks

If you already own a business and want an extra income stream, you may want to put a shipping container café in your own parking lot. You can use your portable coffee shop to serve items that complement what you serve in your permanent location, or you can use it to serve food when your restaurant is closed. For instance, if your permanent establishment only serves lunch and dinner, you can serve breakfast in your shipping container coffee house.

shipping container location ideas

Benefits of Mobile Coffee Shop Construction

The benefits of having a mobile coffee shop or modular café include your ability to move your business from one location to another. This advantage can literally save your business if you didn’t initially pick an ideal location or if the mix of consumers in your area changes. It also gives you the opportunity to capitalize on special events in your area because you can haul your portable coffee shop to them.

Additional benefits of mobile coffee shop construction include:


Shipping Container Café Floor Plans

For some ideas of how you may want to lay out your modular café, take a look at the graphic designs below:


shipping-container-coffee-shop 3d

Value & Cost of Portable Coffee Shops, Coffee Houses & Cafés

The cost of a portable coffee shop varies depending on many factors, including the number of shipping containers you’re going to use to create your mobile structure. Other factors that will impact the cost of your modular café include your location and the amount of work involved with customizing your structure to suit your particular needs.

The condition of the containers used to make your shipping container coffee house will also affect the amount you’ll pay. Shipping containers are considered new or retired. New containers were used to ship goods across the ocean just once, whereas retired containers made multiple trips on the open water. Since they have less wear and tear, new containers generally cost more than retired containers. As a general rule, you can expect to pay as little as $1,600 for a retired shipping container and up to $5,000 for a new one.


Shipping Container Bars & Shipping Container Beer Gardens

If you’re thinking about building a beer garden or bar, shipping containers are cost-effective building blocks you can use to create a portable structure to house your business. Since they can be customized to fit into a space of just about any size, having a shipping container beer garden means you can open to the public in a location that may otherwise be unusable as a retail space.

Historically, beer gardens are in locations that have ample shady and sunny areas. Where shade isn’t provided naturally by trees and other vegetation, many restauranteurs use umbrellas to create shaded spots for their guests to get out of the sun. While traditional beer gardens are paved with gravel to help rainwater drain quickly and keep their cellars cool, some establishments have opted to use materials such as pavers and bricks to pave their lots. Naturally, the centerpiece of a beer garden is its drink dispensary, whether it’s a galvanized tub filled with ice where people can literally grab their next drink or a bar that consumers approach to place their drink orders.

With a shipping container bar, you can create a mobile beer garden that has to devote less space to its structure than it would if it had a brick-and-mortar building instead. This means you’ll be able to seat more paying patrons, or you can spread your tables and chairs further apart for added comfort.


Benefits of Modular Bars & Mobile Beer Gardens

In addition to possibly needing less space for a structure, a shipping container beer garden provides the added benefit of portability. If you want a location that has more natural shade, you can relocate your business. If you want a spot that offers you the chance to serve more guests at once or one that already has the paving and landscaping that appeals to you, you can easily transport your pop-up beer garden there. If a special event is coming up, you can temporarily relocate your shipping container bar to maximize your sales.

The benefits that are attributable to shipping container coffee shops also apply to modular bars. Additional benefits of structures made from shipping containers include the following:


Shipping Container Bar Floor Plans

If you’re looking for a functional floor plan for your shipping container beer garden, consider one of the ones provided below:



Value & Cost of Pop-Up Bars & Pop-Up Beer Gardens

The cost of a pop-up beer garden or bar varies in accordance with the same factors that affect the price of a mobile coffee shop or café. If you want to have a fully customized shipping container beer garden that measures 160 square feet, you can expect to spend as low as $25,000. That estimated price includes the delivery of your mobile beer garden on a flatbed.

The good news is that shipping container structures offer tax advantages that buildings made from other materials don’t. The Internal Revenue Service considers each container used to make your pop-up beer garden equipment. This allows you to amortize your shipping container structure on your federal tax returns in seven years instead of the 15 to 30 years over which you’d have to amortize another type of building.


Why BMarko Structures

BMarko Structures works with entrepreneurs throughout the country to help them realize their dream of opening a new business or expanding their current one. Whether your dream is to open a mobile beer garden, a modular café or something else, our in-house team of structural engineers and designers will help your dream become a reality by creating a portable shipping container structure that’s fully customized to meet your unique needs.

Our shipping container structures will give you the flexibility needed to increase the chances you will succeed in the restaurant industry affordably. We’ll create a 3-D model of your portable structure to ensure it has everything you need before we even begin construction. As we build your shipping container structure, we’ll pay attention to all of the small details that will make your building stand apart from the competition.

We’ll install your shipping container structure on-site, and we’ll secure the necessary permits as well. Because we believe in you and your business, we may even be the first paying customers to try your food.

Getting Started With BMarko

At BMarko, we strive to make the design and building process of your modular restaurant as easy as possible. We’ll assist you with all stages of the process, from sourcing the right raw materials to ensuring you have the proper permits necessary to build. We’re interested in building a network of satisfied customers who are proud of their innovative design choices; our customers become advocates for modular construction.

To learn more about what’s involved in building a modular restaurant, download our free white paper today, or contact our office to speak with an engineer directly.