How to plan a Coffee Cart

If you found this post, you must be getting ready to plan some sort of caffeinated goodness at your school. YOU ARE AMAZING! Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make the teachers and staff feel loved. 

In addition to this post, I created a free downloadable "Appreciation Coffee Cart: Planning Worksheets and Checklist" that walks you through the entire planning process. I'll share with you my tips and tricks, my exact SignUp Genius wording, and make this process as streamlined as possible.  

How to plan a coffee bar or coffee cart for teacher appreciation and staff appreciation.

Coffee Cart or Pick Up?

This is entirely up to you. I have done both. The main factor to consider is the number of staff members at your school or office.

If your school has a small staff, a coffee cart may not be cost effective for you. It all depends on the numbers. The coffee cart I use charges by the hour, not the drink. If you have 10 staff members, buying drinks from Starbucks would be more budget friendly. However, if you have 50 staff members, hiring a coffee cart would be would be the less expensive option.

Something else to consider is coffee pick up. If you are ordering custom drinks from Starbucks or another coffee shop, do you have enough volunteers willing and able to pick them up bright and early in the morning? The most drinks one person can reliably carry in their car is eight, tops

If you do decide to go the coffee shop pick-up route, this post is for you!


Coffee Cart Logistics


If you have run the numbers, and want to have a coffee cart come to your school during Appreciation Week (or any special breakfast, really) you need to contact them sooner rather than later. They can book up months in advance, especially for popular dates like Appreciation Week.


Ask your coffee cart what their space and electricity requirements are ahead of time. Often times the cart is pulled by a large truck and you will need to reserve parking for them. They will also need access to electricity. The school janitor is usually your go-to person for coordinating things like that.


Coffee carts are rain or shine. They come prepared with tents for themselves, but not for those waiting in line. Keep an eye on the weather. If rain is in the forecast, ask your PTSA if they have tents you can use. If not, reach out to parents. Most soccer parents have giant tents and are happy to let you borrow them. 


Get your Coffee Cart for FREE!

OK, not free exactly, but "free" rolls off the tongue better than "paid for by parents." The result is the same. The coffee cart will not impact your budget. Let's go over how to get your coffee cart paid for by the parents at your school.


Calculate your drink price by dividing the cost of the coffee cart by the number of staff members at your school. If you have 60 staff members and charge $5 per drink, you will make at least $300 to offset the cost of your coffee cart.


One of the easiest and most popular Appreciation Week gifts for Room Parents is to bring teachers their favorite drink from Starbucks (or wherever). They will jump at the chance to pay you to handle it, and it saves them a trip through the drive thru before school, which we all know is craziness.

  • Get a complete staff list from the school’s office manager. Be sure to add student teachers, and support staff that are not included on the list (like the lunch ladies).
  • At the same time, ask if there are any staff members not scheduled to work on the day of your coffee cart. Do not include those people on your sign up.
  • Create a SignUp Genius form, and include every single staff member working on coffee cart day. This will avoid duplication. 
  • Like I said, coffee is one of the most popular and easiest Appreciation Week gifts. These sponsorships are going to go like hot cakes. Give your Appreciation Committee first crack at the sign up. Give them one day to sign up, then let the Room Parents have a turn. After they have a day to sign up, then open it up to the rest of the school. At that point there may not be anyone left! 


Save the parents at your school a trip through the drive thru and offset the cost of the coffee cart by letting them buy coffee for themselves too! I also buy coffee (out of the budget) for the parent volunteer setting up breakfast on the morning of the coffee cart and my adorable publicity crew.


Collecting Payments

Our SignUp Genius sponsorship form included the payment instructions shown below. (For the complete wording, download our free planning guide.)

Our amazing PTSA treasurer set up a payment page on their website for me. The school had their own online payment processing with lower rates than is available through SignUp Genius payments, PayPal, etc. I know nothing about the website other than it was built using Our School Pages.

To avoid processing fees you can always go the cash/check route, but online payments are so much less work. 

How to Pay For Your Coffee

Below is the wording we used on our SignUp Genius form. The "Here" button linked to our PTSA page where they collected the payments.

To streamline the caffeination process, we are accepting online payments! AFTER* you have successfully signed up (on SignUp Genius) to sponsor a warm beverage for your favorite staff member, you can click the link to pay for their coffee, and yours. 

Don't forget to buy one for yourself! You deserve it!

*To avoid duplication, is important that you sign-up BEFORE paying for a staff member's coffee.

Click HERE to pay for your coffee. 

The first year, some parents went straight to the PTSA payment page and paid for staff coffees without first signing up to sponsor the staff member on SignUp Genius. After that happened a handful of times, a second step was added to the checkout process. After selecting the staff members to sponsor (from a drop down menu), parents were taken to a sign-up confirmation page. There, parents had to confirm that they had signed up to sponsor the staff member. Only then could they proceed to the checkout page. The sponsorship confirmation page also included a link back to the SignUp Genius form for those who had skipped the initial sign-up step. I told you, coffee sponsorships go like hot cakes!

The payment page also included the option for parents to pre-pay for their own coffee and hot chocolate for their student (also $5 each). On average, pre-paid parent and student drinks made us an extra $50.

Every couple of days, the treasurer would give me a payment report to cross reference the sponsorship sign-ups with payments received. This made it easy for me to follow up with parents and remind them to pre-pay for their sponsored coffee(s). SignUp Genius made it easy to send an email to everyone who hadn't paid yet.


Coffee Certificates

Every sponsor received a certificate to present to their staff member. I printed the certificates, and put them in a manilla envelope in the PTSA box. I emailed the sponsors (through SignUp Genius, of course) letting them know when and where they could pick up the certificates. 

TIP: Send an email to the school staff reminding them of the coffee cart and breakfast the next morning. Let them know that the coffee is complimentary and nothing is required to receive their special drink. 

The certificates should not be required to receive coffee. Why? You don't know when the parents will present their staff member with the certificate. Some parents (smartly) put the coffee certificate in the staff member's mail box the afternoon before. Some students like to present it to their teacher at the beginning of the school day... after the coffee cart. The purpose of the coffee certificate is really just to let staff members know who to thank for sponsoring their coffee. It also provides something for parents to physically give to the staff, which is nice. Some parents will put the certificate in a pretty coffee cup or travel mug.



My first coffee cart was during our LEGO-inspired Appreciation Week. The "Everything is Awesome because of Coffee!" cart really was awesome. I could hardly wait to plan the "High Falutin' Coffee" cart for our "Best in the West!" Appreciation Week the next year.


I posted coffee cart posters one week before the coffee cart, directing everyone to the PTSA page where parents could pre-order coffee for themselves and hot cocoa for their kids. 

One day before the coffee cart, I hung new posters reminding parents that the coffee cart was TOMORROW and to be sure to pre-order their coffee.


I provided the school volunteer in charge of social media with digital versions of both posters. She posted them on the school Facebook page one week before, and one day before, along with the purchase link.

The night before the coffee cart, the school volunteer in charge of the weekly emails sent out a special email blast to all parents reminding them of the coffee cart, along with a link to pre-purchase coffee.

The morning of the coffee cart, the school volunteer in charge of social media posted one last time about the coffee cart.


The best publicity was by far my little volunteers. I recruited my daughter and a few of her friends to walk around the drop-off areas in the front and back of the school, with signs reminding everyone that the coffee cart was TODAY! I paid them in hot cocoa. I'm pretty sure we sold at least five hot cocoas every year to kids with FOMO. Ha!



I designed drink labels (printed on sticker paper) that coordinated with our theme, and provided them to the coffee cart baristas for all the cups. I also placed a sign on their cart, my payment table (for day-of cash purchases), and of course the signs my helpers were walking around with. 

As an extra little treat, I also had mini chocolate bars at my table and gave one to everyone who ordered coffee.


It's Your Turn!

Are you feeling prepared and ready to plan a coffee cart for the superstars at your school?! I created a Planning Worksheet and Checklist to walk you through the process. It has additional helpful information and lists not included in this post. You can do it!