5 Ways to Use Shipping Containers for Food Service


Shipping container kitchens are right on trend this year. That means a couple things: more people are interested in opening their first container restaurant, and many of those people will be shocked when they find out the level of thought required for the design. The first step to ensure that you’re making the most out of your time and budget, is to make sure that you and the designer are speaking the same language. That means, being very specific about your plans for the kitchen or restaurant. Below are 5 examples of how shipping containers may be utilized for food service and some of their defining features.

Beverage Service:

Also known as a bar, these containers usually do not serve food. Instead, they utilize the room for kegerators, soda machines, beer coolers, glasses, and a few bar tenders. Shark Wake Park is a perfect example of a well-utilized shipping container bar. These structures are more about customer interactions than preparing the finest ingredients, and don’t have to worry about expensive, bulky kitchen equipment.

Shipping Container Bar


These simple set-ups are ideal for festivals, games, concerts, and other events. They usually consist of pre-packaged food and drink. The equipment list will be limited and typically will have a cooler, point of sale, and small fare like popcorn machines or hotdog roasters. For the last three years, we’ve worked with CIM Group to help Charlotte’s epicenter to provide simple dishes during the annual Taste of Charlotte event. No items are cooked or prepped inside the container. Instead, it simply serves as a distribution point.

Mobile Food Service

Warm Service/Commissary:

This kind of kitchen is incredibly popular, because you are still able to serve fresh-made food, without the added expense of an industrial oven and hood. With a commissary, all your cooking and food prep is done at a secondary location. So, you’ll only need the tools and equipment necessary to warm and assemble your dishes before serving them to your customer. An established restaurant, for instance, can start a satellite location to appeal to a completely different demographic. Fresh Box at UNM is an excellent example, as they never cook any of their items in the container. Instead, they assemble and sell their dishes from previously prepared ingredients.

Shipping Container Restaurant

Full restaurant:

The easiest to explain, but the most challenging to implement; full-service restaurants are functionally identical to any other restaurant you’ve visited. They are stand-alone eateries and all prep, cooking, grilling, frying, and baking are done on-site, inside the container. The amount of equipment and room, means you can be much more flexible with your menu and staff, but it also means you’ll be paying a little more for all the bells and whistles.

Shipping Container Restaurant

Teaching/Showroom Kitchen:

Full service restaurant’s celebrity cousin. Teaching kitchens and showrooms have extremely high level of finishes, and special lighting that makes the appliances appear to sparkle. They usually incorporate AV system while maintaining all the functions of an industrial kitchen. The upside to this design is; it’s much more flexible, as the generator and water tank make it easily mobile. Not to mention, it looks wonderful on video.


Teaching Kitchen Shipping Container


Whether you’re serving gourmet cuisine, light fare, or nothing at all, there are no limits to the imagination. Shipping containers and purpose-built structures are perfect for housing kitchens of all shapes and sizes. If you would like to learn more about building container restaurants, download the eBook below, “Shipping Container Restaurants 101”.