Start a Food Truck Business in Tennessee | Essential Steps

Tennessee Food Truck Business

Starting an LLC in Tennessee can be exciting and challenging, especially if you form a food truck business. As food trucks continue to rise in popularity nationwide, standing at the helm of your mobile eatery offers a unique opportunity to capitalize on this booming industry. From understanding local regulations to crafting an enticing menu, it’s a business endeavor that requires passion, diligence and a knack for culinary excellence. This comprehensive guide will provide the information and resources you need to Start a Food Truck Business in Tennessee.

Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you understand the process. You must be guided by all the factors gathered in this article.

What is a Food Truck Business?

A food truck business in Tennessee is a mobile food service operation that sells prepared food from a vehicle, typically a truck or van. Food trucks have become increasingly popular in Tennessee due to their flexibility, affordability, and ability to serve various cuisines and customers. Food truck businesses in Tennessee must comply with local regulations and obtain the necessary permits and licenses to operate safely and legally. They must also invest in high-quality equipment, hire and train a skilled team, and market their business effectively to attract and retain customers.

Successful food truck businesses in Tennessee offer creative, delicious, and affordable menu items. They often participate in local events, festivals, and markets to build their brand and reach a wider audience. If you want to start an LLC for your food truck business, consider the Best LLC Services in Tennessee.

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It is recommended that you consult with a legal professional before starting a food truck business. They will know what is best for you and your future company. You can always form an LLC to protect your personal assets from business debts.


Steps to Starting a Food Truck Business in Tennessee

To launch Tennessee food truck business, you must follow the guidelines that include researching of local market and competition, developing a business plan, obtaining the necessary license and permit, securing funding, choosing and outfitting your food truck, hiring and training your team, launching your food truck, and lastly, maintaining your food truck business.

Step 1: Research the Local Market and Competition

Before you dive into the food truck business, it’s essential to understand the local market and competition. Spend time researching the types of food trucks and cuisines already available in your area, and identify any gaps or niches that your food truck could fill.

Additionally, consider the demographics of your target customers and the best locations to serve them. It is better to know that there are currently 7,080,262 people (2024 data) in Tennessee. Are specific events, neighborhoods, or business districts attracting many potential customers? Use this information to help shape your food truck concept, menu, and marketing strategy.

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan

A solid business plan is crucial for any new business, and a food truck is no exception. Your business plan should include the following elements:

  • Executive Summary: A brief overview of your food truck concept, target market, and goals.
  • Company Description: The legal structure of your business, ownership information, and long-term vision.
  • Market Analysis: A detailed look at the food truck industry in Tennessee, your target market, and competition.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: How you plan to promote your food truck and attract customers.
  • Menu and Pricing: The specific dishes you plan to serve, their ingredients, and pricing information.
  • Operations Plan: Information on your food truck’s daily operations, including staffing, hours of operation, and supply chain management.
  • Financial projections: A detailed breakdown of your startup costs, ongoing expenses, and revenue projections.

Step 3: Register Your Food Truck Business

Before you can start your food truck business in Tennessee, you will need to register your business with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Here are the necessary steps to register your Tennessee food truck business:

Name Your Food Truck Business

Selecting a name for your Tennessee food truck business is essential to the formation process. There is a complete guide on Tennessee Business Name Search for you to have a proper Tennessee food truck business name. 

In Tennessee, if you do not wish to file your food truck business right away but want to hold the name that you have decided on, then you can reserve your food truck business name for 4 months. You must file a name reservation application with Tennessee Secretary of State to keep the name. 

You can also register your business under a different legal name if your preferred name isn’t available.  Once you have chosen a name, you can submit an application for the Tennessee DBA (doing business as). However, before filing a DBA, you should know that you need to renew your DBA every five years, which costs varies by county.

You can check the availability of your desired business name by searching the Tennessee Secretary of State Business Information Search‘s website.

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Appoint a Registered Agent

A Registered Agent is a person or entity responsible for receiving legal documents and official notices on behalf of your Tennessee food truck business. In Tennessee, your Registered Agent must:

  • Be a resident of Tennessee or a business entity authorized to do business.
  • Have a physical address in Tennessee (P.O. boxes are not acceptable)

Choosing a reliable and responsible Registered Agent is essential, as failure to receive and respond to legal documents can seriously affect your business. 

You can serve as your Registered Agent, appoint a friend or family member, or hire the Best Tennessee Registered Agent Services.

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File For Articles of Organization or Charter for Profit Corporation

If you form an LLC for your food truck business, you must file the Tennessee Articles of Organization, which costs $300. However, if you form Tennessee Corporation for your food truck business, you must file the Charter for Profit Corporation. The Charter for Profit Corporation filing fee costs $100 for online and by mail filing.

It is important to provide accurate and complete information on this document, as errors or omissions may result in delays or rejection of your filing.

  • Online Filing: Create an account/Log in to the SOS site, get the e-form, fill it, and submit online. Or get the online PDF, fill it up and upload it back on the site.  
  • Offline Filing: Send the form by mail to or drop it off in person at Corporate Filings, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 6th Floor, William R. Snodgrass Tower, Nashville, Tennessee 37243

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Create an Operating Agreement

Creating an operating agreement in Tennessee is an important document containing your company’s organizational details. It is optional to draft an operating agreement in most states. Yet, having one as an internal document is strongly advised. It includes the following;

  • About Business
  • Members and management
  • Capital contribution
  • Profit Distribution
  • Change of membership
  • Dissolution

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Obtain an Employer Identification Number

You must first obtain an Employer identification number (EIN) in Tennessee from the IRS if you will open a business bank account or hire an employee for your food truck business. 

The application of an EIN in Tennessee can be through the following:

  • Apply Online- The online EIN application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN.
  • Apply by Fax- Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number), after ensuring that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information.
  • Apply by Mail- The EIN application Form SS-4 can be filed via mail. The processing time frame to receive the mail is four weeks.
  • Apply by Telephone-International Applicants – International applicants may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to obtain their EIN.

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Step 4: Obtain the Necessary Licenses and Permits

Starting a food truck business in Tennessee requires several licenses and permits. These may vary depending on your city or county, so check with your local government for the most accurate information. However, some of the most common licenses and permits you’ll need include the following:

  • Health Permit: A permit from your local health department that certifies your food truck meets all health and safety requirements for food service.
  • Food Safety Certification: In Tennessee, at least one person on your team must have a valid food safety certification to ensure proper food handling and sanitation practices.
  • Mobile Food Facility (MFF) Permit: This permit, issued by your city or county, allows you to operate a food truck within their jurisdiction.
  • Tennessee Sales Tax Permit: A permit from the Tennessee Department of Revenue that allows you to collect and remit sales tax on the food you sell.
  • Fire Safety Inspection: Depending on your local regulations, your food truck may need to pass a fire safety inspection before you can begin operating.
  • Zoning and Parking Permits: Some cities and counties have specific zoning and parking regulations for food trucks. Be sure to research these requirements and obtain any necessary permits.
  • Business License: Your local city or county government may require a business license. In Tennessee, the business license fee costs $50 – $300. If you want to know the process of getting a business license, you can check out “How to Get a Business License in Tennessee.”

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Step 5: Secure Funding

Starting a food truck business in Tennessee can be expensive, with startup costs ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 or more, depending on the size and complexity of your operation. You may need to secure funding from various sources to cover these costs.

You can borrow from different banks, credit unions, and online lenders to start a food truck business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers loan programs for small businesses, including food trucks.

However, consider planning to apply for Tennessee Small Business Loans for your food truck business.

Step 6: Choose and Outfit Your Food Truck

Once you have a clear vision for your food truck and the necessary funding, it’s time to find the perfect vehicle for your business. Consider factors like size, layout, and equipment when choosing a food truck, as well as your budget and the specific needs of your menu.

You can purchase a new or used food truck or lease one, depending on your financial situation and preferences. When outfitting your truck, invest in high-quality, durable equipment and comply with all local health and safety regulations.

Step 7: Hire and Train Your Team

A successful food truck relies on a dedicated team of employees who can efficiently prepare and serve food, interact with customers, and maintain a clean and organized workspace. When hiring staff for your food truck, look for candidates with relevant experience, strong work ethic, and excellent customer service skills.

Once you’ve assembled your team, provide thorough training on your menu, food safety procedures, and customer service expectations. Your employees are the face of your business, so they must represent your brand well and deliver a positive experience for your customers.

Step 8: Launch and Market Your Food Truck Business

With your food truck outfitted, permits obtained, and the team in place, it’s time to launch your Tennessee business. Choose a strategic location for your first day of operation, such as a popular event, a busy street, or a neighborhood with limited dining options.

To generate excitement and attract customers in Tennessee, specifically in Nashville, invest in marketing efforts, both online and offline. Create a website and social media accounts for your food truck, and post regular updates about your menu, location, and special promotions. Use eye-catching signage, flyers, and even branded merchandise to spread the word about your business.

Consider partnering with local businesses, attending community events, and participating in food truck festivals to increase your visibility and build a loyal customer base.

Step 9: Maintain Your Food Truck Business

Once your food truck is up and running, focus on maintaining high-quality food and service, and look for opportunities to grow your business. Continually evaluate your menu and pricing, adjusting based on customer feedback, food costs, and market trends.

Seek new locations, events, and partnerships to expand your reach and attract new customers. Consider offering catering services or expanding to additional food trucks as your business grows and becomes more profitable.

Benefits of a Food Truck Business

Starting a food truck business in Tennessee has become an increasingly popular choice among entrepreneurs, and for a good reason. The benefits of running a food truck are numerous, and they offer a great opportunity for those who want to dive into the food industry without the costs and restraints commonly associated with traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. Here are the lists of benefits that you should consider.

  • Low Initial Investment and Overhead Costs: One of the main benefits of starting a food truck business is that it requires significantly lower initial capital and overhead expenses compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. Food trucks require a smaller space, less labor, and fewer resources, making it more affordable to launch a new culinary concept or enter the market for the first time. This particularly appeals to aspiring business owners who may not have the funding for a full-sized restaurant but still want to pursue their passion for food.
  • Mobility and Flexibility: Another major advantage of running a food truck business is the flexibility of having a mobile kitchen. Food trucks can easily change locations to cater events, seek out new customers, or relocate to more profitable areas. This flexibility allows food truck owners to adapt their menu and marketing strategy based on local tastes, trends, and seasonal demand. They can also quickly respond to changes in the market, making their business more resilient to economic fluctuations.
  • Greater Creativity and Experimentation: The food truck industry is known for its creativity and diversity, with chefs experimenting with unique and innovative dishes that may not be as easily accepted in traditional culinary establishments. A food truck business allows entrepreneurs to test new recipes, culinary concepts, and fusion cuisine styles without major financial risks. If a particular dish is not well-received or profitable, the food truck operator can easily tweak and adjust the menu to better suit the tastes of their clientele.
  • Faster Expansion Opportunities: With reduced start-up and operating expenses, food truck businesses often have the advantage of expanding and scaling their operations more rapidly than traditional restaurants. A food truck owner can invest the profits generated from one successful truck in purchasing and launching additional mobile units, effectively increasing their market share and potential for revenue growth. Working with multiple trucks also allows food truck operators more opportunities to establish their brand presence in various locations simultaneously.
  • Catering and Event Services: Food trucks are perfectly designed for catering events, festivals, and private parties, offering food truck owners an additional revenue stream. With their mobile kitchens, food truck owners can take their business directly to the client’s location, providing a unique and convenient dining experience that is both memorable and versatile. This can help food truck operators develop strong word-of-mouth advertising and generate repeat business from loyal customers.
  • Direct Customer Interaction: Unlike traditional restaurant owners, food truck operators can interact directly with customers and build personal connections with diners. This can help foster customer loyalty and create a strong community following. Additionally, this direct feedback from customers can be invaluable for product development and improvement, allowing food truck owners to adjust their offerings and expand their culinary horizons based on their clientele’s preferences.
  • Social Media-Friendly Business: The food truck industry has embraced the power of social media, allowing owners to market and promote their businesses more effectively and affordably than ever before. With food truck culture becoming increasingly popular and mainstream, social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have become essential tools for driving awareness, attracting new customers, and updating patrons on the truck’s location. The mobile nature of a food truck makes it inherently shareable and visually appealing, allowing operators to build strong online visibility and continuously engage with their audience.

Starting a food truck business has many potential benefits for entrepreneurs looking to enter the food industry. With lower costs, greater mobility, and the opportunity for more experimentation and creativity, food truck operations provide an attractive and viable alternative to traditional restaurant investments.


What are the legal requirements to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, you need to get a business license and a food service permit to operate a food truck.
Do I need special permits to sell alcoholic beverages on my food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, you need a special permit from the state of Tennessee to sell alcoholic beverages on your food truck.
How much does it cost to get a food service permit in Tennessee?
The cost of getting a food service permit in Tennessee varies depending on the county you’re in.
Where can I park my food truck in Tennessee?
You can park your food truck in designated parking spots or events and festivals in Tennessee.
What kind of food can I sell on my food truck in Tennessee?
You can sell any type of food as long as you meet the state’s health and safety regulations.
Are there any restrictions on serving raw food on food trucks in Tennessee?
There are certain restrictions on serving raw food on food trucks in Tennessee to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Are there any requirements for the size of the food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, there are requirements for the size and weight of your food truck in Tennessee.
Do I need a commercial driver’s license to operate a food truck in Tennessee?
No, you don’t need a commercial driver’s license to operate a food truck in Tennessee.
Can I operate my food truck all year round in Tennessee?
Yes, you can operate your food truck all year round in Tennessee, but you may need to adjust your menu to account for seasonal changes.
How much should I budget to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
The cost of starting a food truck business in Tennessee varies, but it typically ranges from $25,000 to $150,000.
Should I hire employees or work alone on my food truck in Tennessee?
It depends on how much work you are willing to take on. Some people prefer to work alone, while others hire employees for their food truck business in Tennessee.
Can I sell food at events without a mobile food permit in Tennessee?
No, you must obtain a mobile food permit in Tennessee to sell food at events.
How do I get a business license in Tennessee?
You can obtain a business license from the county clerk’s office in the county where your food truck business is located in Tennessee.
Can I partner with other food truck owners in Tennessee?
Yes, partnering with other food truck owners can be beneficial. You can share resources and costs, and promote each other’s businesses in Tennessee.
How can I find events to sell at on my food truck in Tennessee?
You can search online for food truck events in Tennessee or contact event organizers directly.
What insurance do I need for my food truck business in Tennessee?
Some insurance requirements for food truck businesses in Tennessee include liability insurance, property insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.
Can I cook food on my food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, you can cook food on your food truck in Tennessee as long as you meet the state’s health and safety regulations.
Do I need a separate kitchen to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
No, you don’t necessarily need a separate kitchen to start a food truck business in Tennessee. Some people use their home kitchen as a base of operations.
How do I handle waste disposal on my food truck in Tennessee?
You must dispose of waste according to Tennessee’s environmental regulations.
Can I play music on my food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, you can play music on your food truck in Tennessee, but you should ensure that the volume is appropriate.
Smoking is not allowed in public places in Tennessee, but can I smoke on my food truck?
No, smoking is not allowed on food trucks in Tennessee.
Can I operate multiple food trucks in Tennessee?
Yes, you can operate multiple food trucks in Tennessee if you have the resources to do so.
How do I handle sales and tax collection on my food truck in Tennessee?
You must collect sales tax on all items sold on your food truck and report them on your tax return to the state of Tennessee.
Can I accept credit card payments on my food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, you can accept credit card payments on your food truck in Tennessee, and it’s often recommended that you do.
What hours can I operate my food truck in Tennessee?
You can operate your food truck during normal business hours in Tennessee, but some overnight operations may require additional permits.
Do I need to have a menu posted on my food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, you must have a menu posted on your food truck in Tennessee.
What do I do if I want to change the location of my food truck in Tennessee?
You must notify the county clerk’s office and relevant municipal authorities before moving your food truck to a new location in Tennessee.
Can I get a loan to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
Yes, there are loan programs available to help individuals get started with their food truck business in Tennessee.
How can I promote my food truck business in Tennessee?
You can use social media platforms, partner with event organizers, and participate in food truck festivals in Tennessee to promote your food truck business.
What licenses and permits do I need to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
You will need a business license from the state of Tennessee, a permit to operate a food truck in the county where you plan to operate, and food truck-specific permits like a commissary agreement and fire safety certificate.
Is it difficult to get a permit for a food truck in Tennessee?
It can depend on the county in which you want to operate your food truck, but generally, the process is straightforward as long as you meet the requirements.
Are there any restrictions on where a food truck can park in Tennessee?
Rules and regulations on where food trucks can park often depend on the city or county, but generally, there can be some restrictions based on local zoning laws.
How much does it cost to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
This can vary depending on a variety of factors such as the size of the food truck, city or county where you operate, as well as other start-up costs like equipment, inventory, and permits.
Must you have a commercial kitchen facility to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
Yes, Tennessee requires you to have a commissary in which your food truck is required to park overnight.
How long does it take to get all the permits needed to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
It can take anywhere from 60 to around 90 days, depending on the number and complexity of permits you need.
Do I need a special driver’s license to operate a food truck in Tennessee?
Not necessarily, but check with your specific county to see if they require a special license for food truck drivers.
Does Tennessee have specific food safety regulations for food trucks?
Yes, Tennessee Food safety regulations applied to food trucks.
Can you sell alcohol from a food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, some counties do allow food trucks to sell alcohol.
Do I need to be an experienced cook to start a food truck business in Tennessee?
No, but having basic food preparation and cooking skills will obviously help.
Does Tennessee require a specific type of insurance for food truck businesses?
Usually, commercial auto insurance is linked with the food truck insurance to provide coverage for accidents and injuries.
Are there grants available for starting a food truck business in Tennessee?
Yes, there may be grant opportunities depending on where you are located specifically in Tennessee.
How do you find good suppliers for your food truck’s ingredients?
You could start by attending food shows to see the latest and greatest ingredients and getting to know distributors in your state.
How do you price the food you’ll be selling from the food truck?
You need to calculate your overhead and profit margin, do some research on comparable products, and then set prices accordingly.
How do food trucks handle health inspections in Tennessee?
It’s the same as with restaurants in the area. You need to schedule an inspection from the local department of health to check if your operation is meeting local food safety and health regulations and best practices.
Do I need to join any industry organizations in Tennessee to operate a food truck?
Joining a startup incubator, such as Nashville’s MakeaYoubMap and partnering with other concessionaires and traders who share similar purpose with your state goals can be beneficial.
What are the most popular types of food trucks in Tennessee?
Southern barbeque, gourmet burgers, locally-sourced cuisine, and ethnic foods like Tex-Mex, or Asian flavours as per the interest of people.
How important is branding your food truck in Tennessee?
Building a successful food truck business in Tennessee or anywhere for that matter means first marketing and branding. It provides you character to build around and gives potential customers something about which to feel passionate.
Can I get a loan to start a food truck business in Tennessee, specifically?
Many banks or even Better Business Bureau may offer loans and coaching on setting up a business in Tennessee.
Do I need to create a business plan before starting a food truck in Tennessee?
Yes, in fact a business plan is aimed at outlining every kind of detail on how those units will feasibly generate income. Including permits that may apply due to where the food is sold or served.
How important is social media presence when building a food truck business in Tennessee?
A strong social media presence can have a direct impact on promoting specials, driving business and building relationships with customers.
Should I have a theme or concept for my food truck?
Consumers’ major expectation around dining experience has grown, and just like restaurant branding is now gaining speed, to align it with your food truck’s branding ideas or at least to add uniqueness.
Will a food truck need backup generators to run its electrical systems?
Answer :This decision usually comes down to the question of battery life and generator quality or distance of power availability from main or backup source.
How can one maximize their sales per day by roaming from place to place in Tennessee?
Research into community events or staying near larger stadiums or venues with information based blogs and posting creates a sense of security for new-attract.
What is the Nashville food truck scene like?
Known for its eclectic options that cater to a wide range of cuisines and dietary needs, there is no shortage of successful Nashville food trucks that downtown honky-tonks crave for between meals
Do you have tips for parking and setting up your food truck?
To draw the attention of folk, often trailer park or in regular parks are the locations where competitors are lacking or locations with a history (significant landmarks) could help to build easily acquaintance.
How can I manage expenses and keep track of my profits as a food truck business owner in Tennessee?
Implementing software programs could assit setting a routine method of doing your accounting and anticipate future cash flow movement, without lagging.
Why are gourmet burgers and southern barbeque favourites in Tennessee?
Tennesse has always been at the intersection of southern comfort and cooking skills, many developed a love for high-quality ingredients in the course, barbecue carts have grown up, leading, in turn, a surplus number of burger-trucks with them.
How much should I plan to spend on screening equipment?
Concession Services-TN requires a homegrown pre-assembled structure to channel the carbon monoxide each automobile productivity, checks the boilers effectiveness and alters the plan whenever, any storm sweep occurs, which spend within $2000 to $3000.
How do I know if my pricing strategy is successful and what prices align revenue?
Deep understanding about cost, demands and the likely outcomes from market studies or even virtual community of followers on different social media apps learning its reviews on services and ongoing comments.

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Starting a food truck business in Tennessee can be rewarding and profitable, but it requires careful planning, hard work, and perseverance. By following this comprehensive guide and staying informed about local regulations and industry trends, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful food truck in the vibrant Tennessee food scene. So go ahead, turn your culinary dreams into reality, and bring your unique flavors and dishes to the streets of Tennessee.

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