Opening a restaurant can be a real challenge, as it is estimated that up to one-quarter fail in their first year. However, if you succeed you could find yourself at the helm of an enterprise that is successful and fulfilling in the long term. Tennessee offers a great place to open a new restaurant because it is not already inundated with restaurants like New York or California. Before opening, it is important to comply with all the necessary licenses and requirements. These include liquor and food licenses and insurance for your service workers and food handlers.


Purchase workers' compensation insurance for your waiters, chefs and other staff. It is illegal to operate a business in Tennessee without this insurance. The insurance will kick in if any of your staff are injured on the job and will provide their salaries for as long as they are unable to work. Not required, but certainly a good idea, are other types of insurance including fire and property insurance for your restaurant.

Food and Liquor Licenses

Without these two types of licenses, it is illegal to serve food. The food license will require a $10 fee and a quick test online in 2010. To serve liquor, wine or beer you will need a liquor license, which is slightly more complicated to get. Apply for and receive a sales tax number and a "liquor by the drink" paper. Both of these are doled out by the state’s department of revenue. Then call the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission to ask for a liquor license application package. After filling out the paperwork and paying the fee, which will range upward from $300, you will receive your license.

Passing Inspections

It is not enough to get your licenses in order to open a restaurant. A few months in you must undergo testing by the local health inspector. If you have a liquor license you will also be inspected by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission to insure, for example, that your establishment is clean and doesn't hold more than the number of people you listed on your application.