Temporary Food Establishments

What is a Temporary Food Establishment?

A Temporary Food Establishment (TFE) is a type of food establishment that operates for a period of no more than 14 consecutive days in conjunction with a single event or celebration, including carnivals, fairs, festivals, and other events.  These establishments are distinguished from other classes of food establishments in the Food Regulations, such as mobile food establishments, caterers, and traditional restaurants.

How is a TFE different from other types of food establishments?

  • TFEs typically operate with limited resources (water, electricity, wastewater disposal) and for a short duration.
  • Unlike permanent facilities, TFEs operate with equipment staged beneath a tent or similar open-air cover.
  • TFEs are often seasonal in nature and may operate at a fixed location such as a farmers market, or at an event or celebration including but not limited to: festivals, community fairs, music venues, sporting events, and other public gatherings.

Do TFEs need to comply with the CFPM requirement?

As specified in 12VAC5-421-55 of the Virginia Food Regulations, by July 1, 2023, the Person in Charge (PIC) of a food establishment, including a TFE, will be required to be a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM).

A “Food Establishment” by definition includes a “temporary facility or location where consumption is on or off the premises.” Thus, a TFE is a type of Food Establishment. Section 12VAC5-421-55 Certified Food Protection Manager of the Virginia Food Regulations contains no specific exemption for TFEs nor has there been an exemption for TFEs from the Demonstration of Knowledge requirement. Only TFEs that meet the criteria for exemption in 12VAC5-421-55 B. or § 35.1-25. will not need to have a CFPM.

Learn more about the CFPM requirement on our Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) Certification webpage.

Food Vendors- When do I need a permit?

If you are planning on operating at a temporary event, you are required to obtain the applicable permit from the Local Health Department prior to operation. The permit must be posted where it can easily be seen by the public. A TFE permit is valid only for the specified permit period (up to 12 months) and is not transferable from person to person. Please refer to ‘Application Approval’ below for further information on how to apply for a Temporary Food Establishment Permit.

If you hold a valid permanent VDH Food Establishment Permit (restaurant, caterer, mobile food establishment, etc.) and are interested in also operating at a temporary event, you do not need to obtain an additional permit so long as all food is prepared in accordance with the Board of Health Food Regulations. The local health department in which you operate your permanent establishment needs to be aware that you also plan to operate at a temporary event. A copy of the VDH Food Establishment Permit must be posted during the event. If you propose to operate at an event in a manner that is not consistent with approved plans and specifications, you are required to obtain a Temporary Food Establishment Permit.

TFEs at Farmers Markets

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between VDH and the Virginia Department of Agriculture (VDACS) many food vendors at farmers markets will fall under the Procedural Agreement as part of the MOU that exempts them from permitting and inspection by VDH. However, that is not to say that there will never be TFEs at farmers markets that require a VDH permit and inspection.

Examples of food operations at farmers markets that could require a VDH TFE permit include:

  • Vendors wanting to serve or vend more than a sample offering of a food produced at a manufacturing plant subject to jurisdictional agency inspection.
  • Vendors who would otherwise be exempt from permit under Code of Virginia §35.1-14 because they are selling their own farm-produced products yet are supplementing said products with foods obtained from an otherwise approved source.
  • Vendors who want to cook and serve any foods on site that are outside of those specifically produced on their own farm.

Still have questions?

Check with your local health department for specific guidance on what is required or contact the Food Safety Experts at VDH.

Application Approval

Temporary Food Establishment Application

To apply for a Temporary Food Establishment Permit, submit a completed application and fee of $40 to the local health department in which the TFE will be located. The application and fee must be submitted at least ten calendar days prior to the day in which the TFE will operate. Any TFE applicants who are not approved will be notified in writing of the reasons for denial and be provided with appeal rights.


Prior to issuing the TFE permit, an environmental health specialist will conduct an on-site pre-operational inspection to determine compliance with the Food Regulations.   The Code of Virginia (§35.1-22) requires that all restaurants (e.g. food establishments) be inspected at least annually, with no more than 12 months elapsing between each such inspection.

Additional inspections of TFEs are determined using a risk categorization with emphasis on those:

  1. That engage in significant preparation and holding of TCS (Time/Temperature Control for Safety) foods onsite, and
  2. Whose performance history shows repeated non-conformance with the Food Regulations.

For more information, refer to the Addendum included with the TFE Policy.

Temporary Event Coordinators

Event coordinators often provide temporary infrastructure that includes portable toilets and handwash stations for temporary food establishments. An Event Coordinator Application may be used to alert the local health department as to the dates and times of a proposed event, the number of food vendors, and important resources such as the provision of potable water and wastewater disposal. Event coordinators should submit the application at least 10 calendar days before the event in order to assist in the review of the individual temporary food establishment applications.

Additional Resources

Temporary Food Establishment Policy (TFE Policy)- includes permit and fee information, inspection guidance for Environmental Health Specialists, and enforcement policy for local health departments.