About TBE

About TBE

OUR MISSION
"TO PROVIDE HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE WHILE MAXIMIZING EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEGALLY BLIND INDIVIDUALS IN VENDING/FOOD SERVICE OPERATIONS"

OUR FOCUS
"TO PROVIDE HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS AND OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO OUR CUSTOMERS."

WHO ARE WE?
Tennessee Business Enterprises, or TBE as we like to call it, is one of the best-kept secrets around. It is a unique public/private partnership that enables independent business people to work in concert with the State of Tennessee to provide vending and other food services to customers across the Volunteer State. These business people just happen to be legally blind.

TBE is, in effect, a multi-million dollar food service business operated by the State of Tennessee. Its mission is to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for legally blind citizens of our state who have been trained and licensed to manage food service and vending facilities. TBE is a unit within the Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired Section of the Department of Human Services.

HISTORY
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Randolph-Sheppard Act into law on June 20, 1936. That landmark legislation gave states the right to set up business enterprises programs for persons who were legally blind and it afforded blind participants in the program a priority to operate vending facilities in federal buildings. Since then, most states have passed some type of companion legislation that extends the same priority to other government buildings. And today many licensed blind Managers successfully operate thriving food service facilities in private sector buildings as well.

Tennessee's program dates back to 1943. TBE’s first facility is still operational at the Davidson County Hospital in Nashville. From those humble beginnings, TBE has emerged as a leader in the state's vending industry with literally hundreds of locations statewide. More than 120 licensed Managers are assigned to these accounts and they generate in excess of $20 million in annual sales.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
TBE trains and licenses legally blind persons who are qualified to manage a large, multi-faceted food service business. Candidates undergo a thorough screening and evaluation process to determine if they have the potential to be successful independent business entrepreneurs. Those who meet the basic qualifications then must complete 4 to 5 months of extensive training. The classroom training is comparable to a college level course. Those who pass the academic training, then go into on-the-job training in an existing TBE facility under the direct supervision of another TBE licensed Manager.

Once all training requirements are met, TBE issues a license and the Manager is allowed to compete for available locations across the state. Candidates for vacant facilities must interview for potential assignments and awards are granted based upon experience and record of performance.

When a Manager goes into a location, TBE provides the necessary equipment and merchandise. The business is ready to go the day the Manager walks into the facility. From that date forward, the Manager operates as an independent business person and is responsible for all daily operations including buying merchandise, hiring employees, cleaning the facility, and all other functions associated with running a food service facility. The profits generated are the Manager's income so it is in his/her best interest financially to do a good job.

TBE does provide ongoing support of the operation. As equipment needs to be repaired or replaced, TBE does this. TBE also renovates existing facilities as needed. TBE's outstanding staff is also available to support the Manager and assist with any problems that might arise. TBE will designate a TBE Consultant or Specialist to insure that the facility meets all state and federal regulations and that the operation complies with the terms of any agreements with property management. \

TYPES OF FACILITIES
TBE operates a variety of facility types ranging from small over-the-counter operations to full line cafeterias. The type of service provided depends in large part on the population of the building, desires of property management, and available space. Generally, TBE operates 6 types of facilities:

OVER-THE-COUNTER
These facilities involve personal sales where a customer selects items and pays a cashier. It may be self-service or served over a counter. Generally, the products sold are pre-packaged food items although some limited food prep may also be provided.

VENDING
These locations consist strictly of automated vending machines. An attendant may be on hand to assist customers but there are no personal sales. Some vending locations are actually vending routes and may include multiple stops.

COMBINATION COUNTER AND VENDING
These facilities have a counter operation as described above but they also have vending machines to supplement the operation.

ON-SITE FOOD PREP
These facilities involve cooking of food. These facilities vary in terms of the variety of foods offered for sell. Some may have a grill and offer hamburgers and other similar items. Some may offer an entrée and vegetables. Others may sell only deli style sandwiches. These facilities may also sell prepackaged products and may be supplemented with vending machines.

CAFETERIAS
TBE also offers cafeteria services. These types of operations offer multiple choices of entrees and vegetables. They require a large number of potential customers to make them cost effective, however.

INMATE COMMISARIES
This type of facility involves selling prepackaged products to inmates in a correctional facility. These are generally offsite packaging operations where orders are delivered to inmates.

FUNDING
Although TBE is a unit within State government; it operates without the benefit of any State appropriations. Our primary sources of funding are the fees paid by licensed Managers and revenues generated by vending machines at the interstate rest areas. TBE also has access to some federal funds. All licensed Managers pay back to TBE 14% of their net incomes. TBE uses these funds to provide the necessary ongoing support and to expand opportunities for other licensed Managers.