Catering Contract

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A catering contract is an agreement between two parties for one to provide catering services to a second party. Unlike other contracts, however, the caterer is most often responsible for the terms of the contract, based on what services the company can normally provide, and the secondary party signs the agreement after discussing what the caterer is able to offer to the other party’s event.


Because each catering service is a little bit different, each catering contract will provide details on the food, serving, and possibly bartending services that the company can offer for the hiring party’s event or gathering. Most catering companies offer either buffet-style service or waitstaff service, who bring food to the attendees’ tables. Sometimes, the waitstaff will carry trays of bite-sized food around the event rather than serving an entire meal. The catering contract will also include information on what food will be serviced, any food allergies that need to be taken into consideration, entrée options available, how many people will be at the event, and how long the food planning and preparation is expected to take and cost.

With most catering contracts, the hiring party and the caterer discuss the costs involved before the contract is created, and the hiring party sets a budget limit. The caterer will then include a clause in the contract regarding how to proceed if they exceed their budget.

Some catering companies offer alcohol or bartending services. They may or may not have a bartender on staff, or the company may simply provide corking services for wine or beer that they can order. If this is the case, the catering contract will have specific clauses regarding alcohol beverage licenses, cost of alcohol separate from food, and what services will be provided prepare and serve alcohol by the catering company.

Elements Included in a Catering Contract

There are several parts of a catering contract that are important. The most vital are:

  1. Customer information. This includes their contact information, names, emergency contact information, and their budget.
  2. Event information. This should include the date, place, and duration of the event, along with what type of event it is (wedding, birthday party, corporate dinner, fundraiser, etc). The customer should include the number of guests, divided into how many adults and children are expected, along with how many other staff will be at the event, such as DJs or photographers, and if the company is expected to provide meals for the additional staff. The customer’s budget, number of people eating at the event, and the duration will help the company plan how long their staff will be there and what type of food they are able to provide.
  3. Food costs including special orders. The caterer will, in the catering contract, provide information on how many appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts, and other food items will be provided. They will include if there are any special needs, such as food allergies, gluten free, or vegetarian/vegan options needed. The catering company will also add if they have been asked to provide other food-related services, like bartending, wine and beer, chocolate fountain, ice sculptures, etc.
  4. Total cost breakdown including tax and gratuity. The catering contract must, for the sake of both parties, include a budget breakdown that includes any applicable tax or gratuity. If there is a budget concern or question later, both parties can refer to the catering contract for clarification.
  5. Insert clauses to negotiate potential changes. If the time or place of the event changes, food needs change, number of guests changes, or the catering company is unable to provide the menu originally planned, then there should be a clause or two for both parties to return to negotiate the new details or end the contract.
  6. Breach of contract clause. In the event that one party does not fulfill their part of the contract, this should be considered a breach of contract and a specific clause within the contract should outline refundable and non-refundable fees, debts, and other punishments incurred in the event of a breach of terms between the two parties.

If you are new to the catering business, whether as a business owner or a customer, you may be confused about the details of the catering contract. Our free, downloadable catering contract template will help you look over the basics to help you formulate your own catering contract, and determine if the catering contract or client demands presented to you are fair. Download our free catering contract template today.