Catering contracts

Do any of you who do catering use any type of contract or do you just go on faith with the customer?

Although I am not in the business… I will say that every bone in my body is yelling CONTRACT CONTRACT CONTRACT right now. Larger events…more money outlayed upfront… etc… etc. Protect yourself. Get it in writing and with a deposit. Don’t take all the risk. Customers expect this so this should not be an issue with anyone other than those that aleady are planning on either complaining or are not really a serious customer to start with. Remember you are in this to profit and succeed and not just be someone elses punching bag. :!:

For “event” catering, contract and deposit. We also do what could be called “spot” catering, but is mostly just a large preordered delivery in my mind. We take lunch, 35-40 folks usually at a time, to a few local companies…for these, it’s a phone call to order, a return call the day before to verify, and a check in hand when we deliver. But I’d add, we only offer this informal service for folks we have known for a long a profitable time!

We don’t do textbook catering, but for large orders we often allow customers to do an in-house charge. We’ve been doing so since 1999.

We have a 3-part charge form (customer gets one, we keep one and the other is mailed as an invoice) we fill out with the billing and order information that the customer signs when the food is delivered/picked up. Most of these are through the university, but I also have set up standing accounts for the hospital, tech school and community school corp among others. Churches, a few area businesses, and individuals affiliated with different organizations also charge orders from time to time.

We don’t require a deposit.

Ugh the thought of this makes my heart pound. Used to love catering. We had always done contracts. Always. Then a regular of about 10 years needed a caterer for his son’s wedding. The same son whose baseball team would come in a few times a month after the ball game with the other kids and their parents.

We were very excited they had become “friends”. We gave them a GREAT deal and really just about broke even because it was going to bring us lots of business…pretty much the whole town would be there. So we used any money we would have made to update some stuff to use during the wedding.

Fast forward day of wedding we are setting up and in our contract it states no one can start to eat until we receive final payment. Useless here cuz no contract. Couldn’t find the dad but began service anyway. Half way through we see him and he looks pretty stressed…don’t think anything of it after all his son is getting married. He says everything looks wonderful. I will get you a check after I eat I’m starving. At that moment my stomach dropped. I just had a feeling.

At the end of the service he said he had forgot his checkbook and would come by in the morning…would we mind leaving this and that and he will bring it with him…Well of course.
Never to be heard from. No answer to calls, no answer to letters, no more coming in. After about 6 months he brought in a couple hundred dollars and that was pretty much it.

So do ya need a contract? :mrgreen:

I saw a very good Italian catering company get destroyed when new owners took over…They came armed with all the “rules” their advisers told them they needed to successful…Contracts, deposits, minimum orders, etc., etc…But their clients resisted and just went elsewhere…Good thing the owners of 30 years got their money because after a couple years there was little left…99% of your clients will not cause you any problems…

!BUMP! So our catering is picking up and for the most part we do the on the spot catering with companies we have been working with for years. Lately we have been getting more random events and I feel its time to get things in writing. does anyone have a contract they would be willing to share so I can cover the basics? thanks!

You can find few catering contract templates here,
which you can download (some of them for free), and adjust/edit them to your specific needs.

oh nice! Thanks @Steve.L

You definitely change the vibe when the contracts and small print comes out.
I was in a small town for 15 years (Domino’s) and did a lot of large business orders- quite a bit, really.
Small town of 15-20,000 people and I was known as “Jon from Domino’s” so people would call me up and say I need 50 pies at 11am, 50 at Noon and so on.
I never rec’d payment first but it was a different vibe- all the HR people, Managers etc all had my cell and and I had theirs. Whenever they’d say “do you want a card now?” I’d always reply “Lets get it done, see where the dust settles and I’ll stop by in a few days”
I had such a relationship w/ these companies that dollars were never discussed- ever. I never played games, they knew I’d take care of them and get it done. Whatever the bill was, that was what they paid… as odd as that sounds.
If I added money in for the drivers (usually just built it in to the price) and they asked or tried to add money I’d say “Nope- all in there”
Anyway… all that aside. That was my own little piece of the world. I think that something down or some sort of “friendly” contract might be ok. Not sure I’d bring my attorney along.

yeah, it has been five years of catering on a handshake. And I don’t plan on changing that with current clients and other large last minute orders. But I always have an uneasy feeling with these large one and done orders. I’ve haven’t gotten burnt yet but I have had to chase customers for payment. It sure would be nice to have a signed agreement to snuggle with while I try to sleep at night.

So if someone doesn’t pay and you have a signed agreement, what do you do? How much would it cost to enforce the agreement?

Probably if you take them to small claims you’ll get enough to cover your attorney fees if not covered, within a year or so…

Never have done a contract with anyone and never will. No deposit, no nothing. I’m all about building trust with our customers and it would be a bad start if they first thing I say is " I don’t trust you".

I think a contract really depends on the customer, situation and how much money the order is. Anything under $500 to me is more of an agreement and handshake type of deal. We set up the order and they usually are the ones asking when to pay. If they want to pay right then and there i let them if not always the day of. But like most of the previous post most of my catering orders come from customers I know and are regulars. If it’s not we usually have it set up to pay the day of. If it’s a bigger order for like a wedding that requires lots of planning and is over $500 Mark a written contract for sure with atleast 20% deposit. Don’t forget to add gratuity charge and delivery charge so you don’t get burned on a tip.