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What Is a Catering Contract?

Function details should be included in a catering contract.
A buffet set up by a corporate caterer may include a salad bar with fresh fruit and vegetables.
The corkage fee at a BYOB establishment covers the cost of being able to use their glasses and settings.
Corking fees can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant.
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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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A catering contract is a form signed between a hiring party and a company performing catering services. It typically includes detailed information on what food and drink will be served as well as the time of the event and how long food and drink will be available. There are usually monetary agreements specified as well.

Both parties typically work together to draw up the contract. Many contracts are written by one party and signed by another, while a catering contract is largely a joint agreement by the provider to supply an event or gathering with requested services. Specified in the contract are function details such as the type of event, venue, date, time, and other relevant information.

The contract will often include detailed information about what is to be served, from appetizers and a main course to soups, salads, and desserts. It will also specify whether the meal will be served seated or buffet style, and indicate whether or not the caterer will provide trays of food circulating among the crowd.

The catering company may or may not provide alcohol and drinks for the event as well as food. Specific drink requests, along with the amount of bottles, cans, or containers, are often specified. In addition, there may be other mixing or corking fees that will be charged, and the company may or may not be supplying a bartender. If the caterer is not providing the drinks, this may also be indicated in the catering contract.

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More than the food, the catering contract will also include the costs that the party holding the event will agree to pay; this is usually per head. The cost for some fresh items will fluctuate, and many caterers will allow their clients to indicate a maximum price to be paid with a request to consult if the price goes above that. In return, the caterer is often provided with a general if not exact head count as to how many people will be served. Depending on the type of caterer, there may be information about the tableside service that will be provided as well as the silverware, plates, tablecloths, and other physical items to be supplied.

A catering contract will generally have the inclusion of some vital information standard, regardless of what the rest of the contract looks like. Cancellation information is generally included, indicating how long before the event the hiring party has to cancel the contract and what penalties will be incurred, as well as the last date changes can be made to any part of the food and drink service. Many caterers will require a deposit, with information clearly indicating what is still owed and how long the hiring party has to pay the balance. Many catering contracts also have a built-in clause that states what will happen to the extra food and drink, as well as specifying what will be done if the event goes longer than intended or more guests attend.

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