A catering contract is more than a discussion of food, beverages and decor on paper. In fact, a catering contract is a legal and binding written agreement outlining service expectations between a food vendor and a client. A well-written catering contract gives a clear understanding of obligations, timelines and payment expectations for both parties entering the agreement. When writing your own catering contract, be sure to manage all expectations of food service, procedures, fees, liability concerns and dates of delivery for your catering business.

Gather important customer details needed to execute and write the catering contract. Draft a form that requests the following information from the client: the client's name, address, telephone number and email address, the function's date and specific location, the function's start time and expected duration, and the number of guests expected - adults, children, and vendors like photographers and DJs. Insert this information into the first few paragraphs of the contract as appropriate, and then keep the form for future reference.

Include a detailed cost breakdown of food and other services provided by the caterer. To prevent misunderstandings between the caterer and the client, provide the following information: a ratio of staff and servers to guests, the menu and type of service provided (buffet, sit-down dinner or a combination of services), the cost-per-hour rate for staff, the type of beverages served and any other pertinent event details, as well as the estimated total cost of the event.

Outline all costs for food service per person, rentals, including facility rentals, setup fees, cleanup fees, overtime fees, portion sizes, fees for additional guests and delinquent account charges. Note also any special services, such as flaming foods or construction and pouring of champagne topwers, and any associated fees. If the client expects to provide alcoholic beverages, the contract should note any corkage fee.

Insert a fee agreement into the contract which includes all costs mentioned above, as well as tax and gratuity. This same clause should include a payment schedule. Standard catering contracts include a down payment or retainer fee to cover basic food costs and initiate the agreement. In addition, final payment of the estimated price is usually expected no later than three business days prior to the event - the exact date should be specified in your contract. Also specify a date shortly after the event for final settlement of charges like extra guests, overtime, breakage, etc. Your contract should clearly state your policy regarding acceptable forms of payment, such as cash, credit card, check or certified funds, for your catering services.

Event details may change unexpectedly, and you should negotiate terms for refunds or cancellation of the catering agreement. Including a clause outlining the severance of the agreement protects the catering owner and the client from ongoing liability and fees. Determine the terms concerning the refunding of the deposit or the assessment of additional charges to sever the catering contract.

Outline the required steps for a breach of contract. Before signing the agreement, ensure that both parties are aware of who is responsible for attorney fees in the event of a lawsuit. Also, include an option to seek mediation for conflict resolution if you wish to avoid costly legal fees.


Avoid the urge to craft a casual, friendly contract. Catering any function costs a great deal of time and money, and you must be certain that you're properly paid for the food your provide and the services you perform. If, for example, you neglect to include a provision for the client to pay for the bartenders' overtime and the event runs late, your bartenders will be paid overtime, but it's going to come out of your funds, not the client's.


If your client's check is returned unpaid for any reason, your bank is going to charge you a fee. Your contract should include a charge for payments not honored by the client's bank or credit card company.