The Best Questions to Ask a Caterer About the Catering Contract

Your Catering Contract and Other Important Details

A catering proposal is an initial estimate with general event guidelines to help you determine if the caterer is a good fit for your event.  If you like what you see on the proposal you can request the a final catering contract which includes the terms and conditions of your catering agreement. Whenever you hire a catering company to prepare and serve food at your event, you should establish a catering contract to ensure consistent quality, professional service and that your event goes as smoothly as possible.

A catering contract contains every detail about your event, such as the type of food served, its preparation, drinks that go along with it, dessert, service and everything else.

Full Service Catering

Here are some important questions to cover with your caterer and their contract.

  • If my event runs longer than contracted, what is the overtime fee?
  • How do present your pricing?  Note:Tax and a service charges are typically added on to your final cost. The service charge, which ranges 20–23%, is used to pay the staff. 
  • What is your payment policy? Do you accept credit cards?
  • How much of a deposit is required to hold my date?
  • If you plan to serve alcohol, do you carry alcohol liability insurance?  May we get a copy of your insurance for our files?
  • Do you offer event insurance?  What would happen if we had to cancel at the last minute due to an act of God or tragic circumstances?
  • What is your refund or cancellation policy?  Be sure to get this in writing.  Typically you can receive a full refund within a certain amount of time.  Cancellation fees can be much higher closer to the event date due to the investment in food that the caterer had to make in order to service your event, hiring of service staff, securing rentals, etc.
  • When is my guaranteed count due?  Note: usually it is within 14 days of the event.
  • Can we take home the leftover food?  The event’s chef or lead server usually has the discretion to determine what food, if any, can be left for future consumption.  Be sure to discuss this with your caterer and stipulate it on your contract.
  • Can you provide a list of recent references?

Finally, make sure you get a signed copy of the final catering contract.  Now, you’re ready to celebrate!

by New York Food Company

Catering & Events in Southern California since 1979


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