Catering Contract Pitfalls
There are many stressors in our daily life but probably nothing more stressful than planning a major event. Weddings, graduations and corporate events are just a few examples. A lot of planning and foresight goes into these events, specifically to make them run smoothly and meet everybody’s expectations. When something goes wrong and a big mistake is made by any of the planners or companies hired to service the event, there’s no rewind button and no chance to do it over again.
Some of the biggest mistakes involve the people hired to cater the event. We all know how important food and beverage is for large gatherings and special occasions. When the food isn’t right, when items are missing, or when the quality of the food and/or service is not up to a high professional standard, guests take notice. Faulty catering can be very damaging to the integrity of an event. It can cast a shadow over the guest’s experience and color their entire perception of the gathering.
Obviously you want to avoid this scenario when planning an event. You want to sidestep common pitfalls and make your party a complete success. One way to do that is to learn about mistakes commonly made by catering companies.
1. Not communicating well. A huge number of catering problems occur because details were skimmed over. The communication between your expectations and the caterers responsibility must be clearing defined and written out. It’s up to both parties to communicate their expectations and understandings clearly—but let’s be honest, clients are often juggling multiple aspects of party planning. A truly professional caterer should take the lead in addressing potential blind spots.
2. Using outdated equipment. When a catering company doesn’t invest properly in its own infrastructure, its clients pay the price. Discerning clients should not only make sure they understand what food and drink options a catering company will provide, but also the standard of equipment that will be brought to your event. You’ve worked hard to make everything look right. Catering companies should know, based on customer reviews, that it’s a huge mistake to bring equipment to an event that looks shabby and doesn’t function as well as it should. Their own reputation and that of the event planner can be compromised.
3. Not giving you good advice. The planning stages are even more important than the actual event. Too often, catering companies simply allow customers to decide what they want. The reality is that catering companies have vast experience with event planning, and most clients do not. Professionals need to demonstrate a balance between listening to the client’s needs and asking the right questions to help them see things in a more comprehensive light. Maybe there aren’t enough vegetarian options on the menu. Maybe the style of food being discussed doesn’t quite match the event, and slight changes are needed. Professional caterers who don’t offer guidance and options to their clients are paving the way to complaints and negative reviews—a big mistake indeed.
The best way to ensure success for your event. Most catering problems start with the hiring process. Depending on where you live, there might be dozens or even hundreds of catering companies who want you to hire them. They’ll even be willing to tell you what you want to hear in order to secure the contract. But make no mistake: Not all catering companies are created equal. Hiring a company with the most modern and updated equipment, highly trained staff, and a rock solid reputation backed by consistent reviews from past clients—this is the best way to avoid problems down the line. Pro caterers know how to plan properly, and how to deal with the unexpected. A truly professional caterer knows that the success of their company and the success of your event are essentially equal, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
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This Catering Contract is entered into between [CATERING COMPANY] (“Caterer”) and [CLIENT NAME] (“Client”) (together, “Parties”) and sets forth the agreement between the Parties relating to catering services to be provided by the Caterer for Client for the event identified in this Contract.
1. Event Details. Client is hiring Caterer to provide food and beverages, and related services, for the following event (“Event”):
Event Date: [EVENT DATE]
Event start time (for guests): [START TIME]
Event end time (for guests): [END TIME]
Location of Event: [LOCATION]
Estimated number of guests: [GUEST COUNT]
2. Menu and Services Provided. The Parties have agreed to the menu and services to be provided attached to this Catering Agreement as ‘Exhibit A’. Caterer reserves the right to make small changes to the menu and personnel if key ingredients and duties are unable to be sourced due to reasons beyond the control of the Parties. Caterer and Client shall confirm the final menu and services, including any necessary alterations, no later than 5 days prior to the Event. No alcoholic beverages will be served without a separate agreement relating thereto.
3. Coordination with Venue. Caterer will need to have access to the Venue no later than ________ hours in advance of the Start Time for the Event, and ________ hours after the End Time for cleanup. Client will make all necessary arrangements, at Client’s expense, to get this access arranged.
4. Payment Terms. In exchange for the services of Caterer as specified in this Catering Contract, Client will pay to Caterer $____ per person attending the event, but in no event less than the Guest Count provided by Client to Caterer one week in advance of the Event. As of the signing of this Contract, the total amount is estimated to be $_______________ (“Estimated Total Cost”).
a. Payment will be made to the Caterer as follows: $__________ deposit due on the date of signing, and the balance of approximately $___________ will be due one week in advance of the event. The exact amount due will be determined, and provided from Client to Caterer in writing, one week in advance of the Event along with a Final Guest Count.
5. Responsibilities for Related Costs. Client is solely responsible for all costs and/or deposits relating to use of the Venue, and for obtaining any necessary permissions, authorizations, or other requirement of Caterer providing services at the Venue.
6. Insurance and Indemnification. Caterer has, or will obtain, general liability insurance relating to Caterer’s services at the Event. However, Client will indemnify and hold harmless Caterer for any damage, theft, or loss of Caterer’s property occurring at the event, causes by any of Client’s guests.
7. Cancellation. If the Client needs to cancel the event, Client must provide written notice to Caterer along with any required cancellation fee described in this Catering Contract, to effect cancellation. Client understands that upon entering into this Contract, Caterer is committing time and resources to this Event and thus cancellation would result in lost income and lost business opportunities in an amount hard to precisely calculate. Therefore, the following cancellation limitations will apply:
a. If Client requests cancellation of this Contract 90 days or more before the Event, Caterer shall be entitled to _______ percent of the Estimated Total Cost.
b. If Client requests cancellation 45-89 days before the Event, Caterer shall be entitled to _______ percent of the Estimated Total Costs.
c. If Client requests cancellation 31-44 days before the Event, Caterer shall be entitled to _________.
d. After 30 days in advance of the Event, Caterer shall be entitled to 100 percent of the Estimated Total Cost. The Client’s deposit will be credited against the cancellation fees owed. Any balance will be payable upon the notice of cancellation.
8. Legal Compliance. Caterer will work in compliance with all applicable local health department rules and regulations relating to food preparation and food service.
9. Assignment. This Contract cannot be assigned by either Party without the other’s written consent, with the exception set forth in paragraph 10, below.
10. Limitation of Remedies. If Caterer cannot fulfill its obligations under this Contract for reasons outside of its control, Caterer may locate and retain a replacement catering company at no additional cost to Client, or refund Client’s money in full. Caterer will not be responsible for any additional damages or compensation under these circumstances.
11. Resolution of Disputes. The Parties agree to not post any negative information about the other arising out of this Contract or Event on any online forum or website without providing advance written notice of the intended content thereof, and providing the other party with an opportunity to resolve any issues between the parties amicably.
12. Severability. In the event any provision of this Agreement is deemed invalid or unenforceable, in whole or in part, that part shall be severed from the remainder of the Agreement and all other provisions should continue in full force and effect as valid and enforceable.
13. Waiver. The failure by either party to exercise any right, power or privilege under the terms of this Agreement will not be construed as a waiver of any subsequent or further exercise of that right, power or privilege or the exercise of any other right, power or privilege.
14. Legal Fees. In the event of a dispute resulting in legal action, the successful party will be entitled to its legal fees, including, but not limited to its attorneys’ fees. Legal and Binding Agreement. This Agreement is legal and binding between the Parties as stated above. This Agreement may be entered into and is legal and binding both in the United States and throughout Europe. The Parties each represent that they have the authority to enter into this Agreement.
15. Governing Law and Jurisdiction. The Parties agree that this Agreement shall be governed by the State and/or Country in which both Parties do business. In the event that the Parties do business in different States and/or Countries, this Agreement shall be governed by [STATE] law.
16. Entire Agreement. The Parties acknowledge and agree that this Agreement represents the entire agreement between the Parties. In the event that the Parties desire to change, add, or otherwise modify any terms, they shall do so in writing to be signed by both parties.
The Parties agree to the terms and conditions set forth above as demonstrated by their signatures this ____ day of ______________, 2019, as follows:
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Frequently Asked Questions and Resources
What is a contract?
Contracts are defined as written or spoken agreements which are enforceable by law. They can cover any topic or industry, whether sales, tenancy, employment, or otherwise (source).
What are the different types of contracts?
There are many different types of contracts, as defined by upcounsell, those for fixed prices, employment, lump sums, time and materials, unilateral or bilateral contracts, simple contracts and more. Each has its own specific terms, and can either be oral or written and some are non-negotiable (like adhesion contracts) while others have room to be adjusted or amended.
What makes a contract different from an estimate, quote, bid, or proposal?
Mainly contracts are set and finite and legally binding, whereas estimates, quotes, bids, and proposals are possibilities which can be accepted, rejected, negotiated, or ignored altogether. The key difference is that often a bid or proposal will contain terms and conditions that can be signed by the requestor and turned into a contract (source).
What should I include in my contract?
Every contract is comprised of no less than two core components: clearly outlined terms and signed agreement between two separate parties. For more information, read our 12 clauses you should include in every contract.
How should I write an effective business contract?
Contract creation can be challenging, in most cases getting legal counsel is advised to ensure it will be legally enforceable should you require that. Essentially you need basic terms which should be abided by, and an agreement on what product or service is to be provided, to whom, by whom, and what will be tendered with specific terms (such as deadlines, or how the delivery will be completed). For more tips, read our beginners guide to contract writing.
What is the difference between a contract and an agreement?
An agreement is any understanding or arrangement reached between two or more parties. A contract is a specific type of agreement that, by its terms and elements, is legally binding and enforceable in a court of law, according to Diffen.com.
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