With You All the Way

by Sharron Campbell,

Certified Meeting Professional, 30 years experience

Food & Beverage Catering Contracts

A food and beverage contract will be handled differently if you are booking a catered function with a hotel or full service venue rather than an independent caterer.   If you are also booking more than 10 overnight guest rooms with the same venue, you will most likely be asked to sign a contract for the sleeping room accommodations and another for the food and beverage functions.  

If booking more than six months in advance -
If you are booking food and beverage functions along with a conference that is to occur more than six months later, only an outline of the catering needs will be included such as dates, days of the week, number of catered functions per day, and expected attendance for each.  This information is necessary at the time of booking to ensure that space for meal functions will be provided.  Food items and menu prices will rarely be quoted this far in advance.

If booking with an independent caterer, more details of the food functions may be included initially, but a similar policy about quoting firm prices more than six months in advance will exist.  This is understandable because food cost fluctuates from season-to-season and sometimes day-to-day based on availability and current market prices.  If you insist that firm prices be stated in a contract more than 60 days in advance of the function, it will be unlikely that specific food items will be guaranteed.  When it is time to finalize menus, you may need to substitute preferred food items that have become significantly more expensive since you signed the contract if you are to stay within the quoted price. 

Banquet Event Order - 
Menus and all other details including equipment rental and service personnel will be confirmed as final by the caterer in a Banquet Event Order (BEO) or similar document once you are 30-days in advance of the event.  The BEO will require your signature of approval and will be considered an addendum to the contract and just as binding.  Once it is signed by you, the BEO will be used internally by the caterer for scheduling staff, purchasing food, ordering equipment, and so forth, so attention to detail when reviewing it will be absolutely critical.  

Understand the attrition clause -

A minimum amount of food and beverage revenue that your group will be obligated to pay, regardless of how many actually attend your function, will be included in one form or another along with terms for cancelation and other generalized contractual language.  The minimum revenue requirement is usually stated as a sliding scale and may or may not include the legal term for it, which is “attrition.”  Attrition penalties can cost dearly if attendance falls short.  It is standard policy for it to be included in meeting and event contracts, so you need to understand it and stay on top of it! 
Food & Beverage Tools for sample contract, checklist, time line, spreadsheets ...
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