Leftover food after catering job completed

Joined Sep 22, 2015
I have a concern about the sending leftover food home with my client after a catering job. I usually prepare 25% more food than is requested by the client in case there are "surprise" guest. I usually take any leftover back with me and then donate it to either a church or to help feed the homeless. Knowing that food needs to maintain a certain temperature to keep it from becoming contaminated, it concerns to leave the unprotected food with the client because I'm not sure how long it will set out before it gets refrigerated or eaten. Should I be concerned? If they do take it and then get sick from the food am I liable?
Joined Feb 17, 2010
Yes you should be concerned, yes you will be liable. You should have had a policy in place, in writing before you served your first client.

Have your attorney draft up a release of liability for anyone that insists on taking the extras, or have a policy in your contract that no food goes with the client and stick with it.

25% extra is way too much to fudge or have just in case. 10% is pretty standard, or at least it was when I was doing catering and banquets.

Lets say your food cost for an event is $1000 without any overages, you just added an extra $250 to the cost, and will probably just flush that down the crapper. That's profit you just flushed.

You have to be lean with your waste or you will go broke.
Joined Jan 31, 2012
On the other hand, this is far from an exact science, and   there are times when you just misjudge

the crowd, or the client's fund raiser gets 60 guests turning out for it instead of the expected (and contracted)

100, or there ends up 30 "vegans" who stick to salad and sides cuz they dont like your mains...a zillion

other reasons for ending up with a bunch of extra food. Thats part of the game. 

The annoying part is when clients ask...then insist you leave them ALL your leftovers. And there are some

pretty stock answers they use, the worst one is.. "Well you know its technically ALL mine because I paid for it."

Wrong. Whether you have a no leftover clause in your contract or not, we're contracted to provide food for their

party of 100 say, and to sever for such and such a time. Once that duty is fulfilled, we're under no further obligation.

In fact, they're actually insisting you leave food they did NOT pay for. So you tell them,

"Well I have enough food here for about 30 more people so if I leave it with you that will cost you, at your rate of

12.95 per person, just under $400.00." and watch them turn green. I actually used to leave food with clients now

and then, IF they promised me it was to go straight into fridges. Until a few lied to me. One in particular, I created

"go-boxes" for about 12, only to find after I'd cleaned up they were laying around on tables in 90 degree heat for

over 30 minutes. I had my helper run around collecting them and dumping them in the trash. That spooked me, 

so I was wary after that.

Because in the end, catering is risky enough when you're  in control of the food. But the minute you release it 

THEY are in control--while you're still liable for their mishandling...because technically you sold it to them, you 

released it, and you are considered the food professional. Thereby expected to use safe judgment.

I also heard there's an actual code now at least in California, prohibiting the caterer from leaving food with the 

client, but I'm not sure about that. 

But Chef Buba is right, its best to simply put it in the contract, then if its an issue at the event you just point it 

out and that should be the end of it. 
Joined May 5, 2010
Buffets and catered events are so subject to various conditions that preparing exact amounts can be next to impossible.

Weather, time of day, type of crowd, can all have an effect on food consumption.

I too believe that 25% over is too much and like what has already been said, that is costing you money.

The liability clause in the contract is the best way to go. It releases you from everything.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Don't need any agreements here. It is not legal for patrons of a buffet type service to take home food. Even in hotels, wedding events, etc.

Actually, I take that back about agreements. It should be in the initial contract to avoid problems after the function.

Food especially prepared to-go falls under a different category.
Joined Jun 27, 2012
While you are going over the contract and come to the part addressing this issue have them initial it.

If there is any back talk during /after the event just whip it out and show where this had been discussed and agreed upon.

Joined Jan 31, 2012

Its when its not discussed, and friends and relatives come up to the host saying "Oh  could you pleeeze get

some of that chicken dish from the caterer to take to my hubby who couldn't be here? It's only one plate, and

they have plenty left."

Multiply that song times 10 or 20 and everyone has a sick aunt or uncle who couldn't attend.

Bottom line, they just want free food.

When I was doing my own thing, I would verbally address it with the client, and it was never an issue. 

But the outfit I was cooking and managing events for didn't have it in the contract and never brought it up--

therefore it was very often a problem with the  client when I told them no:

"Well no one told us that when we signed the contract!"
Joined Oct 13, 2011
Absolutely not!  I do not need someone to stop twenty places on the way home, leaving the food in the back seat.  They finally get home and decide to have a snack and end up sick - at my expense.  Nope - no way - not gonna happen.

It is in my contract.  They know from the get go that it's not OK.
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