One Time Catering

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by Emojitsu, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. Emojitsu

    Emojitsu

    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    TLDR: Can I legally cater a wedding without alcohol without a license in Tennessee?

    I'm the sous chef of a hotel. We don't handle catering outside of our in-house banquets.
    One of my friends at the hotel came up to me and asked if I would be interested in catering their wedding. I really want to, but there was some confusion about what would/ would not require a catering license. Before it came up, I wasn't even aware that there was such a thing as a catering license. This would be an independent gig, not affiliated with the hotel I work at at all.

    There will NOT be any alcohol served at the wedding, and it's all simple stuff. So my question to you all is, do I need a license for a one time gig?

    I live in Tennessee if local laws apply, hopefully someone on here has been through a similar experience. Usually I would just do it, but I really don't want to deal with any legal ramifications.
    Of course I'm going to do my research beforehand, but i'm hoping to get a simple answer from you fine folks at CT. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,204
    Likes Received:
    529
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Your best bet is to contact the health dept. When people sell food at a local Fair or farmers market they need a permit from the HD. The reason is they are sell food to the public. In your case this is a private affair. If this is in a banquet hall the owner of the hall may require you to have liability insurance and have them listed on that insurance. This all depend on what, where, when and how it's catered. If it's a back yard Wedding then there's no problem....Good Luck........ChefBillyB
     
  3. chefross

    chefross

    Messages:
    2,821
    Likes Received:
    437
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    I've always been curious how the local and rural communities handle this very topic.
    Here where I live we have many pot luck dinners and fundraisers that are cooked, prepared, and served by locals.
    There is a city hall kitchen that is pretty well stocked with equipment and service-ware to feed 500 people.
    I see no permits or certificates of any kind. When I cook at this kitchen I always bring my Serve-Saf card with me.

    So how is this type of situation any different than some one cooking in their home to sell it someplace else?
    I know I need a caterers license as well as insurance. What happens if someone gets hurt or worse yet, sick?
     
  4. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,204
    Likes Received:
    529
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Chefross, what I always got from the HD was that they control the food served to the public. In the past I have had kitchens for daily employee feeding. We didn't have to be under the HD because we weren't open to the public. The HD does inspect church kitchens because they do serve the public. If it's a private party the person in charge of the function is inviting people to attend. Therefor it's not open to the public. I wouldn't want to be the one catering a party that had 100 people get sick. The people who could be sued would be the organizer and the caterer or cook. Thats why IMHO it's important to have insurance and a health permit when doing any catering. That way you're not going to be liable if something happens......ChefBillyB
     
  5. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

    Messages:
    713
    Likes Received:
    421
    Exp:
    Retired Owner/Operator
    The best way to find out is to ask your local and state agencies. My guess is no, you would not need a permit or a license if its a private event not open to the public and held on private property i.e. at someone's private residence or their backyard. If you can provide more details about the reception such as where its going to be held, the number of guests etc, that would be helpful. However, if the reception is not being held in someone's back yard or in their home, you may want to take a pass on it.

    Here's why.

    You may run afoul of local or state laws if you are not licensed and the event is held on property that is open to the public such as a hotel, reception hall or other space that is offered to rent publicly. The owners of those facilities may require that you be properly licensed and insured to in order to insulate themselves from any potential liability, even though this is a one time event for you and the event is technically "private." If the reception is held at someone's home, then, things become a lot less complicated.

    This brings me to the next issue. What happens if someone gets sick or worse? We never plan for these things but, accidents can and do happen. A license is not going to protect you from liability but, insurance will. Its one thing to cook up a few racks of ribs and some burgers for a BBQ in someone's backyard. Its quite another to serve meals for 50 to 100 people or more that consist of apps, 2 or 3 choices for a main course, desserts, beverages, coffee, tea etc.

    Which brings me to the next issue. Where are you going to prepare the food? You can rent a commercial kitchen. I would not recommend trying to pull this off in a residential kitchen. But, more importantly, how are you going to a) hold the food; b) transport the food to the venue; and c) maintain all safe food handling requirements in the process?

    Then there is the issue of service. Unless this is a buffet style event, you are going to need 1 server per 30 people and 1 person to help out in the kitchen.

    Like I said, unless this is a reception held at someone's home, you may want to think very carefully about taking this job, especially if you do not have all of the proper equipment etc.

    Good luck. :)
     
  6. Emojitsu

    Emojitsu

    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    Thank you all for the quick and thoughtful responses!

    At this point, the couple is still considering their catering options, and haven't given me any more details than a rough estimate of 100 people being served. (The wedding isn't until much, much later this year. So I'm not sure they have all of the details themselves yet. I'm just trying to be proactive for once!)

    Liability Insurance is something I had not considered either, and I'm very glad it was brought up. As of right now, it seems like a "better safe than sorry" scenario. So I'm definitely going to go through the appropriate channels, getting certified and insured if I decide to go through with it. I'm sure I could get away with simply doing the event without any of that, and PROBABLY nothing would go wrong. But as you all pointed out, there is always that chance, one I'm not willing to throw away my career over.

    For those interested, I'll keep providing details here as I get them. Thank you all for your time and advice, I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate the resources and guidance CT offers.
     
  7. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,204
    Likes Received:
    529
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    This may also be a good idea......
    Special Event Liability Insurance
     
    sgsvirgil likes this.
  8. jimyra

    jimyra

    Messages:
    954
    Likes Received:
    204
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    TLDR: Can I legally cater a wedding without alcohol without a license in Tennessee?

    The simple answer is no. Tennessee requires a business license, and a kitchen inspected by the health department. Product liability is also recommended. Also a federal tax number is required, oh and workers compensation insurance, and don't forget local and state sales tax number and reporting. This is a hard and very regulated industry. Just an aside catering a friends wedding is a good way to lose a friend.
     
    Emojitsu likes this.
  9. Emojitsu

    Emojitsu

    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    @jimyra The more I look into the logistics of catering even a small event one time, the more I keep reading and hearing advice like yours. As much as I would like to do this, there's simply too much red tape, which is a shame, because I know I could do the job with a level of care that no one else will be able to.

    It's frustrating being held back by something that seemed so trivial at first glance.

    All the same, thanks again to everyone that replied and offered advice.