Caterer Tipping

by Claire Valenty on April 8, 2010

in Tipping

tipping caterer etiquette

Catering is very hard work! First, there are cooking classes to learn your craft and then taste testings with potential clients before you even book the job. Then there is: the preparation of the menu; shopping for the ingredients; preparing the food; loading the food into a delivery van; delivering the food; setting everything up; serving the food; and, finally, cleaning everything up and putting it all away. If anyone deserves a tip, a caterer definitely does! Caterer tipping is completely expected. So much so that most catering companies include a 15-18% “service charge” in their contracts. To put it simply, that is the tip! It is divided up amongst the workers who contributed to your event.

Now, if you have a service charge in your contract and the service the caterer provided was below par, not only should you discuss with the caterer that your expectations were not met and you want to knock down the tip percentage, but, you have every right to ask that the price of the event be amended, too!

As stated above, caterer tipping is usually included in the contract. However, if it is not, and you were thrilled with the fabulous job your caterer did, discreetly presenting them with an envelope containing about 15% of the cost of the service when the event has concluded is totally acceptable. I would stick with 10% if they just met your expectations and did not exceed them, and, for anything less than that, you need to give the caterer nothing more than an earful!

Our friends from ezCater have plenty of experience in not only providing exceptional catering options but how to tip appropriately. Check out their article on Caterer tipping is completely expected to learn more.

Photo: stock.xchng/Joe Zlomek

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

L. Williams May 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I’ll be writing a check for a $5K catering order, for a two day conference. Two people mainly helped us, and they did a tremendous job. However we’re funded by grants, and I know that $500 will sound like an excessive amount to my boss, let alone $750. You don’t think it would be RUDE to leave $500 or less, do you?

Jana May 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I am a server for a caterer and let me say this, We rarely get tipped at events!! This is very hard work and we are always overlooked. If it is on the contract as a service charge that is NOT THE TIP. Some caterers charge the tip but it is plainly written as a tip. Most do not include the tip, because it is based on your service and who knows what kind of service you get ahead of time. The best way to show your gratitude is to pay your catering staff individually. There is nothing worse than working extra hard at a wedding or party and get screwed on the tip. We make minimum wage and the bulk of our income is the tip!! Thank you.

esther May 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I am having a catered even at a local ballroom. On my bill, there is a “service charge” which the caterer says is the wait staff’s wage. Also listed is the room rental, dance floor, etc. in addition to the food & beverage. Please advise: do I tip based on the whole bill? Including the room & dance floor charges?? Help!

frank June 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I am having an event tomorrow and the restaurant providing the food is doing just that. They will not be serving or cleaning up afterwards. They are merely delivering setting up the trays and sternos. I understand that they are performing a function and deserve something, I just don’t know what the appropriate tip amount would be for this type of service. Has anyone had a similar experience and can possibly offer some advice? If so, I would appreciate your input. Thanks,

Deborah June 10, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I was advised (by the caterer) to tip 15% on the food, before tax, not on the entire event. He stressed that the tip was entirely optional, but I cannot imagine not rewarding people who worked so hard.

lisa September 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Catering servers make minimum wage. Treat the event like a restaurant visit. 20% of the bill to be split evenly among the servers.

Ellie June 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Do I include the cost of the rental items that the caterer provided and charged me for?… Like tables linens and glassware.?

LISA MYERS July 24, 2016 at 9:49 pm

is it against the law to charge a customer a grituity,for the caterers and then not give the grituity to the caterers?

Shirl December 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm

I am planning a party that will be catered by a local restaurant. I will certainly tip the person that does the set up and clean up but I’m not sure whether I should tip the restaurant owner who will be preparing the food as well? Can anyone tell me what the appropriate etiquette in the situation is?

Ann March 16, 2018 at 1:06 am

If you are having a small birthday party catered by a restaurant for 50 people, and they will be charging a $25 delivery fee to drop it off (no servers, no help with set up, no clean up–just dropping it off), what are you supposed to tip for gratuity? On the quote, they say they don’t require one but it would be very much appreciated.
Then they list what a 15%, 20% and 25% tip would be on my quote for my total bill (between $575 and $675). Any help with a dollar amount would be appreciated.

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