Are you about starting a catering business and you want to avoid run ins with the law? If YES, here are 10 legal documents you need to start a catering service.

There are legal rules involved in setting up a catering business which you must give special consideration to. These documents will save you from financial losses, help you avoid harassment from government agencies and provide a hedge for you in the face of lawsuits. Without wasting your time, here is a list of 10 separate documents that you would need to be able to run a successful catering business.

Starting a Catering Business – 10 Legal Documents You Need

1. Business incorporation documents-: Although it is possible to run your business as a sole proprietorship or as a partnership, incorporating your catering business would help to protect you in the event of litigations or law suits.

When you incorporate your catering business, it becomes a separate legal entity and if any problem arises or if a client sues you for breach of contract, the client would have to sue your catering business and not you. Also, all debts or claims would be treated as business debts and not personal debts.

2. Certification documents: To obtain a catering license in most countries, you would have to undergo some training or complete some hours of course work and also pass some specific examination before you would be permitted to run a catering business in the country. Hence, your certification document is one of the very important legal documents that you would need to run your catering business. Here’s a guide on how to become a certified chef or caterer.

3. Contract forms-: To avoid misunderstandings and to ensure that your clients understand all the terms and conditions of your service as well as the specific services that you would provide, you would need contract agreement forms.

Don’t just assume that your clients know what to expect from you because people understand things differently, so it is better to spell out all the things you would be responsible for as well as what would be expected of your clients. You would have to consult your lawyer to help you draft a contract form, which you would hand out to your clients to sign before you can take up jobs. Some of the things to be included in your contract agreement form are-:

Components of a Catering Service Contract Agreement

  • Type of event
  • Date of the event
  • Location
  • Service description
  • Number of guests to be catered for
  • Conditions to be met before changing number of guests expected.
  • Menu selection and price
  • Cancellation policy
  • Subcontracting services and prices
  • Refund policy
  • Seating arrangement
  • Total cost of the job
  • Payment schedule
  • Non-refund policy; if any
  • Signature of both parties

On the other hand, you would have to draft another agreement form for your employees in other to ensure that they understand and agree to the terms and conditions of their employment.

4. Health and safety policy document-: Your health and safety policy document would contain all the rules that you would follow and it is your duty to ensure that your employees adhere to it strictly. So that people who consume your meals would be protected from any form of health problems or food-borne virus.

Apart from health, safety is also important. You should also include ways which you would avoid accidents and protect your facility, staff and the environment which you work from fire outbreaks and explosions. If you cannot prepare a health and safety policy document yourself, you can engage the services of an expert to prepare it for you.

5. Health and safety permit-: You would also need to obtain health and safety permit from the government agency in charge of health and safety regulation in your country.

Since you are operating a food-related business, you would need to register with them and allow them pay a visit to your facility to observe your operations and determine if you follow safe and healthy practices in preparing your meals. If they are satisfied that you do, they would issue out a health and safety permit to you which you is one of the most important legal documents needed for your business.

6. Alcohol permits-: Not all caterers deal with, or serve alcohol but in case you plan to, you would need a permit to do so. You should also try as much as possible to adhere to the rules that you would be given. For instance, you cannot serve alcohol to anybody under 18. Doing so might lead to a revoke of your permit or a law suit sometimes.

7. Insurance policy documents-: In order to protect yourself and your business from unforeseen occurrences that may cripple the business, it is advisable to obtain insurance coverage for your business.

If you have a vehicle that you use for your business, you can obtain a motor vehicle insurance, employee liability insurance for your employees, property insurance to protect your equipment and business premises from fire outbreaks or flood as well as any other type of insurance policy that you feel would be necessary to help protect you, your business and your employees.

8. Fire permit-: Another document you would need is a permit from the fire services department. Just like the health and safety officials, they would pay a visit to your facility to access the risks and make some recommendations on facilities to put in place in order to avoid explosions and fire. Once you have put all the necessary requirements in place, you would be given a permit from the fire services department.

9. Tax registration documents-: It is compulsory to register with the revenue collection agency in your country so that you can file taxes appropriately as and when due. When you register, you would be given a tax registration certificate and a tax identification number which you would use whenever you want to file your returns or when a tax audit is to be conducted.

10. Signage Permits-: You cannot just construct your bill board and place it anywhere you like. You would have to obtain a signage permit that allows you to advertise your catering services using billboards and banners.

You may be able to obtain all of these documents yourself but you should really give serious consideration to engaging the services of a lawyer to help you out. A lawyer would be in the best position to give you legal advice and assistance needed to set up your catering business.

Ajaero Tony Martins