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Apr 12, 2009 04:39 PM

Tipping a Caterer?

A neighbor/friend loves to cook and caters parties occasionally for friends, etc. We had her help with a party for us. Do we add a tip on to the bill?

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  1. It's very hard to answer your question without more details about the expenses...

    Who paid for the food purchases?
    Was the person compensated in any way in terms of labor and etc?
    How much time did she spend on this event, i.e., shopping, preparing, cooking and serving?
    Who paid for the paper goods or rental items, if any?
    If there were rentals made, who made the arrangements?
    How many days did she spend specifically on your event?
    Who handled the clean-up?

    The short answer is....yes.

    1. I worked for caterer for several years through college, and we received tips ranging from 10%-20% on around half the events we worked. We were lucky though, our boss always split them between us and never took any portion of the tip herself.

      5 Replies
      1. re: snix

        I also worked for a caterer for several years during college, but don’t recall hearing a peep about tips. As servers we earned a more-than-reasonable hourly wage (and got to take some truly astounding food and drink home). The contract must have reflected our compensation structure – i.e. if any sort of gratuity were required to give us a reasonable wage, as in a restaurant, it would have been noted up-front.

        Of course none of this definitively answers the OP’s question. Frankly I would just ask the friend.

        1. re: snix

          I also catered in college. We usually did receive 10-20% tip and it was greatly appreciated by a poor starving college kid.

          1. re: MattInNJ

            snix worked for the caterer but wasn't the caterer. I support tipping for servers.

            1. re: c oliver

              yeah that is what I was getting at. But my boss one time tried to keep the tips (she had a cocaine issue). So we told her we all quit for the next week. She gave us the cash lol

              1. re: MattInNJ

                That got her attention, didn't it? Reduced income for nose candy.

        2. I *am* a Personal Chef/caterer. If we give you service "above and beyond", by all means include a tip. We *like* tips <grin>. As with a restaurant experience, if the service or food is just so-so, or not what you expected (on the not-good side), then don't tip.

          Whenever I create an invoice, the bottom line always reads.

          "Service gratuity is at your discretion."

          13 Replies
          1. re: KiltedCook

            Tipping the owner of a business is not expected in most case, restaurateurs, hairdressers, etc. Why is this different in the case of caterers? I'm not saying what is right or wrong I'm just curious.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              That's my thought as well: owners/independent contractors (which it sounds like the friend is) don't get tips because they negotiate a price upfront that presumably includes both their labor and an appropriate profit, although a "bonus" for an exceptional job might be a nice touch. However, if there is waitstaff in addition to the owner, you should consider tipping them. The best course is to discuss with the caterer when you're making the arrangements the extent to which service is included in the negotiated price.

              KiltedCook, if I were a customer I'd be very uncomfortable with your tag line -- gratuities are always at the discretion of the customer, and your tag line really doesn't give any clue as to what is reasonably expected. I'd be much happier with something like, "The contracted amount includes a 15 percent service charge. Additional gratuities are at your discretion."

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I am thinking the same thing. If this is just the friend doing everything herself, she negotiated the price she found appropriate for labor and materials. If she brought helpers along who are receiving some sort of base wage, then a tip for those workers would probably appropriate.

              2. re: KTinNYC

                I agree with KTinNYC. If the caterer is working solely on his/her own, which sounds like it's the case in the OP, then the quoted price should include the calculated profit.
                If the caterering includes other servers, I'd tip THEM, but not the owner.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  I'm with you and the others who say you don't tip the owner of a business. If Thomas Keller strolled through the French Laundry, would you slip him a ten??? Do you tip your doctor or lawyer? And, KiltedCook, that line on your invoice would annoy me hugely. Please adjust your fees to the point where you can lose that line. I think it hurts you.

                2. re: KiltedCook

                  Ditto for me, personal chef caterer and I often get tips, but I don't expect them. My contract states gratuity at your discretion. I would say 80% of the time I do get tips, but when I do something for good friends I wouldn't expect it but when tip one another in other ways. They will take me out to dinner, me them, they will help me with house sitting or pet sitting or take me to the airport when needed. We do trade offs which to me is like a tip.

                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    If you are the proprietor why wouldn't you just build all the cost into your contract instead of putting your clients in a position to decide whether or not to include a gratuity? If your business model is such that you take tips then you should just be honest about the entire thing and charge only for your fixed cost and then have your client decide how much to reward you after the event. Of course this is ridiculous but it's really not that much more ridiculous than charging someone a fair price for a service and then telling them that the gratuity is "at your discretion".

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      I mentioned here that one wouldn't tip Thomas Keller (!!!) or your doctor or lawyer. Perhaps the caterers who solicit tips really don't consider their profession as highly as they should.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Or they just want to milk their clients.

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          Well, that could be but it seems like there are more effective ways. Maybe they deliberately underbid a job in order to get it and then want the tip to bring them up to where they should have been to begin with. I wish the caterers on this thread would explain how they're any different than the other professions that DON'T get tips. I worked for 40 years and never had a job where I got tips. I not only don't understand it but, if confronted with it, would show my displeasure. And while I might refer someone to that person, I would always qualify it by telling them about the tipping scenario. It just seems so unprofessional. It really elicits the same reaction that it would if my doctor solicited me for a tip. Sheesh.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            From this link,

                            "Tipping Caterers can be a real mystery. The best thing to do is to talk to the caterer in advance. Most caterers have a service charge that is included in the bill and is distributed to the cooks, driver and wait staff. If there is no service charge or it is not for the people doing the work, then tipping 15% of the entire bill is appropriate. This amount should be divided among the servers by the on-site manager. If it is included, you don't need to tip any more. Of course, if someone really goes out of his way for you, then feel free to tip that individual extra, remembering that it will be extra."

                            Why wouldn't every caterer include a service charge in their contract? It would be like if I went to the mechanic and one of his employees fixed my car, not the owner, and I got a bill with the line "gratuity appreciated". Labor should be included. Period.

                      2. re: KTinNYC

                        kt, my business model does, XX% to be exact. It is standard fee. I don't know if I'd label a percentage of it gratuity, but I certainly make enough that I don't need it in addition.
                        On my contrct, my NO tipping statement is clear. However with regards to servers and I do use them, it is very clear in the contract. They are to be tipped 20%, and I will collect. That's up front and clear from the beginning. I have only the best help and I do pay them well, but in this industry, tipping them is normal.
                        The op, is saying it is a friend, and it is sort of unlcear how good of a friend.
                        When I do my very good friend's events, I don't use my contract. I get the budget, get the money, buy the food, and then make it. I've never expected a fee, let alone a tip. But them being the goobers they are, they will insist on giving me something for my time and trouble. It is a very awkward position, and I really don't like taking money from my friends, I'm happy to help.

                    2. re: KiltedCook

                      Many caterers I know have the tip written into the contract. Often they keep that, or most of it, and then host will tip the servers too. You can usually count on $100 for the work (four or five hours?), and another $100 in some type of tip coming your way. Nobody's starving! I've done bar plenty of times too, then you have your own tip jar for everyone to contribute if they so desire. That's the sweetest deal!

                    3. If this person loves to cook and does not run a business catering, then I would include a tip, especially if she is doing most of the work herself.

                      1. Most caterers I know own the business and I am under the impression that owners do not get tips. (I have a running argument with my wife about tipping her hairdresser, who owns the salon, but that is not germane.) When we got married, the catering contract included gratutities for the servers and we might have tipped five or ten dollars a person above that, but we did not tip the caterer.

                        If I had an ongoing relationship with a caterer and they did a really nice job for me on a regular basis, I would probably give them a holiday gift or even buy them a nice bottle of wine or something after an event they had catered for me, but tipping per se seems just not correct.