Caterers serve a wide range of clients and events, including office parties, corporate conferences, team-building seminars and events.

According to IBISWorld, catering industry revenue in Canada is forecast to rise by 5% to be worth an estimated $3.9 billion in 2024. Rising consumer spending before 2020 also saw increased spending on private events such as weddings and birthdays. 

As caterers’ clients become more discerning, the demand for higher quality products, such as organic and locally produced foods, has come to the fore. Those demands are among the many reasons why it’s imperative catering businesses have a comprehensive catering insurance policy to protect their finances.

Catering insurance is a customized policy containing various coverages designed to shield catering companies from financial losses and legal liabilities that could put them out of business.

Catering liability insurance

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Let’s explore the liability risks caterers face and recommended food safety tips:

Common Risks Catering Businesses Face

Here’s a taste of the types of liability risks catering businesses face that could cost a caterer thousands of dollars: 

Foodborne Illnesses

Catering businesses can be liable for foodborne illnesses caused by contaminated or improperly handled food. Whether due to improper food storage, inadequate cooking temperatures, cross-contamination, or poor hygiene practices, foodborne outbreaks can lead to legal claims and damage your reputation.

Allergen Cross-Contamination

Caterers are responsible for preventing allergen cross-contamination by labelling food items containing common allergens such as nuts, gluten, dairy, and shellfish. If you don’t, it can lead to guests suffering allergic reactions and possibly lead to a claim of negligence.

Food Safety Violations

Catering businesses must comply with federal, provincial, and municipal food safety regulations to prevent foodborne illnesses. Failing to adhere to food safety laws and regulations can lead to fines totalling tens of thousands of dollars, legal action against you, and even closing your catering business. Provincial, municipal, or regional health authorities may visit your company twice annually to ensure your business complies. They may request to see your business’s food handler certificates and a food safety plan.

Third-Party Bodily Injuries

If guests become ill after consuming food served by a catering business, they may file food poisoning claims against you, alleging professional negligence or product liability. Maintaining detailed records of food sources, preparation methods, and temperature logs is essential to defend yourself and demonstrate compliance with food safety standards.

Liquor Liability

Caterers that serve alcoholic beverages at events need liquor liability insurance as they may face liability for accidents, injuries, or property damage involving a patron who consumed alcohol at the event or banquet you host.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents can occur at catering events due to wet floors, uneven surfaces, or inadequate lighting, and they happen frequently. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 67% of falls happen because of wet surfaces, loose rugs or mats, and weather hazards. You can be liable for injuries sustained by guests or employees on a premises if it’s determined the accident happened because you were negligent in maintaining a safe environment.

Third-Party Property Damage

Caterers can be liable for repairing or replacing cooking appliances, serving utensils, and furniture owned by the venue where you work if damaged.

Data Breaches

Data breaches happen a lot to businesses, and they can be costly. It’s estimated that 85% of Canadian organizations suffered a cyber event, such as a data breach or cyber-attack, with the average data breach cost pegged at $5.4 million. Catering businesses collecting and storing customer information, such as digital payment and contact data, are at risk of data breaches.

9 Food Safety Tips for Caterers

There are several steps catering companies can take to prevent food-related illnesses or accidents, including:

  1. When preparing food in advance of an event to transport to another location, store the cooked food in shallow containers to ensure rapid cooling while stored in a refrigerator or freezer, and ensure the catered food that is being delivered remains at a safe temperature.
  2. You’ve heard it before: keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Germs spread across food in the so-called ‘danger zone’ between 4C and 60C. It’s recommended to keep cold food at 4C or lower and hot food at 60C or above. Hot foods should be cooked the same day as the event you are catering.
  3. Always use a probe food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a temperature that kills germs.
  4. Leftovers from an event should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and stored in small portions, and date the leftovers as they should be eaten within four days of refrigeration or stored in a freezer. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 74C before eating. Perishable foods placed on a buffet should not be reused.
  5. Keep raw meat, chicken, seafood and eggs separate from other items that won’t be cooked before eating during preparation.
  6. Hygiene is critical in the kitchen and when foods are being served. Ensure your staff frequently and thoroughly wash their hands before and after preparing, cooking, or serving food and after using a bathroom.
  7. The utensils, cookware, countertops, and cutting boards you use should be thoroughly cleaned with hot, soapy water after preparing any food item.
  8. Only purchase foods from approved, reputable sources and no more than two days before preparation for an event.
  9. Ensure all food is sealed in leak-proof containers when transported and your business vehicle is clean and contamination-free.

How to Get Low-Cost Catering Business Insurance Fast

Before your next event, get low-cost, comprehensive catering insurance coverage from Zensurance to protect your finances and reputation.

Fill out our online application for a free quote. 

No matter how small your catering business is, our knowledgeable brokers are insurance experts who can guide you on what you need and make it easy to get customized protection that suits your budget.

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About the Author: Alexandria Anthony

Alexandria Anthony is the Team Lead, Property & Hospitality, at Zensurance.