Catering software organizes and tracks all information related to a catering or events business, from contracts to menu planning, rentals, and banquet event orders.
This article is part of a larger series on Restaurant.
Catering software (also called catering management software) is a digital tool that keeps catering businesses organized. Like a point-of-sale (POS) system, the best catering software combines order and payment processing.
But catering software also retains copies of your estimates and contracts, rental agreements, and banquet event orders (BEOs). Large venues can even find room scheduling calendars and client-facing portals that record communications directly in the catering software.
After evaluating several catering management software systems, we found the best to be:
- Best overall for catering businesses of all sizes: CaterZen
- Best for restaurants with catering departments: Toast
- Best for home-based and small, independent caterers: Square Invoices
- Best for catering operations in event venues: Tripleseat
- Best for markets and grocers with catering operations: Foodstorm by Instacart
Best Catering Software Compared
CaterZen: Best Overall Catering Software
- Customizing the software takes time
- Open menu items can be glitchy
- May be a bigger system than solopreneur caterers need
What we like:
CaterZen includes all the features any catering company needs, including invoice management, prospect management, online ordering, and delivery management. Better yet, CaterZen packages all of these tools into four distinct service tiers. Small independent caterers can access niche tools like delivery routing and a drag-and-drop menu builder at an affordable price. Large operations can get inventory controls, unlimited BEO templates, and click-to-call functions that save recorded phone conversations to customer records.
All of this, plus a 30-day free trial, makes CaterZen the catering software system to beat. This system has few drawbacks, but solopreneur caterers might find all the bells and whistles a bit overwhelming. Some reviewers also note that adding open menu items to contracts (rather than hard-programmed menu items) can sometimes create duplicate entries. These are minor hiccups to an otherwise excellent catering management system.
CaterZen is offered at four distinct pricing tiers, offering the most options for the widest variety of catering types.
- Online Ordering Plus: $99 per month
- Pro: $179 per month
- Pro Plus: $199 per month
- Marketing Pro Plus: $229 per month
- 30-Day Free Trial: CaterZen offers a 30-day free trial for nearly all of its subscription levels so you can try before you buy.
- Tailored Subscription Levels: Unlike competitors that simplify their subscription tiers by only offering advanced tools at higher subscription levels, CaterZen has taken the time to build subscription tiers that offer the best small catering tools (like delivery routing and online ordering) in the baseline subscription.
- Drag and Drop Menus and Delivery Routes: Drag and drop menus and delivery routes save all catering businesses a ton of administrative time.
- Customer Relationship Management: CaterZen includes detailed customer tracking tools that feed marketing emails to keep customers returning to your business.
- Electronic Signatures: CaterZen includes electronic signature tools in all subscriptions. You don’t need a separate membership to DocuSign to capture email signatures on your catering contracts.
CaterZen users love this software. And after a detailed trial of the software, I can see why. Scrolling through CaterZen’s screens I kept noting how much easier this software would have made my life when I managed catering operations. Overall, CaterZen averages around a 4.8 out of 5 on popular software review sites. Users note its incredible user-friendliness, and have special love for the menu designer and delivery tools.
If you operate a home-based catering business and don’t need advanced menu management tools, Square Invoices may be more your speed.
Toast: Best Catering Software for Restaurants
- Rental contract management tools are basic
- Requires full POS purchase
- Two-year contract is standard
What we like:
Powerhouse restaurant POS Toast added the Toast Invoice module in 2023. Along with advanced catering and event management tools, this makes Toast the best POS for restaurants with catering departments. With Toast, your catering and event menus and contracts sync directly with your other POS tools. So your sales, labor, and payments all remain in one central dashboard.
Toast’s Catering module includes detailed contract management and allows you to attach affiliated documents like rental agreements to catering events. You can access additional documents like BEOs and signed contracts in your management dashboard, so you don’t have to search your emails for a copy of the right conversation. The only drawback to this system is that you must subscribe to full Toast POS to access the catering tools.
Accessing Toast’s invoicing and catering tools requires first subscribing to the Toast POS. The POS requires a two-year contract. Though new users can offset the cost of the POS by using Toast’s pay-as-you-go hardware bundles.
- QuickStart Bundle: $0 per month (for up to two terminals)
- Core: $69 per month
- Growth: $165 per month
- Build Your Own: Custom-quoted
- Lead Management: Toast’s Catering and Events module tracks all catering and private event leads in one central dashboard. So managers and owners never miss the chance to land a big contract.
- Contract Building: You can convert catering proposals and contracts directly from the catering and private event dashboard. Toast color codes each event’s status so you can see what proposals need attention at a glance.
- Automated Document Creation: You can create banquet event orders (BEOs), prep lists for the kitchen, pack lists for offsite catering events, and invoices directly in the Toast dashboard. This keeps all documents in a central location that any manager can access; no more texting the private event manager on a busy Saturday night looking for BEOs.
- Integrated Ecommerce Site: You can add catering and event inquiry options to your Toast online ordering site to capture leads directly from customers.
- Full POS Integration: Toast’s Catering and Events and Toast Invoices modules sync with your POS payment processor, inventory module, menus, and delivery tools. This saves you hours of time transferring information and allocating product for catering events. You can also use Toast’s built-in delivery management system for drop off catering orders.
Toast’s catering module debuted in 2023, so there aren’t many user reviews published on the major software review sites. But users I have spoken with all talked about how much time the POS-integrated lead tracking and document management tools saved them. I would have loved these POS-integrated catering management tools when I was a catering and events manager; it would have saved me zillions of text messages when I was offsite.
The underlying Toast POS gets positive user reviews, averaging around 4.25 out of 5 on the major software review sites. This is lower than CaterZen, but Toast is one of the most popular restaurant POS systems in the USA, so it has far more user reviews.
If you need POS-integrated catering tools but are afraid of a two-year contract, look at Square Invoices instead.
Square Invoices: Best for Home-based & Small Caterers
- No venue management tools
- Recipe management and ingredient tracking requires third-party integration
- Document management is not robust
What we like:
Square Invoices offers a free baseline subscription with easy, built-in online payments. It is incredibly user-friendly—you can self-enroll in minutes and start sending professional proposals and invoices the same day. The invoice module lets you create proposals with multiple package options; a contract will automatically generate from the customer’s selections. You can preset milestone payments and easily accept deposits and other payments via email.
For an affordable $20 per month, you can organize files into projects for larger or more detailed orders. However, it does not autogenerate BEOs from customer information, and recipe tracking requires a third-party integration. Still, if you need tools for streamlining your growing home-based catering business’s estimates and payments, Square Invoices is an excellent catering software.
You can get started with Square Invoices for free. For more advanced features—like the ability to send multi-option proposals—Square only charges a nominal monthly fee.
- Free: $0 per month
- Plus: $20 per month
- Free Baseline Subscription: Users can start with Square Invoices for free. There are no long-term contracts; all you pay are processing fees for credit, debit, digital wallet, and ACH payments.
- User-friendly Digital Payments: You can send proposals and invoices to clients via email or custom URL. Payment fields are included in all communications, and you can create custom payment schedules complete with email prompts to remind clients if a payment is overdue.
- Multiple Option Proposals: Plus-level subscribers can email proposals with multiple package options directly to customers, saving multiple back-and-forth emails and phone calls.
- Auto-generate Invoices: At the Plus subscription tier, you can automatically generate invoices when a customer selects from a multi-option proposal. The Plus tier also allows you to add custom fields to your invoices and customize the layout.
Square Invoices is used by tons of small businesses, including caterers. Overall, Square Invoices users review the system highly. Across multiple review sites, Square Invoices enjoys ratings from 4.5 to 4.7 out of 5. Users note how fast and easy it is to use and how smoothly they can accept customer deposits and final payments.
I’ve used Square Invoices to create catering estimates and convert them to contracts, and have loved how easy it is to use. I’ve previously created catering documents by hand for small restaurants, and I found Square Invoices so user-friendly that it was almost addictive. I couldn’t wait to write more estimates with it.
If you need venue management tools or more robust recipe and inventory tracking, look at a more comprehensive system like Tripleseat or Toast. If you’re a small caterer who needs more document management tools at an affordable price, look at CaterlyApp.
Tripleseat: Best Catering Software for Event Venues
- More tools than small operations need
- Pricing is custom-quoted
- Recipe tracking is not robust
What we like:
Tripleseat is an absolute powerhouse catering management system. Beyond expertly managing menu and contract details, Tripleseat specializes in catering lead generation, even supporting a direct booking ecommerce site called Tripleseat Direct. With Tripleseat Direct, customers can place onsite and offsite catering orders for pick-up or delivery directly on your website. The order builder prompts customers to meet order minimums and will even process payments.
Pricing is custom-quoted and tends to be on the pricier side. Large catering operations with multiple bookable event spaces will get the most benefit from Tripleseat; it is simply too large and expensive to make sense for small caterers. Hotels, event spaces, high-volume restaurants, and high-volume caterers will love the excellent lead management and detailed contract tracking in this user-friendly catering management system.
Pricing for Tripleseat is custom-quoted. You’ll need to contact Tripleseat directly for pricing that is tailored to your operation.
- Lead Generation: Tripleseat supports catering leads from direct online booking, manual entry, and via integrations with OpenTable, Tock, and even Facebook.
- Excellent Document Management: With Tripleseat, you can customize and automate messages from lead receipt emails to templated responses for all catering and event booking stages. Fields auto-populate with the relevant event’s information so you keep all the details correct.
- Tripleseat University: If you need assistance learning all of Tripleseat’s functions, you can access its online training resources anytime.
- Venue Management: Tripleseat easily tracks booking information for multiple spaces and locations on a central calendar so you can avoid double or overlapping bookings. Color-coded labeling shows your catering order status at a glance.
- Flexible Payment Processing: With Tripleseat, you can process payments with Square, Stripe, or Clover.
I loved using TripleSeat at a previous job. The functionality of this software is simply massive, so it does have a learning curve. So it doesn’t surprise me that TripleSeat’s user reviews list some drawbacks—mostly the cost. But users overall rate this system highly; TripleSeat averages 4.4 to 4.6 out of 5 on the major software review sites. Users love the consistent high quality of new tools and rave about the customer support.
If you don’t need tools to manage multiple event spaces or operate with a team of catering salespeople, a simpler system like Square Invoices might be more your speed. If you need detailed recipe management, look at CaterZen.
FoodStorm by Instacart: Best Catering Software for Grocery Stores
- Pricing is custom-quoted
- Lead management is not strong
- No venue management tools
What we like:
FoodStorm by Instacart is specifically designed to manage catering orders for grocers and markets. Prepared foods are a huge opportunity for independent markets and grocers to expand revenue streams beyond basic cake and deli platter orders. If you want to start selling catered meals for Thanksgiving and other holidays or even support full-scale large-event catering, FoodStorm has the right tools.
FoodStorm’s overall score is lower than competitors mostly because its tools are so niche. The document management features are not robust enough for an event venue or large offsite catering operation. But if your market needs to focus on growing online orders and prodding abandoned carts, FoodStorm is the best-fitting catering software for your business.
Pricing for FoodStorm by Instacart is custom-quoted. Contact FoodStorm for a tailored price quote.
- Multi-channel Ordering: FoodStorm accepts orders via your store’s ecommerce website, the Instacart App, or an optional in-store self-service kiosk. You can also manually input orders you receive over the phone or via email.
- Customer Management: You can encourage customer orders with abandoned cart prompts and email marketing tools. Real-time customer feedback messages allow clients to feel heard and tell you—privately—about any opportunities for improvement.
- Comprehensive POS Integrations: FoodStorm integrates with most grocery POS systems. So you can link your FoodStorm catering menus to your checkout stands to allow customers to pay for catering items as they would standard grocery items.
- Instacart Integration: FoodStorm is owned by the grocery delivery app Instacart. It syncs seamlessly with the Instacart delivery app to accept orders and route deliveries to third-party drivers.
Like most of the catering software on this list, FoodStorm is well reviewed by users. On major review sites, I mostly see 4.6 and 4.7 out of 5 average ratings. Nearly all FoodStorm users are grocery catering departments and offsite caterers– the exact client the system is designed for. So the high ratings make perfect sense.
Positive reviews mention the ease of order entry and the excellent reporting—especially multi-location reporting. Though some users mention that the client experience on mobile devices is a little glitchy.
If you need venue management or tools for the detailed documentation that off-premise catering requires, look at CaterZen, Toast, or Tripleseat. If you need a lower-cost solution with fewer tools, Square Invoices is a better fit.
Methodology– How We Evaluated
I scored more than a dozen popular catering management software systems on the criteria of what tools are important to catering businesses, and what tools I could have used most when working in catering.
Fit Small Business is focused on the needs of small and medium businesses, so I prioritized the needs of the smallest catering businesses over the needs of enterprise-level operations. My rubric rewarded low costs, user-friendliness, and breadth and depth of available features. Click through the slides below for a detailed breakdown of my scoring criteria.
20% of Overall Score
First, we looked for systems that offered free baseline subscriptions or free trials. We rewarded software with short-term contracts and no user or event limits. We also looked for catering software that included built-in payment processing.
30% of Overall Score
Keeping track of documents is a caterer’s biggest pain point. There’s tracking inquiries and leads, proposals, estimates, contracts, and all the client correspondence that leads to a finished contract. Then, the prep lists, pack lists and BEOs for scheduled events are another category entirely. So, we have high marks for catering software with user-friendly, centralized document management.
15% of Overall Score
This category rewards niche tools that are notable but not necessary to every type of caterer. We awarded points for catering software that includes venue management, customer relationship management, marketing, and deep-level reporting. We also looked for systems that support third-party integrations for further customization.
20% of Overall Score
We looked for systems with detailed online knowledge bases with comprehensive tutorials. We also rewarded systems with 24/7 customer support and evaluated the user-friendliness of the main user interface, back office dashboard, and any client-facing tools.
15% of Overall Score
Finally, we scored each system based on our food service expert’s overall opinion of the system’s standout features, value for money, popularity amongst working caterers, and user-friendliness.
Catering Software Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Catering software helps catering businesses and solopreneurs organize their menus, contracts, delivery schedules, and other catering business operations in a single dashboard. Depending on your catering operation type, you might want online ordering, lead management, customer profiles, marketing tools, or recipe costing tools.
You can typically find all of these in most catering software packages, though each system will have slightly different strengths. Catering management software pitched to restaurants will focus on contract management and online ordering. Software for a home-based caterer likely prioritizes digital invoices and recipe costing.
There are several types of caterers, and you can divide them into categories based on the business type or their most common client type. The smallest catering businesses are home-based caterers; they work out of a licensed home kitchen (where legally permitted; some states do not license home-based caterers). Some catering businesses operate out of a hotel, restaurant, bakery, or grocery store.
There are also enterprise-level commercial catering companies that operate out of large commercial kitchens built specifically for catering large events (like the MET Gala, for example) or for corporate clients.
The two major types of catering services are on-premise and off-premise. On-premise catering is when the food is served in the location where it was prepared, as in a private event venue, hotel, country club, or restaurant. Off-premise catering is when food and beverages are served in a different location from where they were prepared, as in an outdoor wedding venue, or a private home.
You can further categorize catering services by client type. Many caterers offer:
- Social event catering: Social events are any type of party, such as family reunions, rehearsal dinners, and bar mitzvahs.
- Corporate catering: There are major bucks to be made catering for conferences and large meetings.
- Wedding catering: Some companies specialize in wedding catering, while others fold wedding catering into social event catering.
- Commercial concessions: Some caterers specialize in preparing food for concession stands that don’t have operational kitchens.
- Military catering: This is its own specialty service, often with its own protocol for food handling, maximum budgets, and food safety.
Catering businesses come in all sizes. The catering software you need will depend entirely on the type of catering business you have and the information you need to organize. CaterZen emerged as the best overall catering management software for most caterers in our catering software evaluations. It earned high marks for its multiple subscription levels, user-friendly drag-and-drop tools, and detailed knowledge base. To see if this system fits your catering business, contact CaterZen for a demo and start your free trial.