The Caterers Corner
Contracts and Cancellations Caterers Corner: Contracts and Cancellations
By Cindyscatering (Cindyscatering) on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 12:06 pm: Edit

Hi Guys!
Need guidance!!! I am so mad. We had a client "friend of a friend" booked since last July for an April 5 wedding. She called this week and cancelled. Reason, lack of funds. It wouldn't be such a big deal, but it is less than 30 days until the event and it's on the Saturday before Master's here in Augusta and I have turned down other (more profitable) business in order to help her out.
I also found out that she has now booked a less expensive caterer in town.
I do have a contract, but was stupid enough to waive my deposit.
I would love to pursue legal recourse but I don't think I would ever get a penny. Secondly, I feel that perhaps I should let the other caterer know that he may not get paid and that she violated her contract with me. (I send this guy a lot of business)
My contract states that my deposit is non-refundable but I feel I should have a more sizeable penalty for cancellations. I also feel if an event is cancelled with less than 30 days they should owe 1/2 of balance.
Would love some input, guidance, suggestions.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 01:18 pm: Edit


Been there sorry to say. "I would rather have a contract wihout a deposit, than a deposit without a contract."

#1 you are right you are screwed without a deposit anyway

#2 The EX-client may not know this, and if you act like they will lose a case they may compensate you to avoid legal action.

Most companies have a clear deposit policy that will spell out how much is NON refundable, and the terms of any available refund. I do not. I wing it like most things I do, and boy are my arms tired. Are yours?

They need to pay you for any out of pocket expenses you have to date. Printing, site inspection, coordination time, and any materials you may have purchased. Most likely you were about to begin purchasing. Did you find this out while asking for the funds to begin work for them? Did they "Oh by the way" you?

You could always show up with food, and sue them for that whole pie.

Wait a minute... Did you say the person that is doing it is a subcontractor of yours? Then I would sue the client in small claims, then cut off (or up) the guy you send business to. This guy may get paid, but he needs to know what they did to you, and that he is benefitting from your loss. Who knows as a favor he may drop them at the last minute. "Was your wedding tomorrow?" Now THAT would be funny. I also reread your post, and feel as if you may have a case for the whole contract..

This person REALLY SCREWED YOU! I would get em even if it cost twice the award to do, and it may. That is just me. To book a full year in advance, and then boot you for some cheap sub, is just wrong. Small claims is limited to $5000, but NO lawyers allowed. Just her, you, and a judge.


PS: Do us a favor, and do your part to prevent these people from breeding, and save us all some trouble. the MGT

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 02:52 pm: Edit

Don't ever do favors in this business, that's why it's called a business!!!!!
You could of bought them the cake as a gift; or a million other things but, don't short change yourself or your product!!!!!!
It is better to turn away that business then to give away your product and/or time.
Let the new caterer know and, let him make a judgement call.
Always take a deposit with clear guidelines as to when it is refundable and, when it is not and why it may or may not be refundable.
Forget suing, why? If they had no $$$ for the wedding they won't have $$$$ for a judgement!!!!!
I did a wedding on a boat, the bride did not show up. The groom asked what options he had and they were, you can have a hell of a party with friends and family or go home and sulk and be out 23K!
They had a hell of a good time!

By Cindyscatering (Cindyscatering) on Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 10:21 am: Edit

I haven't had time to do anything and probably won't. Lesson learned...move on, etc. I AM having new contracts drawn up which will state exactly what my cancellation policy is. The layman's version is "cancel on me and I'll hunt you down like the dog you are"....But I'm sure my lawyer will prefer his own lingo. You would think after 20 years as a paralegal I would have all my bases covered. But NOOOOO! Can't seem to get around to that legal stuff anymore and besides part of the reason I changed careers was because I was sick of legalities all day.
I do have one other guestion. What is your policy on guarantees? For example if you have an event guarantee 100 guests and they have 150 in attendance. I'm looking for a way to prevent clients from under-guaranteeing their ## in order to save them $$. I noticed on one of my wedding contracts yesterday that she has guaranteed me 100 guests, but has seating for 150 at the ceremony (wedding and reception in same facility). Any ideas and what do you guys do in such a circumstance? I want to make sure my new contract covers as many of these issues as possible.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, April 02, 2003 - 03:18 pm: Edit

People tend to UNDERCONTRACT

They think they're clever don't they?

Over the years I have developed the courage to say. "You WILL run out of food. If that is ok with you then this proposal will work fine." As a result most of my clients end up ordering for 125 when they expect 100.

This ordering food for 100 and inviting 125 is common client trickery, and is intended to take advantage of you.

People tend to UNDERCONTRACT. Why? I will tell you why. We require a 50% deposit to reserve our services. So if you contract me for 100 and a week before the event you double your count to 200 in effect I only have a 25% deposit. Sure I could bitch but why complain about doubling the final bill? It is most often worth the risk. So in most cases you count will go up at the last minute not down.

This may be what your clients are doing. You may still get paid for all the guests but you may not have all the production money you want in advance. Oh they are all soo clever and tricky.

I like counting plates as a way for doing a head count. Often prewrapped in stacks of 10 it is a brain dead way of determining how many you have served.

Our policy.
We bring 10% over our contracted amount. If there are 101 guests we can charge for the extra plate, but never do. Only if the client is a real turd or we need to provide more than the 10% do we ever bill for it. All the same we are only required to provide the number of portions paid for so if a waiter slips and breaks a plate, and we end up with only 103 portions. oh well. In reality we bring a whole lot more than the 10% extra we tell them about, but don't we all?

More important to us is how much time we have to adjust the numbers. Several times a year we find ourselves adjusting the numbers at the last minute.

BTW Newly weds are notorious for NOT PAYING THE FINAL BILL ON TIME. The first week after being married "Paying the caterer" is not often on the to do list. If the parents are flipping the bill you are a bit safer, but we often request "the final amount to be paid one week prior to the event" so we "Don't need to bug you during your honeymoon."


By Cindyscatering (Cindyscatering) on Friday, April 04, 2003 - 06:26 am: Edit

We require to be paid in full the week before the event, a lot of times clients want to pay by credit card, which means they have to come by the week before anyway. Getting paid has never been a problem (knock on wood), I have never been stiffed, given a bad check, etc.
I also over prepare by a minimum of 10%. I guess it's important to mention that 90% of the wedding receptions in my area Georgia and South Carolina are not dinners, they generally consist of heavy HD's, carving staions, etc. Anyway, if they do underbook and you run out of food you can bet the guest will be saying that the caterer didn't have enough. If never occurs to anyone that we brought what we were told.
They underbook, we overprepare and are underpaid and WE still come off looking bad.
Sometimes I wonder why I love this business so much. HA! HA! Cindy

By Teddybearbbq (Teddybearbbq) on Monday, April 21, 2003 - 02:48 pm: Edit

50% up front, balance two weeks before the event. Tip and overage after the event. Any change of date gets billed a change fee. NO FAVORS!

We got to this set of policies the hard way.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 12:59 pm: Edit

teddybearbbq, no messing around huh? I LOVE IT! We only use those terms with weddings, and other risky clients like banks, and advertising agencies. Oh yes AND if the accounting department is over 1000 miles away.

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