You should have this stuff printed on your quotes. Once the customers signs it, s/he acknowledges your terms and conditions. Probably one of the most important things about the whole job. Once it's down on paper, there's no weasling about. Also include cancellation charges, and any other things you can think of as well.
Deposits/ balance paymentsI have been very fortunate as far as getting paid (except with film production people). I often take smaller than 50% deposit, especially if the event is a long ways off. I might schedule a progress payment halfway along. Depends on the circumstance of the client somewhat, too.
I always state clearly and emphasize that the balance is due upon arrival; too many things can happen during the evening, and I get stuck waiting around til the last tipsy couple is gone, or they find more chores that weren't in the original cleanup specs. Make a list as long as you want- I believe I've just about heard all of them.
Still, this doesn't always work as well as it ought to, but at least it was in the original agreement.
Here's a question for you other caterers:
Have you noticed these days that people are stalling their commitments until just before the event? I mean like just a few weeks, even for a really big party sometimes?
This is what I'm seeing this year, especially with corporate business.
hi, fun shall it be to be a chefhi,
i understand you, i was a caterer before and simply gave it up, as all the contracts and the way i worded them, did not help me to collect the money on time.
so i realized, i have the wrong clients, as they abusing me, as they want to have a party and fun but not willing to put up there money for food cost, labor cost and operating cost.
well after that i decided to :bounce: at them. Since i found new ways of doing :bounce: :chef:.
one advise ensure the down payment!
Contracts are great, look at this case example we had two years ago: Wedding for 150, contract signed by the bride's mother, has the following: Caterer's arrival time: 1 pm, Hors d' o's served, 2:30, buffet dinner served:5:00. 50% before event, 50% upon arrival of caterer.
On the event day at 12:00 I get a phone call from the Bride's mother screaming at me why I'm not there, her guests are hungry, and I'm not feeding them. I tell her that we're scheduled to arrive at 1pm, I get a snarly "we'll talk when you arrive". 12:50 we arrive and I get a welcoming commitee from the bride's mother, her husband, and another woman, their faces like hemmarhoids-all red and puffy. I tell my crew to wait and I go out to the welcoming party:
Bride's mother: You're late, and I'm not paying you the final installment, and I want a discount on the buffet. Sally here, my cousin, works at a Golf course banquet hall, and she says we have every right to do so, and when are you going to feed my guests!!!
Me: Do either of you have your copy of the contract? No? Sally is starting to look worried now, checking her watch she scoots off... Look, I play by the rules and I have your signature here acknowledging that my arrival is for 1pm, hors d'o's at 2:30. I'm not even late yet and you want a discount. Tell you what. You're not happy, I can leave now. You've paid the first installment, so I'll just leave with my crew, food and equipment and call the deal off. O.K.? If you want your party, pay me now, like it states in the contract.
Husband starts getting worried now, and takes her aside for an explosive discussion. Husband comes back with the cheque, which I cash as soon as the crew start to set up. Bride's mother won't look at me for the whole event.
Things usually don't go on like that, this was an exception, but I had my butt covered.
I use a two part contract; a terms and conditions page which is pretty constant, and then a moveable invoice where i can write notes and final details. something else i do is invoice EVERYTHING that i do for the event, such as rental/hiring staff/shopping/consulting, and then mark it as COMP on the contract. Sometimes clients forget how much we have invested in the event even before it begins. 50 % down and 50% on completion is how I schedule payment, and i have learned to keep my costs covered by the deposit, even to the point of having the staff invoice seperately and marking it as "market price" on my invoice. Although i lose the ability to mark up the service staff, it is much safer for me to let the host pay them than to go out on that limb myself. let me see how the TaC page cuts and pastes.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Thank you for choosing Sushigaijin for your upcoming event. We are committed to providing all the professional services required to make your event an absolute success. As with most successful businesses, certain guidelines and procedures will help ensure your requests and our requirements are understood. Please review the following terms and conditions and contact me with any questions.
Payment Terms: Payment of 50% of the cost of the event is due with signed confirmation. Full payment is due when services are rendered.
Guest Count: Client agrees to inform the caterer, by phone, email, or writing as to the final number of guests. We are flexible and can accommodate different party sizes, but advance notice is required. Please allow 7 days. Client will be charged for the number of guests and services on the invoice if no alternate final number is received. A minimum of 72 hours notice for additional guests is required; after confirmation of your event, the number of guests may not be lowered.
Client’s Responsibility: The Caterer is not responsible for any items provided by client to the event. (i.e. beverages, flowers, cake, gifts, additional foods, dishes, glassware, serving pieces, etc.) The caterer is only responsible for those items provided by caterer and no other items. Caterer is not responsible for the safety of any food not provided by the caterer.
Alcoholic Beverages: Client agrees to take all responsibility for the action of guests who are consuming alcoholic beverages during and after the event
Default: Caterer’s performance is contingent upon the absence of strikes, labor disputes, accidents, severe weather, or any other cause beyond the caterer’s control. The caterer assumes no responsibility in the event the event the facility is unwilling or unable to have the event take place on the event date. Caterer, may, at its sole discretion, make reasonable substitutions to menu, equipment, and other services listed on the invoice.
Cancellation: A cancellation of contract will only be accepted in writing. If written cancellation is received 21 days prior to the event, the 50% payment will be refunded. If cancellation is received less than 21 days prior to the event date, client will be responsible for any costs incurred by the caterer by reason of breach thereof, and the 50% payment will be retained as partial liquidation of damage.
Prices: Prices stated are subject to change according to the market price of products and with final guaranteed number of guests.
CLIENT NAME:_________________________________ SIGNATURE:__________________________________
EVENT DATE:__________________________ DEPOSIT: $__________________ DATE PAID:____________
CREDIT CARD #:________________________ EXPIRATION DATE:____________ CHECK #: ____________
SUSHIGAIJIN SIGNATURE:_______________________________________ DATE:___________________
It really looks a lot better in MSword, but i think you can get the picture.
contracts deposits and paymentsThis is a very pertinenant subject.
Let me share with you some of the thoughts I have garnered in discussions with hundreds of caterers across the country and throughout Canada.
1. the trend is growing that the event is paid in full anywhere from 5-15 days prior to the event and only last minute changes are billable (and some insist on payment day of for that as well)
2. if you bend or amend the above rules then perhaps the wording should be the final balance is due upon arrival via cash or certified check only.
3. Film and TV catering - you need to know that they have the ability to pay on the spot via something called "managers checks" - DON"T let them swindle you - they are looking for very very cheap prices and therefore get a deposit up front and balance on completion but no billing. Many times they promise you 5 days and then cut it to 2-3 when your pricing is dependant on the 5 days. If you have a contract, you can at least threaten to enforce it and usually if they cut the days and meals you can recoup some of that loss.
This happened to me recently with the Bravo series Project Runway. If I had not had a contract (and I don't always I hate to admit), then they would have walked after 2 days leaving me with a loss because of food purchased nevermind other business turned away. It took negotiating still but in the end I came away much better than if I didn't have that signed contract/.
4. When the client gives you a deposit - or a better way to word it, because of legal ramifications is "a first payment" to secure the date and to ensure that you cover your costs at the very least, this then puts you in the position of possibly turning away other business. You also are investing time and resources into planning the event. what's my point, well why give them back the "deposit" or certainly not the full amount. Isn't your time and profit margin worth something too. They made the commitment - why should you lose out. Would it be fair to them if you took their money then another customer came along with a bigger and more expensive budget and you then dropped them at the last minute - don't you think they would have some recourse over you in that situation. Same for them - contract and first payment/deposit is a commitment on both your parts.
5. Another way to do it is to break it into 3 payments so that you have at least 2/3 of the amount prior to "day of"
6. with last minute events - and everyone throughout the country and Canada is experiencing more of these, it is even more important to get a large percentage up front - these events often require more running around and possibly higher costs because there is no leeway time. Make sure you don't get caught out here.
Now of course, we may always bend the rules using our discretion, but even in an extreme case, eg death in family, there is certainly a case for you keeping some, if not all, of that initial payment.
This has been a topic of discussion over on the catersource forum many times and listening to numerous view points, we have changed our policy to get full payment up front - less stress - less hassles - on the day - for everyone. If they are really not comfortable with that (and we don't bring that up until after they have committed for obvious reasons) then we ask for a certified check or cash - even a credit card can be reversed.
I think as an industry we need to work on things like this - getting paid in a timely manner - we are not bankers and once they've eaten the food and gotten the services you are not on their mind. Also tastings. What's up with small and inexpensive jobs demanding free tastings. It's not free for us and often hard to build back into the prices they are expecting.
Did you know that in Germany event planners and possibly caterers can charge a fee for doing a proposal?
What I found interesting about this discussion is that often I don't have the contract with me - just the final invoice - so I made a mental note to add that to my checklist for each event. And I am going to aim to have a more formal contract more consistently rather than just an invoice.
Knock wood over the past 15 years we have had very little problems - I think when we had the corporate catering business over 10 years we only go stiffed for about $800-1200 total (on account business) so for the most part not too bad. In the social situation, you are dealing with multiple personalities and for them what seems like a huge amount of money.
Smmeone else made the point on this thread to say that they make a note of the various services they provide and mark them "no charge" - that sounds like a romanism and I readily agree.
Now start thinking about how you can build some sort of charge in for all that work. You will never make enough money if all you are charging for is food and labor.
Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
That being said I am a verry mellow person and chef (the servers call me "the nice one") but I do not put up with crap from clients or there guest (money or attitude wise). I try to gauge a first time client right away (I have lots of regulars whom just call and say what the count is and when - and I do the rest) and tell if I want to do business with them. I do not mind good negoation for a peice of business, however, if someone becomes a pain in the butt I will generaly try to push them to Costco platters and get out of there. Furthermore, if they have a guest who is rude or obnoxious to one of my employees I deal with it right away, and yes I will pack up and leave an event, I REFUSE to put up with rude people.
As far as the contracts, as stated above, if they seem like the type to weasel me out of my $ I will find a way to dump them, I do not need the hassle. In comclusion, if you are the least bit worried (espically with a new client who is booking a big party) about the $, get it all a day or two prior to the event. Put it in writing and GET PAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I learned from an attorney that one way you can ensure that you keep your initial deposit is by not calling it a deposit, but call it a "non-refundable retainer"...he said deposits can be returned if the matter is taken to court but when notify the client up front, no matter what this initial payment will not be returned...sounds harsh but it should work effectively!