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Here's a good one..

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
I have a wedding next weekend that was contracted for 200 guests. I used to work with the parents, so I gave the daughter a nice price for a big menu. Two weeks ago, she told me that she had rec'd RSVP's from 100. Now, mind you, Dad's paid for 3/4 of the cost of 200 at that point.

I met with mom and bride this week (one week prior to the big day) at the function hall they've rented and the manager there asked her for a firm seating count. They skirted the issue, so I hung back to hear what they said. They told her 140- "the kids won't need seats" . Huh? The mgr says that of course they'll sit and they'll sit in seats that are designated for adults and the adults will end up with no place to sit. Bride says, "well, we're not counting kids- they'll run around and not eat anyway". So I piped in and said that I charge 1/2 price for kids over a certain age and full price for kids over 12, so I'd like to get a firm FIRM count if you please. Mom then says that no, they're not counting kids because they won't eat. (It's been my experience that she's exactly right- they won't EAT, but they'll certainly TAKE a cartload of food off a buffet! Which food is mine if they've not paid for it...)

So I called the manager and asked a few logistical questions and then asked how many she's setting up for. She said 156! I'll do the math for you; that's 16 over the number for which she's intending to pay me. Even if they're all kids at half price, that's still money owed to me.

I'd love to place a server at the head of the buffet line and turn away ALL children. Maybe make an announcement that adults only may now help themselves to the buffet and are allowed only ONE plate. Send a server to each table and rip the food away from any unpaid minors? Maybe have my photographer taking pictures of children eating and send them to the dad with the final bill....

What a bi*ch.
post #2 of 45
Man, have the talk with her now...also did you do a contract? If not you should have and really look into making one up for future use. Get her to sign a contract Monday or else look at pulling out if you have to and it's that important to you. Always always always have a contract that discusses your routine policies and also discusses anything unique to that gig.
post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 
You're absolutely right, but because I used to work with the parents, I felt a little weird about the whole contract signing. We have a contract, but it doesn't specify minimum numbers only the payment schedule. On the other hand, I thought they'd be honest enough not to try to get something for nothing. Too late now, but I guess I'll contact her and tell her what my normal policy is.

Another oddity about this wedding is that we set out the payment schedule requiring that they pay 25% up front, and three more equal payments, the final one due one week prior to the wedding. The bride brought in 25% of what the first payment should have been-$375 as opposed to $1500. Her father contacted me and told me that she had no idea how much her food/catering should cost. I've since heard through the grapevine that the grandparents have asked around at area restaurants to see if I was ripping her off. Luckily, my friend, who owns one of the restauants called me to give me a heads up.

They are getting the deal of the century at $21.95 plus tax and service for 4 entrees including chicken, beef, crab stuffed sole, and pasta; 4 sides, 4 apps including shrimp cocktail. Total bill was to be around $6K for 200 people.

She may be a bit*h, but I am a sucker. I'm going to keep thinking about last weekend's wedding where the bride and the mother of the groom hugged me because they were so happy with everything. They had the photographer come into the food prep tent and take a picture of my crew and myself at the couple's request. The groom even came into the shop and tipped me $500 a couple of days after.

I can bet the farm that I won't be getting any kind of tip this Saturday....:lol: I think I'll be chasing them for the final couple of hundred dollars for months to come.
post #4 of 45
Get the final payment before the day or I can see the writing on the wall...you won't get paid. Also, I would go ahead and have the contract signed. Explain to them that because of some of their actions, it's moved this out of the friendship realm and into a realm where it must be pure business. And failure to do that will result in you having to regretfully pull out of the gig. You have a responsibility to protect your business and your staff.
post #5 of 45

I've said this before....

Friends, Family and Business don't mix. If you want to continue to ever communicate with these people ever again without wanting to slap the c**p out of them then run away. Recommend someone you know and trust...but Uh Uh!

I always find it hard to swallow that these people with bend over backwards to do the right thing when it comes to strangers but have no problem jepordizing relationships or taking advantage of 'good deals' that acquantances will give "out of friendship" <Yeah, like THEY won't pay you MORE because you're a friend...>

Is it just me? ARGH!

You're coming down to the wire here. Definitely write everything down very carefully, point by point and present it to the signers of the paycheck. NOW. If they don't sign you have to decide where you want to go with this. I sure would not want to be in your shoes. (even though in the past I'd be the first to do the same thing for 'family'. never again)

I agree, do NOT serve unless you are paid. You can nicely make that clear to the wedding party. I don't mean being handed a check when you're unloading chafers from your truck. I wouldn't even wait until the day before. You would need a little time to be able to decide if you want to proceed or not and they can perhaps get one of those restaurants that they contacted to fill the bill for...what? A hamburger and hotdog roast? Perhaps you could defer to accounting or some part of the culinary financial world that they wouldn't understand? (I know it's a stretch, but it depends on how much you want to remain friends, which from the reference to a certain female individual I'm guessing not) Plus that dad running around behind your back is ... no I'm not even going to go there.

H*ll, 22 bucks for your spread sounds like a steal.

I suppose they could go order 170 Whopper meals if they're worried about cost! (Just no toy until they finish their fries! LOL)

post #6 of 45
I've heard of some catering companies sending wedding customers to those short time loan companies. You get paid before ceramony, and someone else chases them for the money.
post #7 of 45
I'm with the others.
They've only paid $375 so far and the wedding is a week away?!!!!!
.....payment in full NOW, everything spelled out.....kids cost x

if you're not adding tips for staff to the bill figure out what that would be and add it on with a *

their numbers are 156 that's 20+% less than the initial bid count.....your losing out on the bottom line already.

"No good deed goes unpunished."
not sure who initially said it, but this seems to be one of those times.

Does that count include the photographer, band or any others that may eat?
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 
NO, no, no! I'm sorry I wasn't clear! The first payment was only $375. Since then, the dad has been paying me to catch her up. At this point, the balance they owe around $1500 based on 200 guests. Since her numbers are down, the payment could be considerably smaller. My problem in this is that she refuses to count the children in the total #. We'll see what she says when I add on the DJ and photographer.

If I had only collected $375 and the wedding is a week away, I should get smacked in the head! Friends or no friends, that would have been beyond stupid! Actually, they're not friends; I used to work with them so if this whole thing goes south, I won't miss them at all. I'll be there on Saturday, though. I can't see the point in ruining my reputation over a couple hundred dollars. I'm pretty sure that the dad will pay up as he's the only one in the whole bunch of them with a brain.

They are getting a good deal, but I'll also make a profit- just not the profit I would have made had I charged her what the gig is worth. People just don't realize that it's no easy feat to bring the restaurant to them. All that goes into doing that is an amazing amount of work and shouldn't be taken for granted.
post #9 of 45
ok, better.
bleck, I hate messy arrangements....happens to us all....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 
bleck..good word!

My contract isn't great. Would you, shroom, or anyone else care to share a copy of theirs with me? I'd really appreciate it.
post #11 of 45
Who is the contract with? The father or the daughter? Always get the guy with the money to sign the contract.
post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 
The contract is with the 24 year old daughter. Her father has bailed her out of this financial mess. This is an adult woman who lives on her own. I don't see how I could have forced her to have daddy come in to sign a contract.
post #13 of 45
shoulda, woulda, coulda I don't think any of us can look back in hindsight and say we've never made an error in judgement regarding how to do business, I know I sure have made tons of them over the years! But the situation your in right now is a tough one. Grin and bear it and do the best you can to get as much money as possible today and tomorrow...

The way to do the contract with her was to get it either signed with a credit app (which I prolly would have done since it was such a big chunk of change) and if she flunked, I would have said you have to have someone else sign on the contract with you. Everything would be in writing, and number of guests would be confirmed within 5 days of the party and failure to have the last payment made by x date would result in a forfiture of funds to date and cancellation of the party...It should also talk about the facilities and any disclaimers or protection you need to have for yourself in it (such as, running water, sinks, fridges, cooking equipment, electricity, a/c...whatever), and also discuss that outside contractors would be considered part of the head count (that means if you feed the dj, they pay for the dj), also how children are treated regarding head counts. As painful sometimes as negotiating price and terms can be, especially when you are in a "family/friend" situation, it's well worth it and avoids trauma and hurt feelings down the road. Isn't it better to get screwed when you have nothing invested in something? Rather than scrambling and praying you get paid out the "goodness of people's hearts"? Trust me, people will respect you more for having established and consistent business practices versus being "cheap". No value is ever placed on cheap. If someone doesn't have to sweat a little to pay for something, they place very little value on it and it's considered a disposable commodity.

It is well worth getting a lawyer to do a simple contract for you. You can also google it and see what you come up with. But should be easy to maybe even barter with a small contract law practice in your neighborhood or town.
post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 
Great idea about bartering for the contract. I'll look into it.

I just sent off a note to the bride and said that I needed the final final count including kids and outside contractors. I told her I was planning to put out 140 plates so I wanted to be sure that was the correct number of guests as the hall manager and I seemed to have different numbers.

I'm sure she's cursing me right now because she thought she was going to get away with something. So did the mother...obviously, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
post #15 of 45
Many years ago a business consultant friend gave me some advice. FWIW, I'd like to pass it on, as it has bearing on this discussion.

"Never," he insisted, "offer friends and family a discount. Either charge them full bore, or give it to them for free."

Anything in between, he pointed out, is a sure-fire way to hard feelings and a minimum.

Been my experience that he was 100% on the mark.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #16 of 45
That is interesting advise, but I need to ask...why is that? What is the logic behind it? I guess what I would like to know is, what hard feelings can be had when, say you charge family cost of everything? Meaning, you charge just enough for the food, rentals, employees, etc., but you as the business owner don't make anything off of it? I believe in cutting family a break (now, I am not a caterer, so maybe it is different, but I am speaking in general terms). Friends, or in this case "friends" are a different story. I can agree with that philosophy...

Just curious.
post #17 of 45
Panera does the same thing.....they NEVER discount their product EVER.

Lentil, check the archives our contracts were discussed 1.5-2 years ago....
I'm really building separate prices with headcounts, ie....200-151 guests $10pp, 150-100 guests $15pp, 99-75 $19pp etc.....man it has saved me when counts just aren't what was initially projected.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #18 of 45
Thread Starter 
I don't understand what you mean. Could you explain further? Thanks!
post #19 of 45
I agree with KY, but don't always adhere to that advice.....family is family.....friends hopefully are customers.

Archives.....chef talk has archives of threads going back throughout the ages...actually I'm unclear as to how far they really go back but they should contain info on catering contracts.....we were pretty detailed.

Volume is profit, if a customer says they want a bid on an event that will have approx 300 guests I will write a contract that will have larger costs for less guests. For example one conference had a breakfast and lunch supposedly for 300 guests, final count was 125....well my math says that 300 is a whole lot more profit than serving the same menu at the same price to less than half the projected guest count. So on large parties I breakdown the guest count into usually 50 person increments and increase the food costs proportionally. Funny how 151 guest counts come in regularly instead of 140.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #20 of 45
So let me get this right.... 4 entree choices for $21.95 per person? Are you nuts??!! I recently left an operation where 90+% of our business was catering, weddings mostly. For $21.95 per person you'd do well to get burgers with all the fixings and a cold salad buffet. I would suggest you get the bride to pay you outright TODAY. Get a guaranteed number of guests, and include the kids! And don't get bullied over this by the parents. If they have an issue, drop the contract, give the money back (less an appropriate handling fee), and chalk this one up to experience. I've always hated when people try to take advantage of others simply because of a previous tie. You have my condolences having to deal with such unscrupulous people, good luck!
post #21 of 45
They are getting the deal of the century at $21.95 plus tax and service for 4 entrees including chicken, beef, crab stuffed sole, and pasta; 4 sides, 4 apps including shrimp cocktail. Total bill was to be around $6K for 200 people.

So, rentals were not included but were part of the hall?

my website has prices....Wedding Catering St. Louis Barbecue, Events Chanterelle Catering though I cannot remember catering 4 entrees.

Most of mine are two, with green salad, veg (most often an extensive platter), starch....rice/potatoes, rolls/butter.

I hope your aps aren't labor intensive and your pasta dish is easy.
No mention of desserts, so I assume they are having wedding cake. Do you add a cutting fee?
No mention of beverages.....are you providing them? refilling water?
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #22 of 45
Thread Starter 
Hold on, Jigz! She is pretty much paid up EXCEPT for the children which she doesn't want to count because she doesn't think they'll eat. I know I'm not the most savvy of caterers, but I'm not a complete idiot. :beer: :eek:

Yes, the menu is extensive, and no, I'm not handling ANY of the rentals. I am using all the china, flatware, glassware, AND the entire fully equiped kitchen at the country club on the parent's dime. I have charged them a service charge that will cover every one of my help as well as myself which charge is over and above the food cost. I WILL make an okay profit on the food, even though, yes, I gave them a very, very good price. While the menu is extensive, all items are simple.

I learn a lot from each job I cater, and I learn a lot each time I come her to ask for your advice. The actual dollar amount that I will be out should I never collect a dime for the children's meals will amount to between $160 and $200. Another lesson learned, although short of scratching the contract on her forearm, I don't see that she'd look at the situation any differently.
post #23 of 45
I'm not KYHeirloomer but I play him on tv ;) hahahaha! Goose I would think the reason your either give it away or treat em as a normal customer is because someone will ALWAYS feel like the other party is trying to get something over on them.

Beware of barter situations for the same exact reason.

If you do decide to go against his great advice, you must follow the discount with an airtight contract lol. An airtight contract is pretty rare lol! But you tend to let people you are close to have looser boundaries than you would with a normal client.
post #24 of 45
Thread Starter 

We aren't cutting the cake, or at least we weren't contracted to. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if we end up doing it, though. I've charged up to $2pp to cut the cake, but have been told that's too low. I figure at a wedding of 80 ppl, that's $160. It takes very little time to cut and either place the cake on the buffet or serve it- I feel very mercenary charging more. What do all of you charge?

There is a full bar provided by the CC and they are a hard drinking crowd. I am providing 3 glass crocks- one with lemonade, one with iced tea, and one with a non-alcoholic punch. We are pouring water and coffee tableside and I always have servers man the buffet. I've found that my food costs are greatly reduced by having the meats served and I think it's a little classier especially at a wedding. Just my personal preference.

I'm going to check out your website right now. Thanks so much for all your help...
post #25 of 45
cake cutting $125 flat fee. But occasionally have afterwards wanted to charge more for the pain of dbl cakes/pillars etc..

So, curious minds wanna know, how'd it go this weekend?
Were you able to find the contracts threads? if not one of the helpful site administrators may be able to pull them up.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #26 of 45
Thread Starter 
Smack in the middle of another dinner (an easy one this time, though) for 100. Will tell you all about last night when I come out from under this one. I am tired....
post #27 of 45
Thread Starter 
It went pretty well, I guess. The kitchen was pretty strange- fully equipped, but with only 1 work table. We had brought 2 of ours, so it wasn't a problem, but I'm sure glad we had them. Plating 140 salads wouldn't have been much fun without them!

The bride was a sullen witch, but that really didn't affect me. The biggest problem was with the dj's. One of my waitresses came bolting into the kitchen a full 30 minutes before the meal was to be served and said that the dj's had started directing the guests to the buffet. The fish was still in the oven. I said something to the effect of "are they f'ing nuts?", to which the dj, who had been standing right behind me said, "No, we're not f'ing nuts, but you're f'ing behind schedule!" It went on for another round with me saying that I was working from the schedule the bride gave me and he said so was he. Turns out the dimwitted bride didn't coordinate the schedules. I told them to hold off and we'd let them know when the buffet was ready just like every other wedding we've done. (since when do dj's tell the guests to eat without checking with the kitchen?) To get me back, when we were ready, he told the guests, "well, I guess the buffet is finally ready.":lol:

Water under the bridge since the guests were happy.

We got some wonderful comments on our display especially on the apps and beverage tables. I used the glass riser idea which looked really great! Thanks for the idea.

Naturally, the kids all ate just as we all knew they would, but her numbers were down from the final count and I decided that it would be best if I just let it drop. I talked to her father and let him know that I could have charged her more, but I wouldn't. He knows what a deal she got, and I got good will. I now have 8 lbs of pot roast and 5+ lbs of cooked shrimp that I held back. Specials will be good this week

Now I'm crossing my fingers that that crowd doesn't call me again.:eek:
post #28 of 45
gotta love DJ's.....what a trip!
Glad everything worked out.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #29 of 45
I can't believe the prices. we start at 23.00 for a basic chicken plus tax and a 20% service charge. I'm glad it worked out for you though.

P.S. nice website Shroomgirl!
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
post #30 of 45
Thread Starter 
Well, NH isn't CA, but you're absolutely right! That party had been booked for a long time and I've learned a lot since then. You can rest assured that my prices won't be that low for so much ever again. I was doing it because I knew the people, but the funny thing is that I'm not even sure they had any clue of the value they rec'd. It got to the point that I was figuring that there may be one or 2 ppl out of their entire guest list that would be impressed and I may get more jobs out of them. The mgr of the CC where it was held was very impressed with the food and presentation so I've made it to her list of caterers at least.

I had forgotten, but we even did shrimp cocktail in martini glasses for the head table and NOT ONE OF THOSE MORONS even noticed.

Glad to be done with them.

Tonight is a small cocktail party for 35 for a non-profit- nori, summer rolls, fruit, antipasti, cheese and crackers, crocks of non-alc beverages and the price total price with service and rentals is 1/5 of the trashy wedding for 140. I'm learning.....
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