Hello Cakers, Let us talk about contracts and their importance. Sorry in advance for the extra-long read, but is it essential for anyone thinking of starting a cake business. Even if you are a 'hobby' baker (meaning you DO NOT CHARGE ANYONE for a cake) or a professional just
starting, you will need a contract. I do not think you'll need to have friends or family sign one unless it is a significant event, like a wedding. FIRST, let me state that I am NOT A LAWYER. It will be imperative that you select one who practices this type of law. Just because we think something should be a clause, it may not be legal.
Outside of your contract, take note of EVERYTHING by writing it down. These pages will become a part of your agreement. Brides, Grooms, party planners, or even a friend or family member helping with planning have a lot on their minds; they will not remember everything you discuss during any consultations. Follow up on any phone calls with an email or text confirming the topic. Check with your lawyer if this becomes legally binding. I had separate contracts for a wedding cake and then for a novelty cake such as a birthday, anniversary, or groom's cake. Even if your contract is two pages long, make sure everything you'll need to know later is on it now. I have a sample of several of the forms I made and used for years. Since events evolve, such as the pandemic we are currently experiencing, put a clause in the contract for that! Make sure to get the name of any persons paying for any balance due. It could always be someone other than the person that placed the order. Lets' say the bride comes for tasting and pays the (non-refundable) deposit. Make sure she is the same person responsible for the balance. Phone numbers address for each workplace. When you need to find them, you may need this. Not everyone will call you back, and not everyone checks their email or texts. If you want to text them, confirm they approve this as fees may apply for them. EVENT PLANNER (if any): If you use Event Planners, you will use a contract made up specifically for them and their business, not their customer. If this is the case, then you more than likely have worked with them before and know how they operate. Usually, the Event Planner will order cake based on cakes you and other bakers have made in the past. You may never meet the bride or groom. ALLERGIES: Please make sure you have an area on your contract for this. Unless you are 1000000% sure you can make a tasty dairy-free or a gluten-free cake, then do not commit to that. See my blog on Dry Cakes! LOCATION: Call venue ahead to find out the exact location they want the cake delivered and what area of building for entry. Some have a back entrance, so you must know where to park and enter. Write this information on the contract with a person's name that is in charge of accepting delivery. PRICING: Give a total, not a breakdown. In other words, do not break down per layer, etc., as this gives the customer something to nit-pic about later if they have spent too much on other things and are looking for a way to trim costs. If this happens and they call to cut the budget, and it does happen, see where you know you can save them money. For example, if you are making gum paste flowers, maybe the florist can leave a few for you on the cake table to use. Or if the fillings are going to be time-consuming to make, switch to a pre-made one from your cake decorating supply store. You will need to tell the customer where they can save money, but if they ask for a breakdown of every little thing, this could wind up taking up so much of the time that now you are losing money—just some things to keep in mind.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE FROM THE LATE 1980'S THAT I USED. Yes, showing my age. :( NOW YOU WOULD HAVE ALL THIS ON THE COMPUTER.
DEPOSIT: To refund or no-refund, that is the million-dollar question I see on Facebook all the time, someone new to caking asking if they should refund the deposit because the event has been canceled or rescheduled. If you can accommodate the new date, then great, use the deposit for that. If you cannot, then I would say no refund. Only you can make this call. Make this clear on the contract! BALANCE DUE: The remainder of balance due: Back in my day, it was cash or check. If I didn't have the check in my hand to take to the bank a full seven working days (not weekends) before the event, I did not start on the cake. I made this clear to the customer. Today it is much easier to collect monies due. Do not do favors on this front. The two times I did, I got stiffed! DELIVERY: I feel transportation should be included in the pricing, not as a separate line-item. The reason I say this, and trust me on this, you will get a call saying that "my uncle is going to pick up the cake." Do not let this happen on anything more than one tier!
JUST AN EXAMPLE: WHAT I USED FOR MY NOVELTY CAKE ORDERS / YOU WILL NOTICE THAT NOT EVERYTHING I TOUCHED ON IS ON ALL MY CONTRACTS, SUCH AS SOCIAL MEDIA. BACK WHEN I HAD A BUSINESS THERE WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA.
PICKUP: This should be for one tier cakes only, but you have to decide that for yourself. Have detailed instructions on how the cake should be picked up or moved. See my blog on that and have the customer sign at the time of pickup. I Take a picture of the cake before they leave. Take a photo of inside the car where they will place it. Have them sign a waiver in case anything happens due to their not transporting correctly. Take a picture of your cake supports inside the cake as you are putting it all together, have them sign that too. This way, they can not say that is was not supported correctly. FLAVORS: Have the customer sign a sheet at tasting with flavors tasted and selected; this page can be a stand-alone page as an addendum to the contract. SKETCH of design: Only after receiving a non-refundable deposit do I give the customer a copy of the design, making note that this is a rendering only. All actual cakes colors etc. may not be exact. Also, this is a 2d, and the cake will be 3d.
BALANCE DUE REMINDER / NOW YOU WOULD SIMPLY SEND A TEXT OR AN EMAIL.
REFUNDS: If you have your deposit as non-refundable, then this must be stated clearly! If you can use the deposit toward another date, then note this on the contract. For example, it is three months until the event and customer calls to say their date has to change. To me, it would be no problem unless I had an important event planned for myself, or the new time they selected cannot be honored because my calendar is full on that date. But lets' say they call three weeks before the event and you have already made the flowers and purchased the supplies, then it is totally your call, but whatever you decide must be clear to the customer. DEPOSIT for RENTAL ITEMS such as columns, plates, stands, etc. List all these separately with the refund price for each. Have a credit card on file to handle this. The bride should appoint someone to return these while they are on vacation. Have the customer give you a phone number and name of the person in charge of returns. Call them the day after the event. I have had the caterers throw out stands, plates, etc. It is up to the customer to make sure this does not happen. They must take whatever refund items with them when they leave the event! If the caterers or anyone else throws these out, they must be paid for by the customer! Do not accept a sob-story, and you will hear one. CAKE TOPPER, or other cake accessories that the bride will supply. Have on contract who will place this on the cake? I always had the bride bring the topper to me. Thataway, I didn't have to rely on someone else for placement. As far as the contract goes, have a line item stating that you have it on site. Nothing worse than to set up the cake and have forgotten accessories at the bakery. CAKE CUTTING GUIDE, SIZE / SERVINGS: If the venue has someone on staff that knows how to cut a wedding cake versus a party cake or that a professional planner employed, then I would say there is no need for a 'cutting guide.' What I had found is that if the venue charges to cut the cake, the customer will ask Aunt Wilma to cut for them. The problem with this is that Aunt Wilma will cut the cake like a birthday cake, and you will not get the number of slices the customer is expecting. Always supply the bride with a cutting guide because you never know. I doubt they will call you and let you know this bit of info — state on the contract that you have supplied the customer with this guide. This page also can be an addendum to the contract to be signed. FLORIST: Have a place for this on your contract for Florist name, the person arranging, and their phone number. Especially if they are to place flowers onto the cake, you could wait a long time for the florist to show up, and you may need to call them for an ETA. If you have other deliveries, this can cause you to be late for your next event. FLOWERS USED: Real, gum paste, or wafer paper. Make sure the bride knows the properties of each, which is essential for not only for outdoor parties but for the medium properties. Make sure customer knows that flowers you make are all wired together and although food safe, should not be eaten. COLOR SWATCHES: Make sure you have any color swatches needed. Colors can be tricky, so make sure you match. Light pink on the computer may look different than an actual in-person sample. CHANGES: How far ahead of the event is the couple able to make changes in flavors, design, etc.
MY WEDDING CAKE CONTRACT / YOU WILL SEE I HAD DELIVERY A SEPARATE LINE ITEM, I DIDN'T FILL THAT IN, BUT RATHER I INCLUDED IT INTO THE CAKE PRICE.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Get their name and phone number. I would always ask the photographer to send me a picture in a social media sharing format. I rarely got one. Having the photographers' names and contact information is vital so you can remind them. WEATHER: I live in Florida, so we have our share of tropical storms and hurricanes. If you are alerted that there has been travel advisory warning issued in your local, or the destination local, contact your insurance company to see if you will be covered. Customers must be aware of this via the contract. SOCIAL MEDIA: If you get a picture from the photographer that has the customers in it, make sure to get a wavier saying you can share on social media. If the person is not in the photo and you want to share their name, make sure they sign a waiver. CONFLICT RESOLUTION: A lot of customers go straight to social media to bash cake bakers before contacting the baker. I would have something that addresses this. State that text is private and not to be shared, etc. Again, a lawyer would be a great way to start here. I cannot stress this enough that you cannot put too much information on a contract! Make sure to go over every bullet point. I am sure there are things you will find that need to be added to your agreement as you go along. Just beware, happy brides, their mothers, or other customers sometimes try to get money back from everyone after an event. It is helpful to have the names of all vendors who will be supplying anything at the event. Once my bride tried to get all her money back, even down to the candles! So, it helped that I had all vendors' names, or I would have thought it was just me. Give the customer a copy of the signed contract and or anything else discussed that has their initials on it.
Good luck and now get out there and sell some cake! Happy Caking, Bonnie