Appropriate resolution for this situation

Discussion in 'Professional Catering' started by sisko, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. sisko

    sisko

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    Hi all, not sure if this is ok to post here or not, but we were hoping to get some honest opinions from people who have experience.

    We had an event this past Saturday as a fundraiser for our local non-profit society. We hired a local caterer to provide a buffet-style meal. The meal we agreed on was as follows:

    - Prime rib

    - Yorkshire pudding

    - Roasted potatoes

    - Mashed potatoes

    - Roasted vegetables

    Total cost was to be $22/plate for 100 people.

    On the evening of the event, we had a total head count of 91 people. The meal was served ~45 minutes late, and the prime rib ran out before 35 people had gotten any. As well, the caterer did not bring napkins, salt & pepper, or horseradish. We had to scrounge napkins and salt & pepper from the in-house supplies.

    As well, in order to appease our guests, we had to order $420 worth of pizza and other food for a 'midnight snack'.

    The caterer has said that she supplied 1/2 pound of meat per person, which by all accounts is the right amount, unless it is a bone-in cut of meat, which it was. Our research on the internet has indicated that 3/4 to 1 pound per person would be a more appropriate amount of meat for a bone-in cut. Would the professionals on here agree with this?

    The caterer went on her facebook page the next day and basically intimated that all the guests must have been pigs and taken too much. Nevermind that the caterer is the one who carved the meat (into enormous pieces) then just placed it in the buffet line and went back to the kitchen. No one had a second helping before the meat ran out.

    So, the second question I would have, for those willing, is what you think would be a fair resolution to how much we should have to pay? We have already paid a deposit of $690.

    Our thoughts, for what it's worth are as follows:

    35 people unfed: $22*35 = $770

    Deposit already paid: $690

    Cost of pizza for guests: $420

    $2200 - $1880 = $320 to pay further.

    She sent us an offer of a $250 discount off, fwiw, which doesn't even cover the cost of the pizza we had to buy. Any thoughts would be appreciated, since everyone is very frustrated and we would like to hear from people who have a clear perspective from the other side of the fence.
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    What does your contract state?
     
  3. sisko

    sisko

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    There doesn't appear to really be one, just a spreadsheet she sent us for a quote.
     
  4. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    WOW! how long has this "caterer" been in business?  These are egregious things....running out of food is one of the worst things a caterer can do.  

    Frankly $22 for prime rib is dirt cheap....

    I'd be tempted to say, you messed up so royally the deposit should cover the dinner.

    Other caterers wanna speak out?
     
  5. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    Well pete, shroom and others are the experts here while Im new-guy but off the top of my head, 1st it's all in the contract, especially (cliche') the fine print, regarding both the caterer's responsibility and yours. First up is be SURE youve met any and all of what YOU agreed to. (so the caterer doesnt have that to "hide behind") Secondly, their responsibilty is to provide your guests with food, so provided there are no clauses addressing claimed "gluttony" as it were, they failed IMO to fulfill that obligation but... it all depends on how it's worded. Thirdly I would suggest that any further communication you make with the caterer now be in "provable" form, eg, email facebook etc. Phone calls are risky since they can claim or disclaim anything actually said or not said--your word against theirs.  

    From what you've said here tho, sounds like the caterer mismanaged portion control, (I wonder have they even SERVED PRib in bulk before?) then blamed the client and guests. Unfortunately this happens all to often and makes us all look bad.

    One more thing occurring... discounts only appease if you WANT to use them again--that sounds questionable here.  Should this end in court, you want to be in a position to be able to also claim the cost of serving your guests food to their (and your) reasonable  satisfaction. All that depends on your states laws etc I would imagine.

    Hoping that helped a little.
     
  6. sisko

    sisko

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    We aren't able to find any contract, and the caterer is a pretty mickey mouse operation, so I'm comfortable assuming there's no sophisticated language regarding gluttony or anything else in the contract.
     
  7. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    I don't know anyone who would serve  a bone-in prime rib on a buffet.Most caterer's would pre score the top of each prime (Rib bones removed) and make sure they had the number of covers taken care of. I don't know how a person would do that with a bone in Prime, you have no choice but to slice between the bone for a large cut.  I would pay for what was served and call it a night............Chefbillyb
     
  8. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    (Ok sorry, the gluttony clause was a bit of a joke, but  I also didnt see your first post specifying the spreadsheet/no contract til after I posted) I'm asssuming you signed the spreadsheet....I've seen that kind of "contract" before, just lists out the esssentials, and how/when they want payment.

    Absence of a detailed contract can be good or bad...but  not only did they not feed you, but the fact you were actually under count is more or less a positive.

    Point of note, I cant IMAGINE as a caterer, simply leaving big expensive hunks of meat out for people to help themselves. Thats just asking for trouble, and it's up to the caterer to control the product. Even tho I agree that 22 per head is a good deal, it's a bad deal at half that if half your guests failed to get what YOU are charged for.

    Also worth noting is the 45 minute late start in serving. Another failing in what you paid for, and if whatever contract they gave you specified serving time, thats another obvious breech to me.

    In the end I think I'll agree with Shroomgirl that maybe I'd call it even with the deposit, or just for what the guest DID get. Doesn't seem fair to you though...

    I personally see this as a gross breech on the part of the caterer; but I suppose the question is,

    if they refuse to give in, what subsequent steps are you willing to take?
     
  9. sisko

    sisko

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    Thanks for the replies. The good news, for us, is that we're not trying to go after them for a refund. We've only paid the deposit and that's all, thus far. Thing is, we're a non-profit in a small town, not exactly well armed for a legal fight. That said, she's a mickey mouse caterer in a small town, so I'm not sure she's any better prepared for it. We just want to come up with a number that is fair, and that will make the whole situation go away.

    I do, however, appreciate knowing from you folks that we seem to be in the right.
     
  10. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    If the caterer sues, after you do not pay anything but the deposit and send a 1099 for the full amount /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif, I'd counter sue for breach of contract.
     
  11. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    If the caterer sues, after you do not pay anything but the deposit and send a 1099 for the full amount , I'd counter sue for breach of contract

    I agree. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif

     she's a mickey mouse caterer in a small town

    Hmm makes me wonder how Mickey Mouse her licensing is. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif

    And unfortunately, that fact is there are many MM caterers in very LARGE cities too.

    That's one of the things I find attractive about the business-- you need only be halfway decent to

    be better than many, and if you're just really competent, you can be among the best. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

     
     
  12. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I would venture to guess that the discount offered was the profit margin on the event The caterer definitely deserves no profit from the event. That being said, they did however provide food (although not necessarily the right amount) and labor which to me would seem fair and equitable to be reimbursed for that amount. I think a 50/50 split (event cost $2200, pay $1100) would roughly cover those costs and be a resolution in this no/win situation.

    Granted that you are out the cost of the pizza because your guests were still hungry, I feel that you should share some the blame for that situation due to the fact that you didn't have amounts of food to be provided specified before hiring the caterer; so IMO you shouldn't deduct the cost of the pizza.
     
  13. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    Interesting points Chef to be sure, presenting the other side of the coin, ie, what the client should prudently look for when signing, and nothing allowing for the client making up the difference and charging the caterer. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif

    I guess one thing it boils to is, large or small,  how many servings of prime rib did caterer  actually provide. If it was 100, I suppose they're clear technically, even if one person ate all 100 servings. i.e., what was provided vs actually feeding all guests.

    Either way she screwed up, I would keep a tight leash on prime, if not actually plating, then standing behind the station tonging it out with a friendly smile.

    As to profit, I would personally be shooting for 30-40%  for Prime for 100, but I doubt I could do that at 22 per.

    *shrugs* Chalk this one up to lack of clarification and a caterer who has more than a few things to learn.

    Just another draw of event catering....never the same thing twice.
     
  14. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    How much would you charge to get that and how big of a portion?
     
     
  15. davehriver

    davehriver

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    I always figure a half pound of MEAT (not bone) per person and usually overcook.  If by any means I feel the quantity of meat is tight I serve it as mentioned above.  I would not pay the caterer any more.  
     
  16. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Dont pay him anything more, letr him sue you while you are holding the $   , He is most likely a corporation and has to be represented by a lawyer . You dont have to. ! lb. of meat bone in per person is what I figure.

         Save all the receipts of # you spent to feed people when he ran out. You can show it to judge plus the money you had to return to some guest. Plus travel expense of getting more food and time spent  Also no contract? his word against yours and you have the receipts etc. He or she messed up and they know it.

        The best one is that he was carving therefore in control of the portions, so its hids stupidity that he ran out as he cut to heavy.
     
  17. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    Well, I think there's a thread on computing costs in here somewhere, and it may be a topic-stray in here....but I start with per person food cost, (my cost) and work fwd from there, covering adddtional overhead. Adding in target-profit last.

    Portion size/grade of prime might depend a bit on the who-what-why of the event, (client feedback) but assuming reasonably priced roasts, and a mixed-appetite crowd, I'd shoot for about 10 to 12 oz servings, (no bone) and try not to specify actual weight per person, unless the client brings it up--not to cheat, but just to allow more leeway to keep butt-loss risks to a minimum.

    So all that comes out to a preliminary price estimate of 26.99 a person.
    That's with one helper, buffet style, 1 meat-serving station, leaving us both to cover runner duties.
    Also figuring 8 to 10% food bumper to cover unexpected guests etc.

    Down and dirty calculation, therebouts.
     
  18. foodpump

    foodpump

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    My thoughts?

    Caveat emporium.

    The alarm bells should have rung when the caterer didn't present the client with a contract.

    Frankly, I'd let this one just go, pay what was negotiated and next time--if there is ever one again,-- study the contact and quotes, ask a zillion qustions BEFORE any money changes hands. 
     
  19. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    I'm with ED......correspond & keep all correspondence.  They messed up your event.   You keep the money.  

    If you have an atty you work with @ your non-profit or an atty friend, run it by him/her......but frankly I'd not give the caterer any more $.
     
  20. chefedb

    chefedb

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    The question here was not portion control. It was what should I pay him to be fair and I say based on all the nonsense he gave you , being late, not enough food, letting you hear it from the guest and they are blaming you . I repaeat don't give him a dime more . In fact if he calls you tell him you were thinking of sending him the bill for the food you had to buy. Go on offensive never defensive because you did nothing wrong Except hire him or her.