My dream one day is to open my own bakery or cupcakery or cake studio ect. I haven't thought out the fantasy well enough to decide yet.
Anyhow, I was thinking today of all the time and money I've spent on my recipes and to this day I still only have my go to chocolate, coconut and vanilla recipes picked out. After trying what seemed like a gazillion different butttercream recipes I think I have finally found the ONE (I'll know for sure tonight, im making it again tonight just to be sure).
So I was thinking, if I ever get to the point in my life where I can open up a little shop, whats to stop an employee from taking my recipes and plastering them all over the internet or taking the recipes to open up their own shop?
How do bakeries handle this? Sure you could always make them sign a non-compete or non disclosure agreement but those things aren't always enforced and sometimes they can be very hard to prove a employee violated their agreement.
You can have them sign a noncompete clause. You can have them sign an agreement. You can keep the recipes from them (do all the mixing yourself or have buckets of ingredients all ready and they just dump those into the mixer.) I've seen it done all these ways.
Ive heard of people signing agreements that if they give out the recipes that they can be sued. I wouldnt see why it couldnt be enforced. But the one thing is when you hire employees, you have your basic counter people that wont have anything to do with the actual recipes but usually you have one valuable employee that you can trust with your life, or livelyhood that will know it.
Bakery/cupcake wars. Sometimes you can't even trust your business partner or valuable employee with anything. It seems that even best friends turn into enemies. Remember Magnolia? So now we have two bakeries out of that one: Magnolia and Buttercup. And I think the managers also got into lawsuits with one of those partners and opened their own bakeries.
What you think is original probably isn't. I use the buttercream recipe that the bakery I used to work for used (they're out of business now). The owner gave me the recipe and it's the reason people came to the shop. Delicious. So I've got this unique recipe, right? And I give it to my neice in Canada who is doing cakes and she says...'oh, that's the recipe I use now!' So much for my 'original' recipe.
The point is, you can't be that worried about what other's will do. Even if they have your recipe, chances are it won't taste the same. How often have you tried a recipe from a restaurant and it's just not quite what you had? You just can't duplicate EXACTLY what someone else does! Don't know why, but it's never the same. And even if you have someone steal your recipes, if you are the one that has the reputation and are the first out there, you will have the upper hand. And so what if someone has your recipe...doesn't mean they're going to be making it instead of buying your product. If I buy cupcakes it's because I'm not wanting to do the work!
This would be the last concern I have when considering opening a business!
I've also read on this site, that someone can tweek your recipe slightly and it makes a different recipe. eg. add slightly more baking powder. Therefore, signing a non-disclosure agreement or even a noncompete clause in a contract, would not be a guarantee that someone could not find that loophole.
I would suggest you pre-mix dry ingredients for each recipe as needed and keep the actual recipe to yourself if you're worried. Or, hire that one person who you trust implicitly.
Noncompetes are not enforceable in CA. You can include a nondisclosure agreement in your employment contract, but good luck proving the recipe your ex-employee used was "yours".
More info about noncompetes:
The way we handle this is only letting people we trust have access to the actual recipes.
Thanks Jason, that's a great article!
Non competes are not enforceable in many states. It interferes with a person's right to work. I won a huge lawsuit for someone infringing on my right to work by making me sign a no compete and then threatening to sue me when I found it was fraudulent. They are usually only enforceable in research and development situations where confidentiality is key, and where the employee has extensive training, like in a pharmaceutical company. My husband had a partnership with another physician a few years ago and that no compete is legal, but limited. It also involved a good amount of money exchanging hands, and written up by a lawyer. As stated before, put dry mix in a zip lock bag. Also, watch who you hire. Not everyone can afford the expense of opening a business, so just don't hire someone who can compete with you.