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Seeking Advice on Protecting Recipes from Hired Help

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I've just starting talking with a woman I've know for several years about working with me (as an employee, not a business partner - at least not right now) to build my dessert business. One thing I'm struggling with is how to have her help in the kitchen without making my recipes an "open book". I am already aware of the "Non-Disclosure Agreement" and the "Confidentiality Agreement" options. I might actually go that route, but I am aware of two bakeries that had that in place and still ended up in court after an employee ran off with recipes. I'm looking for a more day-to-day, operational approach to keeping my recipes protected.

 

I appreciate your input/advice!!

post #2 of 14

i have a couple recipes that i treasure so

 

if i was in your shoes and didn't want to share every secret

 

i'd prepare part of the recipe--measure out some of the spices or flavorings or something & store in special containers well marked of course

 

so the recipe would call for x amount blablabla substance and just be sure you keep it 'stocked'

 

but there's no way to really guard everything if she's gonna be doing the baking--but i could see (me) doing it for a few things

 

you just luck out sometimes with employees too -- ok sometimes not but icon_biggrin.gif

 

that might help a bit

one baker's never ever do is the next baker's 'i swear by this'
 
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one baker's never ever do is the next baker's 'i swear by this'
 
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post #3 of 14
The best way to protect yourself is to expand your competitive advantage so it is not tied to a recipe. As mentioned above the only way to really protect your recipe is to pre-mix the dry ingredients yourself, but even that won't provide much protection since your label will disclose what the dry ingredients are.

Another option is to give this employee a stake in your business by offering equity, this lessens the incentive to leak recipes to competitors.

NDAs can work if the protected IP is extremely valuable, but if you look at the legal costs required to go after someone who steals a recipe it may be a losing proposition even if you win.
post #4 of 14

Hi QueenBee1

 

To safeguard your business, you personally could weigh the recipe ingredients in advance of production. This course of action may seem a lot of bother. However if you feel that this would be too time consuming - consider preparing  at least ONE  or more MAIN ingredients  in each recipe. For example, ratio of flour, eggs or flavourings etc.

 

Hope this helps!

Margaret393!

post #5 of 14

The requirement to list ingredients takes away a lot of the mystery of "special" recipes.

 

In my experience, the technique is far more important than the recipes. 

 

I used to work in a factory that had a license to produce special recipes.  This was well understood to be the only reason that really good wages could be paid...but that didn't guarantee that all employees followed the written directions for mixing. 

 

You will have to supervise every employee closely whenever they mix any recipe, to make sure that they do follow your method exactly as you wish.  You really don't need some careless donkey adding too much flour...or mixing batter too long.  Your profit will go down the drain a lot faster if you are frequently discarding poorly mixed dough or substandard baked goods.

 

If you really feel the need to protect a "special" product, then you are going to have to mix it while you are alone in the kitchen,  If it's a cookie or pastry that must then rest in the fridge, well and fine. Simply don't leave that recipe lying around...ever.

 

So then you are left with a part time person who comes in and assembles the goods.  Do you really need to hire somebody for only this? Or would you hire counter help who can be allowed to finish goods but not mix them?

post #6 of 14

This may or may not work for you, since you are running on a much smaller scale than the cookie company I worked for, but here goes.

 

I used to be a Critical Ingredient handler at Archway Cookies (now Lance/Snyder) in Ohio. I was the person who measured out things for production using only PARTIAL Recipes provided for me by the company. Salt, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Egg Powder, spices etc. NO Flour, Sugar, Liquids, Flavorings, Raisins, butter etc. Someone else gathered quantities of those things. Then a third person, The mixer would put it all together using his own version of the recipe and using buttons/controls, he would run liquids & flour into the mixer. See what I'm getting at? The front office had master recipes that only the Management had access to. We all used fragments of recipes. I never signed a confidentiality agreement because it wasn't necessary. 

 

Could you fragment your recipes to where only partial versions were accessible to staff? Might cause you to have to do some measuring out of ingredients yourself or whatever but hey, better than having to sue! thumbs_up.gif

post #7 of 14

BomCakes,

 

all thought your experience is greate, what would stop the employees from getting together after work and talking about their job requirements? What if you have employees who are visual/hands on learner a that by doing the same task everyday, memorize the recipe contents?

 

 

Just a thought...

post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrystysCreations View Post

BomCakes,

all thought your experience is greate, what would stop the employees from getting together after work and talking about their job requirements? What if you have employees who are visual/hands on learner a that by doing the same task everyday, memorize the recipe contents?
One of the small number of employees who knew one piece of the recipe would need to convince at least one more person for each piece of the recipe to risk their job and financial ruin to steal the complete recipe. With a recipe like the one described above you are talking about at least 4-5 people. The chances of everyone being willing to go along with the conspiracy (and refraining from blowing the whistle) drop significantly as the number of people involved increases.

The only people who have access to the complete picture are highly compensated individuals with a stake in the company's success.
post #9 of 14

Technique is everything in baking!

 

I've had employees work for me and make my recipes. It was a rare day when I couldn't tell the difference between what I made and what my assistant made just by looking at the item. I worked at a large convention center as their executive pastry chef. When I started I couldn't believe how bad everything tasted from the last chef. It was all horrible, garbage! I knew the previous chef went to an excellent pastry school and used recipes she got from that school. I thought, man they've got horrible recipes maybe that school isn't so great. I changed everything over to using my recipes. Then one day I needed to use one of the last chefs recipes because I forgot mine at home. To my shock, their recipe was way better then mine!!  Then I tried more of their recipes and again was suprised to discover their recipe was better. Quality in baking isn't all about the recipe, quality is far more about technique, skill and attention.

 

You'll be lucky if you can hire someone to reproduce your work up to your standards even using the same exact recipe and instructions.

 

That being said, I don't like people helping themselves to my recipes. Mainly because of the number of hours and years I've spent perfecting them, they are my babies. I almost always share my recipes if asked, but I don't like people to take my things with-out asking.

 

The way to protect your recipes is to keep the leavening amounts to yourself. You pre-measure your baking soda, powder & salt for each recipe and pre-label them in containers. No matter how hard someone tries they can't reproduce a recipe with-out knowing the exact type and amount of leavening you use. It will take them years of experimenting for them to figure that out.

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches View Post

Technique is everything in baking!

 

I've had employees work for me and make my recipes. It was a rare day when I couldn't tell the difference between what I made and what my assistant made just by looking at the item. I worked at a large convention center as their executive pastry chef. When I started I couldn't believe how bad everything tasted from the last chef. It was all horrible, garbage! I knew the previous chef went to an excellent pastry school and used recipes she got from that school. I thought, man they've got horrible recipes maybe that school isn't so great. I changed everything over to using my recipes. Then one day I needed to use one of the last chefs recipes because I forgot mine at home. To my shock, their recipe was way better then mine!!  Then I tried more of their recipes and again was suprised to discover their recipe was better. Quality in baking isn't all about the recipe, quality is far more about technique, skill and attention.

 

You'll be lucky if you can hire someone to reproduce your work up to your standards even using the same exact recipe and instructions.

 

That being said, I don't like people helping themselves to my recipes. Mainly because of the number of hours and years I've spent perfecting them, they are my babies. I almost always share my recipes if asked, but I don't like people to take my things with-out asking.

 

The way to protect your recipes is to keep the leavening amounts to yourself. You pre-measure your baking soda, powder & salt for each recipe and pre-label them in containers. No matter how hard someone tries they can't reproduce a recipe with-out knowing the exact type and amount of leavening you use. It will take them years of experimenting for them to figure that out.

 

What a great idea!  I'm totally going to start doing this!

post #11 of 14

Nothing is ever foolproof. I guess my thoughts are unless you have a bunch of cutthroats working for you, chances are this is one very good way to safeguard. Not the only way, right? It isn't my idea, it was Archway's and they knew what they were doing for 60+ years. Multi multi million dollar company. That's what they did. Just sharing.birthday.gif


Edited by BomCakes - 2/10/13 at 1:09pm
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for the wonderful advice. I'm looking forward to some time this week to read through them again and decide which way to go. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond.

post #13 of 14

You have lots of great advice...something else you could institute is a non-compete.  If you're paying to teach, train, etc. -- you can have employees sign a non-compete agreement (there are various types).  The non-compete could include proprietary ingredients/recipes, as well as mileage around your store.  It usually has a time-frame included (2 years after LEAVING your employ).  The non-compete may only be vacated if both parties agree.  

post #14 of 14
You have to be very careful with noncompetes, if they are overly broad they can become unenforceable. For example, a noncompete saying that an employee can't work at any other bakery within an X mile radius for any length of time would probably be unenforceable. You also have to weigh the costs of taking legal action against employees who violate the noncompete vs. the benefits of doing so (and if you can even prove a violation took place if the noncompete is limited to proprietary recipes).
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