Catering Team 'stealing' Potential Clients? (A Bit Wordy)

Business By EHCake Updated 30 Dec 2015 , 12:57am by TheItalianBaker

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EHCake Posted 15 Dec 2015 , 4:45pm
post #1 of 7

This may have already been asked, my apologies if I couldn't find the thread! :)

I rent space from a catering kitchen bc I'm not yet ready to open my own shop financially.  Our two businesses get along very well and normally don't cross over bc I offer primarily wedding and specialty cakes, mini desserts tables, custom cookies... you get it, artistic work. They offer private chef, wedding and corporate catering- usually not desserts except for maybe a generic cookie in corporate lunch trays.  

Recently though, they've begun offering mini desserts (in flavors straight off my menu), copying the style of dessert shooter glasses I use, taking large corporate cupcake orders, hosting "cupcake decorating birthday parties" (an idea I had voiced for my own company), and just recently one of their clients asked specifically if my company could make holiday designed cupcakes to which they replied that their catering company would 'take the order but see if I could make the decor to go on top.' (I only know this bc their accountant forwarded the emails to me to see if I was available) I replied that I could make the decor toppers, the price for each and their client said "never mind".  I'll wait and see if the catering team goes through with making them and if they ask to borrow my decorating utensils... BTW, I bake/chef exclusively from scratch, they use box mixes and frozen pre made cupcakes from Sam's Club. Which is fine but it's two different schools of thought, in my personal opinion. 

Besides all of this, their past accountant informed me that they were using my ServSafe certificate to book venues that required it because no one on their team has an up to date certification. 

My monthly rent has paid for their team's wages, utility bills, new equipment, etc.  I have links on my website to theirs but recently saw they had photos of MY desserts on their site but no links to my company anywhere. They'll have couples come in for wedding consultations and never mention my company, even when I'm literally baking in the kitchen right in front of them.  I realize they don't have to but I'm of the mind that small business should support small business. Is that dumb? 

I feel very stuck. I have weddings booked through next year and in my state cannot bake from home so I am dependent on their commercial kitchen. I've researched other kitchens but they're not available or anywhere close to what I would need to operate. I don't understand why a catering team would want to steal product/clients for something they don't make. Is this anything that anyone else has dealt with? 

6 replies
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-K8memphis Posted 15 Dec 2015 , 5:10pm
post #2 of 7

i mean all i know is what you've written here obviously -- but the disconnect between  "our two businesses get along very well..." and the rest of post is alarming --

so obviously you're just now working through this in your mind -- but you are getting screwed -- maybe in a passive aggressive way but heads up -- put your foot down or keep letting your business dissolve before your very eyes right? and if there's not a prenuptial or something you got nothing to stand on -- bummer -- so sorry to hear this -- 

and it sounds like your rent is too high  and you're too nice maybe?

i would figure out how to carefully* diplomatically express my shock and outline my needs firmly establishing my boundaries but it's likely too late -- it's a trust shattered type thing 

*but careful or not -- what do you have to lose? hopefully they'll listen but why should they

sorry you're going through this

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costumeczar Posted 15 Dec 2015 , 7:24pm
post #3 of 7

You need to get out of there, so start looking at other kitchens again. First I'd talk to whoever is in charge and tell them that you're aware that they're using your certificate and they need to stop, plus take your photos off of their website or you'll file a DMCA request which will take their entire website down until they do. However, if they took the pictures they have the right to use them, even if it's not something they made. It's the photo itself that's copyrighted, not the subject matter.

You don't have anything to gain by being nice right now. These people are taking advantage of you and you're letting them. That won't change until you put your foot down. You say they don't sell the same thing that you do but they obviously do now since they're stealing your corporate orders. 

I'd place a call to all of your corporate clients and tell them that you'd appreciate it if they would talk to you directly to place orders, since there have been some glitches in communication between the staff there and you getting the messages. Just ask that they not leave messages because you don't get them, no need to say anything more.

It wouldn't hurt to ask about placing some limits on who sells what and how you promote, but it sounds like the horse is out of the barn on that one. Find another kitchen and make it work...Have you checked every church, firehouse, school and anywhere else that has a kitchen? that should be your priority right now because you're working in  a nest of backstabbers.

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Norasmom2 Posted 17 Dec 2015 , 1:07pm
post #4 of 7

They are terrible!  It looks like a situation that could get ugly fast but you are in the right!   It may sound vengeful,  but if you need to, you can alway report them for not having a ServeSafe Certificate.  That is a very serious violation and as you are not really their employee it is against the law for them to bed doing that.

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leah_s Posted 17 Dec 2015 , 8:22pm
post #5 of 7

All of that story is awful, but you could get into serious trouble over the ServeSafe certificate.  Let's assume that they produce contaminated food for a venue.  The venue will look to see who's name is on the liability insurance if they required it, but at least who's name is on the sanitation cert.  Well, now, YOU are the person in charge, so you could get hit with a violation.  Time for a cease and desist letter on that issue alone.

As we often ask, "What's your contract say?" about the relationship.  Who does what?  How?  Are all aspects of this business relationship spelled out in detail?    You DO have a contract, right?

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TheItalianBaker Posted 30 Dec 2015 , 12:51am
post #6 of 7

Terrible situation.. You need to get out of there ASAP! 

There are tons of commercial kitchen around that you might not being aware of. Go to Wholefoods, Natura Groceries and all those small locally owned grocery store and see who provide them baked goods or sandwiches, there is a label with the address on top of each wrapped item. 

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TheItalianBaker Posted 30 Dec 2015 , 12:57am
post #7 of 7

Oh, and as soon as you get out, report them to the health department for using you certificate; call every single venue in town and tell them about the scam!! 

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