The Cake Contract Guide
In this guide, you’ll learn how using cake contracts can protect you from last-minute cancellations, what you should be including in your contracts, and how to get started writing your own contracts!
What is a cake contract and why in the world would you ever use one?
A cake contract is a formal "handshake" between you and your customers. The contract is used to agree upon the terms of an order. This includes things like event details, cake design, serving size and most importantly, payment.
There are 3 BIG reasons to use a cake contract:
1. Stop getting screwed over by last-minute cancellations
Do you remember how frustrated you felt the last time a customer flaked on you last-minute?
You can say goodbye to those memories by having your customers sign a cake contract!
A cake contract will formally request a non-refundable deposit (generally 25-50%) and it will also explain your cancellation policy. When the customer signs your contract, you can relax. The customer has agreed to value your time and effort by making a commitment to follow through on the order.
2. Be more professional
Get the clients who are ummm'ing and ahhh'ing to commit to your contract or no deal!
Making cakes is a serious business. And as with any business, there needs to be formal agreements between you and your customer. A happy occasion can quickly turn ugly if all the details aren’t set firmly in place.
A cake contract will:
- provide a list of expectations to be followed by the client and your company
- protect your company against complaints and litigation
- establish clear guidelines for payment
- define your liabilities
Settle all the terms upfront with a cake contract. It’s the difference between doing a favor for a friend and professional cake making.
3. Keep better track of your orders and clients
Stop being a hot mess when it comes to paperwork and order management. Properly filled out cake contracts will make your life so much easier.
If a client accepts your contract - great, you already have all the cake and event details neatly organized. If you haven't heard back yet, you can easily look through your pending contracts and follow up!
Solid record keeping allows you to plan ahead. You don't want to accidentally triple book your weekend... do you?
Elements of a cake contract
There are 5 basic sections of a cake contract:
- Event Details
- Terms and Conditions
- Signature Box
Let’s take a closer look at each section.
1. Event Details
You'll want to collect as much information as you can about the customer and the event. These details include: phone numbers, email addresses, event date, event location, event type, and number of guests.
Gathering all the event details will help you manage your orders better. You can also refer to this information when there’s a dispute about the cake order.
Just point to the signed contract and say “Look, you agreed to the event details info - it’s not my fault!”
Keep in mind that events can get hectic and things often go wrong! We recommend getting 2 or more emergency contact phone numbers. These phone numbers will come in handy when your client isn't picking up the phone. Emergency contacts are typically wedding planners, photographers, MCs, bridesmaids, or the groom.
Customers will often have a desired cake design. Sometimes, it's a photo of a pinterest cake. Other times, it'll be a design based on magazine clippings, event venues, personality, fabric swatches, or dress pictures.
It's a good practice to attach the discussed cake designs, sketches, and/or photos for record keeping purposes. If there's ever a point of conflict about the design, both parties can easily revisit this section.
Cake pricing can be tricky! We recommend pricing by number of servings and increasing the price per serving if the cake uses fondant, extra detail, special filling, accessories, or tiers.
Rental fees for the use of cake stands, props, and vintage china display items need to be discussed and put on paper. To protect yourself from damage, theft, and late returns, you should also collect a refundable deposit for your rentals upfront.
Is the cake going to be delivered to the venue or picked up by the customer? If they want delivery then you'll have to discuss delivery fees (cause delivery AKA your time ain't free)!
Cakes can sometimes merit a setup or stacking fee. These fees are typically flat rate and applied to cakes greater than 2 tiers.
4. Terms and Conditions
Since each baking business is unique, the contents of your terms and conditions will often be different than someone else’s.
Below, we’ve outlined the main points you should think about. Feel free to use our outline as a starting point when you’re writing your own terms and conditions page.
- What's your payment schedule: how much % deposit is required upfront, when's the final payment due, which payments are refundable vs. non-refundable.
- What happens in the event of: late charges, cancellation, returned checks, and chargebacks.
- What payment types do you accept: PayPal, cash, check, money order, credit card.
- How many weeks ahead do customers need to book: is there a minimum order amount, do you charge for rush fees and last minute bookings?
- What happens in the event of: date changes, design changes, and other changes.
- Explain that you are not liable for: damage to cake not caused by you or your company, property damage, guest injury, harm caused by eating plastic accessories, flower choices (poison, pesticides, dirt, poor handling), post pickup damage, and allergic reactions.
- Have a clear policy for when customers can get a refund if they’re unsatisfied.
- Customers should be informed that you can't do exact replications if the designs requested are copyrighted.
- If you want to use photos of their cake for your portfolio, you should mention that here.
- Define the size of each piece of cake and acknowledge that the amount of cake needed is an estimation and not guaranteed to be exact.
- You should not be held responsible if a cake shortage occurs because cake pieces are cut larger than the agreed upon measurements.
5. Signature Box
If everything looks good, then the customer signs here. You are now permitted to do a celebratory happy dance.
How does a cake contract fit into my business?
We've found that most professional custom cake orders follow an 8 step process. You’ll find that once you get a hang of using cake contracts, you’ll be using them throughout the process!
Below, we’ll walk you through a typical order process and explain when and how to use cake contracts.
Every custom cake order starts when a potential customer reaches out to you with a project. Congrats, someone is interested in your business!
*2. Quick consultation
So, you have a potential customer who wants a cake. Great, the next step is to do a quick consultation -- phone, email, or in-person -- to discuss dates and cake needs.
You’ll want to whip out an initial cake contract and start jotting down some info, including:
- client name,
- client phone number,
- client email address,
- serving size,
- cake design thoughts,
- type of cake,
- event date.
Collecting all these details in your cake contract is critical because you’ll need it to accurately assess how much you to charge for their cake. Additionally, the contact info that you need to use to follow up with your client will also be in your records. Look at how organized you are now!
Keep in mind - if you feel uncomfortable about a potential customer’s budget or request, it’s ok to say “no”.
*3. Initial quote
At some point during the initial conversation, the potential customer is going to ask you about prices. First of all, when this happens, you need to remember to breathe. Second, check your calendar - you’ll want to know if you’re already booked for that date.
Next, calmly assess the cake needs of the potential customer and if you’re confident in your pricing skills then quote ‘em!
Don’t feel pressured to give the customer a quote on the spot. It’s perfectly fine to let the customer know that you’ll get back to them with a quote.
Also, remember to to record your initial quote price in your cake contract. It’s helpful to be able to revisit that number, in case either of you forget. If the customer accepts the initial quote and all the event details are set in stone, then jump to step 5 (Finalization).
Longer discussions are likely to happen when you’re dealing with bigger events, like wedding receptions and church events.
You’ll find that discussions are a tug-of-war between your customer’s budget and needs vs. what you're willing to do for them at that price.
Cake consultations and tastings happen at this stage and consultation fees can be taken.
If a client decides to book with you, the consultation fees can be deducted from the total price.
At this stage, everything is likely to change (event details, cake designs, desired flavors, servings, etc.). To have an accurate log of everything that you and your client have discussed, you’ll want to keep your cake contract up-to-date.
You will bounce back and forth between steps 4 and 5 until the revised contract looks good to both you and your client. At that point, the client will sign your contract. BOOM, it’s happy dance time!
*6. Payment schedule
A payment schedule outline the dates when payments need to be made. To establish clear payment guidelines for your customer, a payment schedule needs to be clearly defined in your contract’s terms and conditions.
We recommend that when the contract is finalized, you take an upfront 25-50% non-refundable deposit to lock in the order. The purpose of this deposit is to protect yourself from cancellations, postponements and other plot twists.
The final payment can be due a few weeks before the event or paid upon pick-up or delivery.
Steps 2-6 sometimes take place all at once – that’s great if it happens! Just make sure that you’ve got the necessary details for your cake contract, have the client’s signature, and received the initial deposit.
In the excitement of trying to win customers over, it's easy to skip over steps. But remember, you can get screwed over when you don’t get customers to sign your cake contract.
The big day! The cake is delivered to or picked up by the client.
You’ll need to get your cake contract signed one last time by your client. Why? This last signature ensures that your cake meets their expectations and that you are no longer liable for damages caused to it.
You can now drive home and relax.
Following up with your client after the event is a great way to get feedback on your cake and ask for referrals. It’s also an easy way to show your clients that you care, and that you’d love to do business with them again!
Why it's important to get the customer’s signature
When you have the signature, then the customer has psychologically committed to doing business with YOU. It also means that the customer agrees to your terms, which protects you from certain liabilities and complaints. Plus, the contract is legally binding.
A signed cake contract covers your butt against customer’s changing, postponing, and/or canceling orders. No more wasted materials, no more unpaid time, and no more headaches!
Always have your lawyer review any contract you create. BakeCalc assumes no liability for the contents of this document, now or in the future.