Wedding Cater No Shows Wedding!

Wedding Industry Scams

This weekend a report came through VAWENetwork.com that a wedding catering company in the Virginia Beach area is scamming engaged couples by taking their money and then not showing up to weddings. The verified first incident happened this Saturday Oct. 7th when the caterer failed to arrive at a wedding where he was contracted to provide catering services and had been paid in full. The mother of the bride frantically tried to reach the caterer with no luck. She posted this incident in an online group to report the no show caterer. That is when several other brides who have booked this catering company were alerted and began calling the caterer but their calls were ignored and/or not answered. One bride reports that she emailed threatening to sue him and he finally returned her calls saying he had a medical condition on Saturday and that is why he did not show up to the wedding. He did not have his staff show up to the wedding and no one on his staff contacted the client informing them of the health issue and letting them know they would not be coming to the wedding. The caterer was at another wedding on Saturday. It is possible that he did have a medical issue but why didn’t the catering staff fulfill the contracted obligation? If the wedding was on his books, his staff would have been aware of the wedding and he would have staff assigned, food purchased and ready. So why did no one follow through with servicing the wedding and why didn’t anyone on the staff inform the client that there was a medical issue and he would not be able to service the wedding?

According to one bride who booked this caterer, she was only charged $360 for 40 guests for wedding catering, that is $9 per person. In 20 years of managing events, working with catering companies and focusing the last 7 years directly on the wedding industry, I have never, ever heard of $9 per person catering. That is not to say it does not exist somewhere. I am only able to share my knowledge and expertise in the matter. The average cost of catering in my experience, in the areas I have worked in, is about $25 to $35 per person and can go much higher. Some of the more budget friendly catering companies can go as low as $16 per person but this may not include servers, table settings, plates, napkins, etc… Many times a BBQ catering option or buffet style pasta bar, etc.. might be in that $16 to $24 range. For full service catering with gourmet menu options it is not uncommon to see $65 per person.

RED FLAGS: Many couples informed me that when they are shopping around for catering companies, they have been asked to provide a caterer with other catering quotes the couple has received. Some caterers might offer to beat those quotes by as much $5 per person in order to book that couple and secure a non refundable. This sounds very enticing for couples and sometimes it does work to get the couple to book that caterer over the more established, reputable, booked up catering companies. Most companies who have been in business for a long time are experts at their numbers. They know if they go too low they won’t actually be able to cover the cost of staffing, supplies, food, transportation, etc… Not to mention covering their time? Everyone wants a great deal but if a wedding industry business quotes you a too good to be true rate, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. If everyone else is quoting you 2 to 3 times as much why is this one so low?

I did some research on this caterer and found some standard red flags. Here are some warning you can look for to avoid this situation:

  1. There is no true social media presence. No FB page, no IG, Twitter, etc… Social media pages are an asset for any business. If the company does not have a social media page there is less accountability. If I am a reputable business and I built up a large following on my social pages, I am going to work harder to make sure I keep those pages in good standing. I know that if I violate my contracts or deceive clients it is likely to show up on my social pages. No social media or basic social activity is a deal breaker for me.
  2. The website has very little contact information, it does not tell you the name of the business owner, does not give you an email address, physical location and does not list venues where the catering company is a preferred vendor. If you make a good impression where ever you go (wedding gigs) you want to brag about it and show those connections on your social media. I like to see the company show images and blogs about weddings they have recently managed, vendors & venues that refer them and the name of the owner, location, something with roots and foundation.
  3. When I googled the phone number for the catering company I could not find any ties to any other wedding industry websites. This shows that it is very likely the catering company is not recommended by other wedding vendors on their wedding resources pages on their websites. The company is not using that number on any wedding association site, this show that they are not part of any wedding networks that have ethics policies, vetting, screening, etc…
  4. This business’s lack of online presence creates an easy way to hide bad business policies.
  5. Low ball pricing – this is common in many industries. Two competing companies watching one another and lowering prices or guaranteeing to beet prices. Or new companies feel like they must undercut more established businesses in order to get bookings. But in the wedding industry we have thousands of small business owners who are not turning over a high enough volume that they can promise to drop prices and still maintain business to the expectation of the customer. In this case, where the caterer charges $9 per person. The couple had such a tight budget that they felt the fee was too good to pass up. However, as a reasonable consumer, you simply cant expect the same incredible food quality, staffing, services and DEPENDABILITY from someone who charges $9 per person when the lowest pricing for the same contracted services is usually at least $18 to $25 per person.
  6. I have not confirmed this but this business may not have a license or insurance. Reputable businesses have to factor in their costs of running a legitimate business. Disreputable companies cut corners and do so many times to offer lower rates. So, the companies doing the right thing may cost a little more because they have to pay for legitimate business expenses, scammers avoid these costs and pass the savings on you – but at what price? Passing up reputable companies to go with the unknown cheapest options hurts our reputable businesses and hurts clients when issues like this arise.

So, how do you avoid booking a poorly managed, unstable business who may take your money and not show up to the wedding?

  1. If you hire based only  on the cheapest business you find then be prepared to compromise on your expectations significantly. How is it possible to provide the same level of service and quality for a fraction of the industry standard averages? This is an unreasonable expectation. You are gambling away those fees and you could get lucky having or you could be the subject matter in my next blog.
  2. Do not hire a venue or vendor that is not licensed and insured OR can’t show you at least 10 years of proven successful wedding work history. A caterer should also have food handling certifications and recent inspections from the county (this varies from county to county, ask the caterers in your county about certifications). They should be proud to show you those items. Ask a vendor to give you the names of the last 10 wedding venues they worked at and the dates of those jobs. Then call the venue to verify the dates and ask the venue if the business is professional, on time, qualified, etc…
  3. Look for a business background check on the vendor, you can find BBC’s for wedding industry professionals right here on this site. Our Business Background Checks include a wedding work history, proof of insurance, business license, verified address, real name, phone numbers, email, website and other verifiable information that creates accountability and tracking for the business. Click here to view a list of businesses that have a business background check: https://www.vawenetwork.com/business-background-checks/
  4. If your wedding vendors do not have a business background check and wedding work history in our system, we will create one for them for free! That’s right, there is not cost for you to look up a BBC and no cost for vendors/venues to create one. If we can make it easy for professional, qualified vendors to showcase their business and the reputable work they have done then we can reduce wedding industry scams, contract violations, poor business practices and unsafe practices in the wedding industry.
  5. Book a venue that monitors wedding vendor performance and bans vendors from working at their venue if they no show weddings, break contracts and take money from couples without providing contracts. Venues host weddings and create wedding industry jobs. It is irresponsible to create jobs but not have any policies about the vendors who can accept those jobs. A venue accepts fees from their engaged couple clients and there is a level of responsibility the venues must uphold with regard to the vendors working at their venue. AGAIN we have free programs that help the venues protect their clients and guests. BUSINESS BACKGROUND CHECKS, venues can request that their vendors fill out a Business Background Check and wedding work history prior to being able to work at their venue. It is free for the vendors and adds a greater level of protection for all involved. Please request that your vendors fill out a Business Background Check and Wedding Work History. It is easy to do and they can contact didi@vawenetwork.com for instructions.
  6. Little to no online presence – this is huge. Legitimate companies invest in their wedding websites and social media pages establishing history and wedding industry connections. I know a few companies who are successful without a website or social page BUT this represents the exception to the rule. When a couple comes to me in a panic that a vendor has ripped them off the first thing I do is look at their website and social pages. Most of the time there is very little info about the owner, very little contact info or connections on reaching this person if they suddenly stop communicating with the couple or no show the wedding. You should have lots of information on a vendor you invest in, and if they have very little online presence that is a big red flag.
  7. Vendors who have no wedding industry partners or connections. Every vendor should be connected in some way to other wedding industry colleagues. A vendor who has no other wedding industry colleagues mentioned on their site or social media and is not linked on any other wedding industry websites seems disconnected and shady. Again there are exceptions to every rule. But at every wedding there is the potential to have as many as 10 vendors setting up and working together, then posting, tagging and sharing content online after the wedding. This is wedding industry marketing 101. So, if someone is reputable and working weddings, then why are they so disconnected from their wedding community? If they book only 10 weddings a year and work with 10 vendors at each wedding, that is a potential of 100 connections. But none of their colleagues are referring them on their websites or tagging them in social media? This is a red flag.

For those of you who read this and get offended that I am talking about low ball pricing and you ASSUME that I am putting down budget brides or couples who can’t afford to spend more on their wedding. NO way! I am trying to help you, we have scam businesses praying on couples who are looking for a deal. I know that if you spend money on a vendor that disappears with your money you may not be able to recover from that loss and your wedding could be cancelled. I don’t care what your wedding budget is, I want you to find reputable, trustworthy business owners. Brides & grooms with all types budgets come through my network and my hope for each of you is that you have a wonderful wedding.

Thank you for reading this post. If you know of other wedding industry red flags and bad business warning signs please post below. If you have been scammed or hurt by poor business practices in the wedding industry please share your story so we can help educate other couples, venues and vendors to avoid these issues. Finally please note, we have so many incredible wedding industry professionals who have dedicated their careers to provided the best practices and policies. We must do more to support and showcase these proven professionals! Please share this blog and help us end wedding industry scams and support qualified wedding industry professionals! #weddingnerd #askdidi