Vancouver caterer speaks out, fed up with constant requests for freebies

It’s been a tough couple of years for the food industry, with skyrocketing inflation, labour shortages, cost pressures, and restaurant closures on the rise.

On top of day-to-day operational pains, there’s seemingly been an uptick in review bombings and one-star ratings from disgruntled customers, something many businesses have chosen to speak out against to defend themselves.

Earlier this week, the owner of Charcuterie Vancouver took to Instagram to share frustrations over another challenge she faces running her small business: hefty asks for mass products…for free.

Sadaf Çakıcı opened up to her business’s 34,000+ Instagram followers after an event organizer asked her to cater an event for 1,500 people “for free in exchange for exposure.”

Charcuterie Vancouver is a local business that specializes in picture-perfect charcuterie boards ranging from snack boxes for individuals to entire grazing boards for large events. On its website, these grazing tables start at $1,000 and feed 25 people, with $30 added for each additional person.

free food exposure


The entrepreneur said that, unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in her line of work.

“It just floods our inbox, and I don’t read most of them anymore.”

The most recent request to provide bites for 1,500 people would have cost at least 15,000 in food alone, Çakıcı tells us.

The business owner went on to say that tickets to the event cost between $150 and $300 per person.

“I would hope that they would have some budget to cover the food for the attendees that paid so much money to attend.”

“I would have sponsored the food if they offered to cover the cost, but to be quite honest, catering an event for 1,500 people would take weeks to prepare for, order ingredients, schedule staff,” she continued.

“Therefore, the exposure just would not be worth it to not profit at all, let alone spend $15,000 of our own money to provide food for an event that made 500,000 out of ticket sales and had other sponsors and raised $1 million.”

Çakıcı did mention the event offered $500 to help with the setup but said, “The cost of food alone would have been above $15,000, not including labour and delivery time.”

So, how often do these events offering “exposure” for payment actually benefit the business? Çakıcı said not often.

“A lot of times, the companies and influencers don’t execute the exposure and other deliverables that they promised, and when I ask for a contract before sponsoring their event, they usually just never respond.”

In her first years of running Charcuterie Vancouver, Çakıcı fulfilled these larger food requests until she realized that “nothing ever came out of it.”

“If it did, it was a very small percentage but not enough to justify donating thousands of dollars’ worth of food and hours of prep and setup,” said Çakıcı. “I realized these events for exposure didn’t benefit our business in any way and only wasted our time and money. If I spent that money on social media ads, the ROI [would be] much higher. ”

That’s not to say that Çakıcı never offers to help out. “There are many amazing non-profit organizations that we’ve worked with that have asked for small donations, gift cards, etc., and I say yes as much as I can.”

“I’ve also worked with many non-profits that offer to pay as much as their budget allows, and we customize something for them to give them the best possible setup within their budget.”

So, what should a new small business owner do if they receive one of these requests? Çakıcı said they should just say no.

“I would tell them to write that they don’t currently take any non-paid collaborations or simply ignore all those emails; you’ll get a lot of them! These requests mostly come in to fully benefit the person/brand asking you for free food and never to benefit your small business,” she said.

“If an influencer wants to truly help your brand, they would pay for your product and post you. I’ve worked with many celebrities and influencers that have paid full price and posted us on their socials.”

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