Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tastings and Fees

A few months ago I got a little "ding" on one of my reviews about me charging for tastings.  Overall it was a great review, but that complaint upset me.  I know, I know I shouldn't take it personally, as it is business, but well I did.  So to set the record straight... here is my tasting fee journey...

When I started my business back in 2009, I decided I was not going to charge a tasting fee and I was going to allow each bride to pick 3 cake flavors and 2 fillings to try.  I felt I needed to do this to get customers and I felt like I was doing what was "right".  Of course, if I was not making any of the three cakes or fillings that week, I was going to need to bake/make three cakes and 2 fillings.  Minimum of 2 hours of prep time just on the cakes and fillings... plus the cost of ingredients... plus paperwork prep time... plus the actual appointment... plus clean up.

Fast forward a year or so, and I have decided that making 3 cakes and 2 fillings for tastings was fairly time consuming, not to mention expensive and wasteful.  You may be able to cut a recipe in half or in thirds, but you are still going to have batter/filling leftover.  So I decided to "split" my tasting choices.  One would be free and these tastings would taste whatever I was making that week, and therefore eliminate the cost and waste, and reduce the amount of time spent on the tasting.  The other option was $25 to try 3 cake flavors and 2 fillings of the bride's choosing.  The $25 didn't pay for my time, but helped offset some of the cost of ingredients.

Fast forward again to the beginning of 2012, and I am booking several tasting appointments a week and I am hosting these appointments away from my home in an office.  Everything started out great, until I had a no show.  A bride had made an appointment and never called to cancel.  So I had to sit at the office for an hour and wait for the next appointment to show.  Not only was that hour wasted, but the time it took to prepare for the appointment, cake, fillings, buttercreams, and the actual tasting plate wasted too.  I understand things happen, so I let it slide.  Then the next week happened... and not one, but 2 brides just didn't show up for their appointments, and unfortunately that was the final straw.  I didn't want people taking advantage of me and wasting my time, and I decided to start charging for all tastings.  I still offered two choices, but in one case the fee would be applied to the wedding cake, if placed, and the other would still go towards the cost of ingredients.

I am not getting rich off of tasting appointments.  I am, however, having better tasting appointments and have eliminated the "no show" bride.  Also, the brides I meet with are actually interested in getting a wedding cake from me (Yes... there were plenty of "free" tastings where I felt like that was all they were there for... the free cake).

With all that being said... if I had a storefront, where I could just pull cake slices or cupcakes out of a case for a bride and groom to try, I wouldn't be charging a fee.  If I had a storefront where I could just go in the back and work on something if an appointment didn't show, I wouldn't be charging a fee.  Of course, if I had a storefront, I would also be charging more per serving to pay for all the additional overhead, so in the long run, the $25 is a much better deal than an extra $2 per serving on a cake that feeds 100.

Hopefully I didn't sound too whiny.  I didn't want to sound whiny... just wanted to let folks know why I do it.  It wasn't an easy decision, but it's one I feel works better for me and the business in the long run.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You just can't do that

I know Kara of A Cake to Remember has written a post on this, but I wanted to do a quick post on my own little twist to things....

I hear some of the strangest things from potential customers.  I have had someone concerned about the "red" in the red velvet leaking through the buttercream/fondant.  I have heard that you must use pound cakes to stack cakes so it can support the weight of the cake above it.  I have heard that you can never pipe black on white buttercream for it will run.  I have heard "I was told that I can't do XYZ."  I don't exactly know where they get some of these things, but I can only assume another "caker" told them this or it truly is a concern that they fear might happen.

I would like to address the second one first, and say that if you have a concern, just ask.  We realize that everyone is not a cake expert, and most of us will be happy to explain something to you.

As for the first one where another "caker" told them so... I always wonder if that other caker really told them that or if it got lost in translation.  I don't know how many times people talk about layers when they are really talking about tiers, so it seems logical that folks may be told one thing, but hear it another way.

Of course, they could have spoken to an inexperienced caker or employee as well, or a less experienced caker in the area of concern (I have not done every single technique in various combinations of colors, mediums, etc. and I don't think anyone has).  With me, I have no problem telling folks that I haven't done XYZ before... I am sure that scares some potential customers away, and that's fine, but I would rather say that then make up some answer that may come back and bite me in the butt.

There is also the chance that something really can't be done.  One of the things that comes to mind is many of the "ruffle" cakes out there.  Some of those just can't be replicated with just buttercream.

The final possibility I have thought of is the customer's vision versus the caker's vision.  A few months ago I had an inquiry for an Effiel tower cake, and immediately I start thinking of a multiple tiers, stacked and iced together, with a lot of small strips of gumpaste and a ton of detailed pictures to look at as reference.  Basically my brain goes here or here or somewhere in between.  I give them a large quote, and of course, did not get the order.  I can only think about what that potential customer might have said to another caker,   "So and so said it can't be done under a million dollars (no that wasn't the actual quote)."  In reality, the customer may have been happy with something more like this (This cake was made by a mom for her daughter... she did a great job as a mom who challenged herself by doing this.  I am NOT making fun of this cake.), but it was not my vision when I was quoting the customer.

I also had several other instances where folks sent me a cake that fed 80 or 100 and wanted to scale the tiers down to feed 20 or 30, without losing tiers or having a ton of leftover cake.  Again in my head, I couldn't scale down a 3-tier cake to feed 15 or 20 and still get the same effect or have a similar quality to the picture they sent me.  I just don't think there is enough room to sculpt a baby's butt and legs out of cake and put it on a 6" round cake and have it look good.

So the point of this post?  Ask questions, ask for suggestions, ask for an example, etc.  It's good for all parties to be on the same page.

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