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.