Consultation No Shows

Business By CakeForte Updated 2 Oct 2008 , 4:20am by CakeForte

CakeForte Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 6:11pm
post #1 of 25

Hi Everyone...My first post here even though I signed up w/ CC a long time ago. I actually forgot about this site and then I found it again.

Anyway, I've been selling wedding cakes/ large party cakes from home for almost 2 years and am doing pretty well. I rent a storefront and am in the process of getting my kitchen installed. I've gone through pretty much every situation that has been posted/ asked about on here...so I understand!

Now I am dealing with flaky potential clients. They contact me for a consult, and then don't show up. Right now its about 40% that don't show and it sucks. I do confirm with them about 1-2 days prior. One client was just plain stupid. She confirmed and I sent her specific directions with my business phone and PERSONAL cell phone. She never showed and then emailed me to say she couldn't find the location and that she called 411 and they didn't my information, and the number she called some number that had "a rude voicemail"...her words I did email her back pointing out that she was a dumb idiot (although I didn't say that! lol) and wished her good luck in her search. I refuse to bend over backwards anymore to get/ keep clients because I always get the bad end of the deal.

Right now I am leaning towards asking for a credit card to secure the appointment and if they don't show, they get charged $50. I don't charge for consults at all at this point, but right now I figure it takes a good 3 hours of prep work since I only do consults one day a week and I bake fresh.

What are your thoughts on this?

24 replies
KHalstead Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 6:35pm
post #2 of 25

Maybe you should start charging! I don't charge for mine either but I also have never had a client not show and not call!! Maybe if they had to pay for it they'd be more apt to show up. Maybe you could charge 20.00 for the consult and apply to cost of cake if they place an order?

MaisieBake Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 7:39pm
post #3 of 25

A consult is a sales call. Good luck charging in advance for that.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 8:30pm
post #4 of 25

That's what I've heard that Duff does. Gets a credit card # and charges the no shows.

I myself would avoid the hassle and not offer tastings but it is certainly a viable option to charge like that. Or if I did do tastings it would be white cake only-- pulled out of the freezer and microwaved to restore it and a blob of icing. There's no way I'm investing three hours in a maybe order.

Just some tasty thoughts for you.

CakeForte Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 8:53pm
post #5 of 25

Let me clarify. On my consults, I usually have 4-6 potential clients make appointments to come in on one day. It works better for me to prepare high quality samples once a week, than offer old samples that I have to thaw and fix up. That's where three hours comes from. I don't do three hours prep for one person.

Anyway, I do have a high booking rate for the ones that do show up, but there are times when no one has showed up.

I'm just trying to get my business to where it works for me, on my terms. Not on terms based from the competition or magazines.

CIndymm4 Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 9:25pm
post #6 of 25

I would take a credit number and explain that if they become a no-show, or don't cancel with an appropriate amount of time ( which that would be up to you how much notice you want), then they would be charged a fee.....if they show up, they are not charged for the consultation.

Deb_ Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 9:56pm
post #7 of 25

This is a sticky problem. If you threaten to charge if they no show, than you're pretty much kissing this customer's order goodbye, which is o.k. if you're comfortable with the consequence of your threats.

If you are a licensed business, you need to check with your state's laws on "requiring" a credit card to hold an appointment. I personally would never give my credit card number to hold any kind of appointment. I would find another business to do my business with. Way too much credit card fraud going on these days.

I own a business in MA (my home baking business, licensed) and in RI (My hair salon) If I had a dollar for every client that didn't show up over the years for their cake tasting or haircut appointment, I could buy myself that huge 20qt mixer I've always dreamed about.

I hate to say it but it's the nature of any service by appt. business. You have considerate clients that would never dream of just not showing for an appt., and than you have the "airheads" that think nothing of just not showing up. For the latter, when they don't show one time, the next time they call for an appt., I am not so accomadating to their schedule and they seem to get the hint and snap into shape.

Do you really want to do business with the "airheads" that don't show up when they say they will? They're just the PITA that will have you wishing you never took their order in the first place.

I charge for tastings, and the price is deducted from their order if they decide to hire me. You could maybe charge upfront for the tasting when they come in for their consult and than not refund it if they don't show up.

I don't make a tasting appointment without first meeting with the potential client. First they come in with their ideas, at which time if they decide to come to my tasting consult they pay me right there and then. Non refundable if they don't show up and it's not valid towards another tasting.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 10:16pm
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeForte

I refuse to bend over backwards anymore to get/ keep clients because I always get the bad end of the deal... Right now its about 40% that don't show and it sucks.

Right now I am leaning towards asking for a credit card to secure the appointment and if they don't show, they get charged $50. I don't charge for consults at all at this point, but right now I figure it takes a good 3 hours of prep work since I only do consults one day a week and I bake fresh.

What are your thoughts on this?




Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeForte

Let me clarify. On my consults, I usually have 4-6 potential clients make appointments to come in on one day. It works better for me to prepare high quality samples once a week, than offer old samples that I have to thaw and fix up. That's where three hours comes from. I don't do three hours prep for one person.

Anyway, I do have a high booking rate for the ones that do show up, but there are times when no one has showed up.

I'm just trying to get my business to where it works for me, on my terms. Not on terms based from the competition or magazines.




Offering "old samples" is as poor an idea as your current leaky bucket sample policy.

Bottom line, there's no way I'm gonna work for three hours in advance to conduct one or more potential consults. Because if you loose 40% (your figures) that's an egregious loss of time and ingredients. So in a year if you had three consult days a month you've lost over 40 hours of time alone not counting the supplies, energy and ingredients. That's a huge inefficient loss for which it is no wonder you're asking for advice.

My suggestion is to figure out a better and more productive way to offer the samples. For example one possibility is to have them pick up a sample after you get some money plunked down. Or scale it back and use cake that is not old but recently produced from the latest weddings. Have you ever microwaved frozen cake? It comes out better than fresh baked. Add icing afterwards.

Duff does what you are suggesting with the credit cards--my point was to affirm that it is possible to do that successfully. But how do you know they are giving the right card #?? You're gonna get into chargebacks and all that kind of stuff.

Besides, wedding cake generally is not baked day of so that's not a fair representation of your wares is it.

So my advice is figure out another way to do the samples because that is an area you can control. But yeah for sure avoid handing out "old" stuff.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 10:24pm
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by pastrylady

Here's the text of the article about freezing. This comes from Cook's Illustrated.com. Its a great magazine and website for food science.


"Our testing of Olive-Rosemary Bread produced plenty of leftover loaves and reminded us once again that bread does not keep well in the refrigerator. In fact, past tests have shown that baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and muffins actually stale faster in the refrigerator than at room temperature. Yet these same items can be stored perfectly well in the freezer for long periods of time. Why doesn't the freezer have the same effect on breads and other baked goods as the refrigerator?

Staling is inevitable over time. In a process known as retrogradation, starch molecules reorganize to form crystalline structures in the presence of the moisture within the baked goods themselves. This eventually leads to a hard, dry texture at room temperature--no matter how well wrapped the item was during storage. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator speeds up this process, but the freezer actually halts it. The water molecules in the cake or bread freeze, which immobilizes the starch molecules and prevents them from forming the crystalline structures that translate to stale texture.

So if you aren't going to finish that loaf of Olive-Rosemary Bread right away, don't be tempted to pop it into the fridge. Instead, wrap it tightly, first in aluminum foil and then in a large zipper-lock bag, and store it in the freezer."




Fyi--freezers and friges are pastry chefs' best friends.

mom2spunkynbug Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 10:28pm
post #10 of 25

I don't understand how people can not charge for their tastings - it's time and product that is being used!

I guess it's easier though for the bakers that have their own shop/storefront.

I do this out of my home and charge for tastings. I make cupcakes for them to try three different flavors, their choice (for up to four people). If they decide to book with me, I apply half of the tasting fee to the final cake cost.

I'm just starting out (as a business)...and this is the first year I've offered tastings & done wedding cakes, but I haven't had one person not show up.

You should definitely start charging.

all4cake Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 10:39pm
post #11 of 25

One option could be that you have tastings the 3rd Saturday (or whatever) of every month. If someone is interested, inform them of the date and time and that the next one won't be offered until the 3rd Saturday of the following month. If they require a time other than that offered, charge a 50 dollar (or whatever) fee to be paid the day they make the appointment not the day of the appointment if you feel like doing one in between. That way, once a month you can make your variety of samples. If everyone doesn't show, take them somewhere...bank, fire dept., police dept., nurse's station, homeless shelter....

OhMyGanache Posted 28 Sep 2008 , 10:40pm
post #12 of 25

I charge $50 for private tastings, and they must pay prior to me securing the date/time with them. (PayPal is my friend)

If they don't want to pay, they are free to attend one of my monthly free tastings - but the flavors will be limited, and it's a tasting only - I won't sit down with them and help them design a cake.

indydebi Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 12:37am
post #13 of 25

I have my own storefront and I used to work out of my home. I did/do samplings in both. I also cater, so when I do a sampling, I'm also serving Chicken Chardonney, a hot veggie, meatballs, rice, choc cov'd strawberries, 3 flavors of cake with about 10 icings/fillings.

I can have it all ready in less than 30 minutes. (Home kitchen or shop kitchen). I have never charged and I have no plans to ever charge. I can't remember the last no-show I had .... and I can count on one hand the no-shows I've had in the last 5 years.

I can appreciate that you want to showcase your best cakes but to assume that cakes properly stored and thawed are "old samples" is ... well .... not right. I have brides ask if I baked fresh or freeze and sometimes I have the opportunity to tell them, "You tell me .... one of these cakes was baked fresh this morning, 2 of them were in my freezer for 3 weeks. You tell me which is which." They always ... ALWAYS .... pick the wrong one. They can't tell.

How elaborate of a cake are you making? If it's taking you 3 hours, it sounds like you're going to a lot of effort just for a sampling. When I first started doing samplings, I decorated a whole 8" cake (it's ok to laugh!) for them. Soon realized that was way too much cake for a "sample" and I began cutting it back until I found my current method, which is time and cost effective.

As even my 15 year old employees know ... time IS money.

I bake an 8" square cake (3 of them, choc/white/and whatever). I cut them in 9 squares, put them in a ziplok and freeze. For a sampling, I pull one of each from the bag ... they thaw in less than 15 minutes. I bake once for every 9 samplings.

Whenever someone has problems with no-shows, I also suggest they evaluate how they are handling the appt set up. How professional do you sound? How "businessy" is this appt?

I worked with a wedding planner ... she and I had the very same brides. She had a 30-40% no-show rate ... I never had no shows. It was the difference in how we handled ourselves, how we presented the appt, how important we made the appt, etc.

Here's the email I send to the bride. I keep it in Word and just cut-n-paste it to the confirming email:

Sampling Appt Email:
This is to confirm your sampling appointment at --------------------. Directions are attached. If you run late due to traffic or other circumstances, we ask that you just give us a call to let us know that youâre on your way.

⢠You are welcome to bring up to a total of four people (seating limitations).
⢠Since this appointment can be lengthy, we donât recommend bringing children as a catering facility is not a very entertaining place for them to try to sit quietly while mom/dad conduct a business meeting.
⢠You should plan about an hour for this appointment.
⢠We understand that you have a million and one decisions to make and we try to keep it simple for you by offering a no-pressure sampling. My assumption is that you are information gathering, so I do not expect a decision, a commitment or a check on that day.
⢠I DO expect you to walk away with some good information that helps you make an informed decision as you compare Cater It Simple with other caterers in the area.
⢠If you have some photos of cakes youâve seen that you like, please bring those with you.
⢠If you have a specific color you want used in your cake design, please bring a color swatch that you can leave with us (a scrap of material, ribbon, or one bride even brought us a paint card from the hardware storeâs paint dept!! )

Please help us keep our samplings free. We are not a restaurant where we can just go back into the kitchen and scoop out a sample of whatever dishes are cooking. The foods and cakes for your sampling are prepared just for you and there is a cost to that. When couples cancel at the last minute or are no-shows, this affects our expenses in running a business. We understand that sometimes things come up and appointments need rescheduled â¦. We just ask that you let us know when that happens so we will not prepare the foods for you and/or we can go ahead and schedule another couple in your time slot. We will happily re-schedule your appointment for you. Your consideration is appreciated by us and by our future brides!


I believe that this email (which took a couple of years to polish) sends a professional and business message. So really, really look how how you are presenting your appts ... are they special times set aside just for that bride? Or are they a "you can drop by on Saturday" type of thing?

It sounds like, with your good booking rate, that once you get them in there, you are doing a good job with the sales presentation! Now apply those very same excellent sales skills into "selling the value" of getting to the appt.

CakeForte Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 11:42pm
post #14 of 25

Thank you for all of the comments/ perspectives! There are answers for both sides, which is what I have been struggling with. I'm just going to answer generally to everyone.

The way I prepare for my tasting is not the issue. I like baking fresh as that is when I get to try out new flavor combination's and it is one of my best a sales tactics. (Welcome, thank you for coming...I'm so glad you're interested in my product. I have made this just for "YOU"....etc, etc) The bride isn't thinking that I have to make her wedding cake 3 days in advance. Anyway, We all do what works for us. I'm going against people/ private bakeries that have been doing cakes in my area for 30+ years. I just turned 28 so I have to do everything that I can to make an impact. I know the product/ quality is there.

I do private, one-hour consults for each client, and will have them scheduled back-to-back, one day a week. I do send a friendly confirmation email w/ directions, and my contact info. I also call and leave a short voice mail. I think I will add the friendly reminder at the end...so they know that I'm preparing specifically for them. Thank you for posting that!

I tried several ways of tastings, including the large "open house" once a month....but it was too many people and I couldn't focus my attention just to get basic info. What I'm doing now seems to work best for me.

I know a lot of it is just flaky people in general, and yes, I'm better off not working with them, but I want to make sure that "I" do everything that I can so they walk through my door....because the rest is a cakewalk after that. =)

CakeForte Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 11:48pm
post #15 of 25

I just do plain 9x9 square cakes. No decorations. I'll mix and match the flavors to see which ones taste best, and I'll offer the "classics" or best sellers, with one or new two flavors. No more than 5 flavors total.

FromScratch Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 1:50am
post #16 of 25

That's a lot of cake to be making on the fly. I like to make things fresh too, but it takes a long time. It's easier for me to bake ahead and freeze.. something I was very much opposed to doing in the beginning, but then I tried it out on myself to see if it degraded the overall feel of my product and much to my (pleasant) surprize it didn't at all. I bake single 8" square layers of 5 flavors of cake (usually chocolate, vanilla butter, spice, white, and lemon poppyseed) level them and cut them into 12 squares. I wrap in plastic wrap and then place them in the fridge to firm up and then pop them into a vacuum sealer bag and then freeze them. I take out what I need and thaw in the fridge and then bring to room temp. The cake is honestly as good as the day I baked it if not better.

I conduct private tastings/consults only and I do charge for them. They are sent an invoice and must pay in advance. If they book the $30.00 is applied to their bill and if not.. well then it's mine for my time. I present them with a plate with 5 squares of cake and twelve 1 oz scoops of different fillings. All but 3 of them are flavored SMBC so it's super easy for me to do as I always have cubes of frozen fruit purees on hand in my freezer and lemon curd too and melted chocolate is easy to do as is coffee and nutella, etc... it takes me 20 minutes to prepare for a tasting if I plan it all out and thaw things ahead.. if not then add on 10 more minutes. I'll attach an image of my plate.. it's a lot like what Sylvia Weinstock does. I have a little print out that details what is in front of them and they can mix and match cake and filling flavors and write down what they liked.

If people have money invested in something they are less apt to flake on you.

edited to add as I clicked submit too soon.. icon_redface.gif
LL
LL

-K8memphis Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 1:58am
post #17 of 25

Oh Jeanne, that's a beautiful plate of cake. I think I wanna book a tasting!!

But anyway my little thing I keep thinking when I think about this thread is,
the opposite of fresh is stale not 'frozen'.

Kitagrl Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 2:12am
post #18 of 25

I do that too...I charge $25 for a tasting or "free with deposit". (So they are paying money either way). Although I just ask for the pymt while they are here, not beforehand. Mine are private tastings as well, with the flavors and fillings they request to taste.

I figure doing this from home I don't have time to give out free cake and free time (my hub has to clear out with my four boys for a tasting) to just anyone who wants to comparison shop. Honestly, they can see my work online, and then they can come taste it....and then say yes or no....at least for now. I realize in the shops its easier to have it set up for free tastings, but not me, not yet.

FromScratch Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 3:51am
post #19 of 25

Thanks Kate.. if your ever in my neck of the woods I'll make you one on teh house.. icon_biggrin.gif

-K8memphis Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 9:16am
post #20 of 25

You're on. And coffee's on me at the bookstore if you find yourself in Elvistown.

justducky Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 11:42am
post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkalman

Thanks Kate.. if your ever in my neck of the woods I'll make you one on teh house.. icon_biggrin.gif




Is that an open invite? I can be in your neck of the woods in about an hour. icon_biggrin.gif

marmalade1687 Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 12:13pm
post #22 of 25

Jeanne, do you do a plate for everyone at the consultation? It certainly is a beautiful setup! icon_biggrin.gif

FromScratch Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 12:55pm
post #23 of 25

Kate.. you're on! icon_smile.gif

Justducky.. LOL.. I'd love to have anyone who wants to come on over. icon_wink.gif

Nicole.. I provide a plate for 2 people and am willing to do more for a small fee if it is discussed beforehand, but no more than 4 people total.

whimsette Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 3:38pm
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeForte

. They contact me for a consult, and then don't show up. Right now its about 40% that don't show and it sucks. I do confirm with them about 1-2 days prior.




CakeForte, are you offering tastings at the first consultation?

Just over a year ago, I completely stopped doing that and it was the best decision. I now schedule a first meeting to discuss the needs of the client and to see if I want to work with them. I'm still dealing with a 10% no show rate for the 1st consult but that's not such a big deal.

I host 2 tasting events per month (sometimes more) at $15/couple or $10/guest that includes champagne/drinks and a variety of cake samples. My no-show rate dropped dramatically for the tastings. And the events are really fun.

CakeForte Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:20am
post #25 of 25

Hi Whimsette,

Yes, at the first consult I spend the first 20 minutes chatting with them and taking notes so I can prepare a quote, then the last 20 minutes they taste, look at my book, etc. I reserve an hour for them, but most people are in and out in 45 minutes. Which works out just fine because that give me time to clean up and then set up for the next meeting.

I guess I'm just looking for better ways to weed out/ "qualify the leads" and from what you wrote you're also on the "pay for tasting" side A 10% no show rate is where I want to work towards. Thanks for the tip!

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