Someone asked if I would make their mother's wedding cake today, and when she asked if I offered tastings, I said I didn't offer them at this time, as it is very expensive to bake several cakes, and make several frostings that ultimately won't get used. And the cost of this would be eaten by me, right? I hope I don't lose out on the opportunity to do the cake because I don't offer tastings.
Anyone else in the same boat?
I've seen a lot of businesses that charge for tastings (usually $25-$50 or so). If the client does go ahead and book with them, they often deduct this charge from the grand total as a courtesy. If the client decides to go elsewhere, there's no financial loss.
If you really don't want to hold tasting appointments, you could simply offer her a discount on a 6" cake as a "sample" she could try out...that way you are still being paid fairly for the product AND she gets to try before she buys.
As for tastings, what we do is offer a "Tasting Consultation Date" on an Sunday every 3 months on which we do not have a wedding booked and we are available to hold appointments. We gather up 20 or so clients who have recently inquired about our services for weddings/large celebrations and we invite them to a private 30-minute appointment that day.
Here's some things we do:
-I make a timetable from 10am to 7pm and fill it in with appointments each hour. I invite the clients to select the time that is most convenient for them that day, then fill in my schedule to capacity.
-one week before the appointment dates, I email the client to re-confirm their scheduled time/give them driving directions and tell them what to bring to the appointment (i.e. fabric swatches, invites, photos from magazines, photos off my website they liked)
-the night before/morning of the consultations, I bake all my samples fresh and ice them only that day. I want the client to taste exactly how fresh their wedding cake will be, so I NEVER freeze samples...but if I only had a consultation every once in a while, it's totally understandable to have to do so.
-I greet each couple personally and sit across from them in my studio
-I introduce myself and tell them a bit about my experience, my style and how long I've been doing this
-I then ask them to tell me about their wedding/theme/feel of the day/colours/flowers/guest count and I write EVERTHING down
-I ask if they want their cake to feed everyone a main dessert slice, or is it to be on a buffet table later in the evening after the meal? (great for guessing sizes/numbers they'll need)
-they show me the materials they have brought and for each item I ask what it is that they like/dislike about it (this is the BEST question, you learn so much quickly!)
-I then show examples from my portfolio of cakes that seem similar to what they are asking for and see what sketch we can come up with on the spot. I personalize their cake to exactly what colours/design/feel they are going for.
-when that is roughly decided, I bring out the freshly-baked cupcake samples with big swirls of matching buttercream on top (which are the 5 main cake flavours that I offer) though I tell them everything is personalized, so if they can think it up...I can probably make it! I do leave the room at this point so they can honestly and privately say which ones they like/don't like to each other.
(I go to my kitchen where I pack a little box of samples and wait for 5 minutes for them to eat privately.)
-after about 5 minutes, I return and they have usually chosen a flavour or flavours.
-I give them a little box of extra cupcake samples to take home to let other friends/family try it out. THEY OOOOH AND AHHHH at this every time! It costs about $2 to give them 5 extra samples packaged in a gorgeous little box, tied with a ribbon with my business card on top...and it really makes the sale!
-I always walk them to my door and shake their hands again, letting them know it was nice to have finally met them face to face and that I will email them their information package within the next 2 weeks (IF YOU SAY 2 WEEKS...THEN MAKE SURE YOU ONLY TAKE 2 WEEKS!!! THIS IS YOUR FIRST PROMISE AND YOU ARE JUDGED ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU MEET YOUR DEADLINE!!!!)
-within 10 days/2 weeks, I type up their cake quote with a great colour sketch and email it to them. They either send their deposit cheque to confirm their booking, or pass. I'd say my ratio of booking to not booking is about 12:1 and I credit it to the little things like private consultations, fresh big samples, beautiful boxes of yummy cupcakes to take home and a fun sketch of their potential wedding cake.
Here are some EXCELLENT threads where members here discuss tastings & consultations. Read these! They will really help you out.
I view a tasting as a time when they come to see if they like my baking ... not to taste my entire menu so they can decide what they want. I tell them, "My lemon cake will taste just as good as my white cake except it will taste like lemon."
I don't make lots of cakes and lots of icings. They sample from three 3x3" squares of white, choc and a 3rd flavor (whatever is in the freezer). I bake a 10" square, then cut it into 9 squares. It's put into a ziplock and into the freezer. I pull out one square to thaw when I have a sampling appt ... takes just minutes. I've only baked once for the next 9 samplings.
A lot of "do I need to sample?" depends on your area. In my city, if I didnt' do samplings, I might as well shut down. But in my hometown, just an hour away, hardly anyone has heard of a sampling and no one offers them. (I was doing some marketing research and had a friend go undercover for me..... when she called various bakers and caterers and asked if they offer samplings, ALL of them said, "Offer a WHAT?")
I dont think I would ever book a wedding if I didnt have a tasting..who is going to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a cake without tasting it?
I have in my freezer several square cakes that are the basic flavors..white, yellow, chocolate, and red velvet. I ALWAYS have filings and buttercream made for cakes, so that isnt a problem. I do tastings 3-4 times a week, by appointment. After a wedding show, I may do 20 tastings in a week, but most weeks it is 6-8 tastings. At the tasting, they taste little squares of cake, and go over photos and my general pricing and policy. It gives us all a chance to meet each other. I do not charge, as they dont eat THAT much cake. I have so many tastings, the small square cakes usually are gone in a week and I bake another set (I just make extra batter while baking other cakes) If they want to try a special flavor, I will make it for them special AFTER they have signed up and come back for a more indebt design consultation (I usually see my brides 2-3 times once they book)
To me this is part of advertising costs. It is the time to show off your work and to do some PR and to bring in the higher priced cakes. I do get asked by people who want little 20 serving cakes for a tasting and I offer to sell them cupcakes at a dollar a cupcake. You might want to try this as well if you dont want to do tastings.
i absolutely do tastings! i am always surprised at the people that book having never tried the cake! they know it looks good from the photo's but how do they know it tastes good? i offer 3"x3" samples up to four complimentary $5 per sample after that and only ganache or butter creme iced they also make their flavour selection and conduct the design meetig at this point. my samples are either made by cutting up large cakes which i do for the popular flavours the other flavours i usually make a little extra batter when making a big cake and bake an additional mini cake for samples. clients are on the understanding that samples are not fresh like their cake will be but they are sampling defrosted versions. most other companies in my are charge through the roof and offer only tiny samples, if ind it a great marketing ploy that gets the clients in the door and most book before leaving thus cutting out the other companies as an option - pretty good value for a little but of a cake sample i think!
This is great information on how to conduct tastings. I'm glad you were asked about it. Now I can benefit from it.
Thank you for the initial post and then also for the replies.
my goodness if i only pread my posts before posting!! i am the WORST speller!!! oops sorry guys! lol!!
adatay, very funny!
"My lemon cake will taste just as good as my white cake except it will taste like lemon."
You just crack me up! Thanks for the laugh!
indydebi - as always - is right on.
1. it does depend on your area and market. Where I'm at custom bakers have consult and such, but for those in my target market - it's a rarity! I had one lady tell her SIL - yeah, you'll never find someone like her that will sketch out a drawing. It's not something my target audience is used to.
2. WAY BACK WHEN...I got a lot of Wilton singles and I use those for tasting. I'll bake a bunch, freeze them and just pull them out as I need them. They get whatever flavor I give them/have.
Mine is done pretty much the way loriesmom does hers. We sit and design the cake while they eat, and I do a rough pricing, explain the deposit, etc. Then I physically ASK if I can bake their wedding cake. I have booked every single tasting I've had so far, except one....they cancelled their wedding!
I kind of follow indydebi's route - my goal is for the individual to gain confidence in me as a baker, NOT to taste every single cake flavor I could make!
Thank you for the great tips!
I do hold tastings, but the idea of just doing it once a month will be so helpfull. Plus, I can fill my day instead of trying to bake for one evening when it's convenient for the client!!!
I just had my first wedding tasting, I prepared 4 different cupcakes, and an array of 6 fillings and frostings...which I had frozen from projects in the last week. I set everything out so they could mix-n-match flavors, and it seemed to work out well.
She had her own specific ideas for design and color, so it was just the nailing of the flavors that was left to do. I did charge 25.00 which can be applied to the cost of the order, if booked within 3 months time of tasting. I didn't want to have to keep track of who has a credit due forever.
I think this worked out, so I think it'll be my M.O. on wedding (ONLY) tastings - I'm not going thru all that for anything smaller!
I have 6 flavors of cake at my tasting. If they want something else they are welcome to let me know in advance and they can purchase a 6 in round. My tastings usually last about an hour. I don't charge for them. They taste, we talk about their wedding cake. After they leave I figure out a price and a sketch. I don't book every single cake but I can usually tell when they aren't going to book with me. Most of the time they do book. I have many brides give me the deposit at the end of the tasting because they like me and my cakes and want to book me.
I wouldn't do a tasting for anything less than a $100 cake, and even then that's pushing it in my opinion. Not worth the time and trouble!
I also don't do tastings for orders that are less than 50 servings.
Antonia74, you totally rule! I want to buy a cake from you just on reading about your tasting appointments! I think packaging is very important too. I just found some personalized ribbons online. I'm going to start using those (black w/ gold writing) to tie up my sample trays and to use in my gift baskets. I really think they look professional.
SugaredUp---where did you find the ribbon at? I thought about doing that with my cupcake bpxes and cookie boxes. That would be a very nice touch.
Thank you for the initial question... and all the wealth of information provided in the replies!!!
If I charge for tastings I am then considered a restaurant (because it's consumed on site) and would then have to have a bathroom, handicap access, charge sales tax, etc. Is there a way around that?
If you don't offer cake tastings, reconsider. Although there is an expense involved, it is basically an inexpensive marketing tool for your business. At least that's how I like to look at it. If potential clients like your designs, the taste is usually what seals the deal. From my experience lately, word of mouth travels just as quickly in regard to taste of your cakes as with the designs. Actually it seems to be more important out of the two elements. Add the expense of tastings into your marketing/advertising budget. In today's market, most cake businesses offer free tastings, and in my area you really have to offer free tastings to stay competitive. I like indydebi's philosophy. Offer a few basic flavors to keep costs low. If they like your white, they're going to like your lemon, etc.
Does anyone have fondant as a sample? Does anyone ever ask for that?
When i am doing a cake i often save a little bit of batter and make mini cupcakes out of it. I then freeze them and pull them out when i do a consultation. That way i usually have a few different flavors at a time. I ice them with filling because i think its more important to taste the filling than the icing and saves some costs.
I've had to cut back on tastings because I don't keep frozen cakes around and have to bake the samples for particular clients fresh. So when someone is a no show or cancels, it's a big deal!
I will offer tastings if 1. It is a wedding cake. OR 2. If the cake will feed over 100 people. Normally, either one of those scenarios makes the tasting worth while.
I had someone call yesterday who demanded a tasting, because they wanted to order a cake. I was a little put out, and asked how many servings they would be ordering.
Five, they said. They wanted a tasting/consultation for a cake for FIVE people.
he hung up on me when I said that the smallest cake I offer is 16-20 servings and no, they couldn't have a tasting for a cake for 20 servings....
Some folks are just so mind-numbingly stupid.
I absolutely do tasting for weddings and large orders. My policy is that orders over 100 servings will be offered a tasting. The fee is $30 which is deducted from their total should they book. I offer a nice plate with 5 cake samples (2"-ish squares) and 12 filling samples (all 1 TBSP) that are mainly flavored SMBC's. I'll throw a picture on this post. I print out a map of the plate so they know what they are eating. It takes me no time to set up and I do keep frozen cakes for this purpose they are wrapped in plastic wrap and put in vacuum sealed bags for freshness and kept no more than 2 months. I put some fondant in my bead mold and lie that on the plate so they can taste the fondant.
I wouldn't buy a large cake without first tasting the baker's baking. The tasting/consult is my time to shine and sell myself and my product to my customers. FOr small orders I offer the tasting plate all boxed up with a bow for purchase for $30.00 which is not deducted from the order.
I schedule an appointment that is convenient for the bride. She picks three flavors and complimnetary filling for each. I only do buttercream or buttercream/fondant, so the icing is not an issue. I make 3, 8 inch round two layer cakes torted and I tell them they are 25.00 each.
We discuss the cakes I show them how to cut and the actual size of a piece. I serve bottled water so they can clean their palette before the next flavor combo.
It works well for me, I haven't not booked a tasting coustomer yet. I box the cakes they pay and take them with them. Most sessions usually last 1 1/2 to 2 hours. and I suggest the bride plus 2 people, I'm flexible on that.
I don't deduct from the cost of the wedding cake. I look at it this way. They are getting 3 cakes at a reduced price anyway, up to 2 hours of my time and very personalized service.
Hope this helps!
I do do them if requested... but my cakes dont go to waste etc... as the hubby and kids get whats left hehe for school lunches etc. and i only make one filling and a pretty plain one at that... white choc buttercream. I personally feel its not just they want to taste your baking it also gives you both the opportunity to see if you are the right person for the job how well you communicate etc... and so far i cant complain.
This is where I initially found the ribbon. I think you may be able to get it cheaper. Try googling "custom ribbon".
As far as fondant samples, I do offer samples of the fondant. I roll out a thin sheet of white fondant and use the underside of a decorating tip to cut out 4-5 circles. I place those in a little plastic cup with a top. I also cut cubes of 3 flavors of cake (baked fresh), 1 filling (whatever I happen to have, or I'll make some fresh) and some buttercream. I get the containers from GFS. I put all of those little containers into one bigger container, although I'm rethinking this "big container". I might start putting them in those cute chinese take out boxes instead. I think once I get the ribbons, it will make a very nice touch to the whole package. Oh - and I usually include a plastic knife and fork and business card. It's $20, and comes off the balance when they order a wedding cake.
If I charge for tastings I am then considered a restaurant (because it's consumed on site) and would then have to have a bathroom, handicap access, charge sales tax, etc.
EXCELLENT point! As another person told me, "If you sell ONE cup of coffee that they drink in your store, you will have to spend thousands to have a public access restroom available."