Hi! I'm a cookier (think Cookies by Design but my own local version) and until now have always had a small selection of cookies for walk in traffic. Never more than a few dozen drop cookies, buttercream iced cookies and some individually wrapped royal iced cookies at a time. Unless it's the week before Easter, Christmas etc....then more.
However, I'm beginning to realize that my customers are getting smart and ordering (for the most part) weeks in advance and I'm getting full and having to turn people away. But I'm always stressing about what to have on the shelf, when it was baked and if it's still fresh, if there's birthday cookies out someone will want baby shower cookies, it's never ending and terribly stressful.
So my question is, do you think I could go to strictly advanced orders and then have a sign that says we will have cookies ready the week before each holiday for walk in traffic?
It's only me doing this in a liscensed garage and I would soooo much rather to to advanced orders ONLY. Do you think that will hurt business? Thanks for any advice you have to offer in advance!! Heidi.
I think that is something you have to look at past sales reports to answer. Does this walk in traffic give you the little bit extra to put back into your business? Can you just do generic cookies and not birthday or any specific event and not stress about it because if the customer wants something specific they will know they need to put an order in in advance? Do these walk ins bring you new advance order customers? I think those are the questions that need to be answered before you can make that decision.
How much "walk in" business do you get? I think that you could post a sign or something giving your customers a heads-up and not just quit baking "cold turkey" - if your $ is right and you have a good customer base I don't think that this is going to hurt your business at all.
Thanks for the replies so far!
I have only been open since last August, so 9 months, and between Halloween and Easter I have had a bit of walk in traffic, never more than a few people a day, and some of those are just lookers. Most people coming in are picking up orders and of course the week or two before each holiday is much busier with about 4-6 people coming in per day and the month of December was busy every day, about 8-10 walk in people each day.
Now for the summer, I'm anticipating it's going to be slower, and although it hasn't yet, everything is advanced orders. Like this last week I didn't have anyone come in on Tues/Wed and on Thursday I had 5 people come in. It's so frustrating because I try to bake things ahead of time but freshness is so important for me (as it is everybody I'm sure) that I don't want to sell cookies that are even a week old. On an ok/slow week I average about $100-$300, holiday weeks are more like $500-$700 and December is about that amount every two days, or even every day. I'm definetly not hurting for business.
I just hate that I have good product going to waste that is avoidable if I were to just go to advanced orders. I'll probably go look at my order book to see what I would have lost by just doing orders. I'm thinking it's not that much. This is so hard, lol.
I don;t know much about decorated cookies, but how about keep some neutral designs on hand that can serve multiple purposes, and even maybe be customized? Let's say round cookies that are iced in basic colors and then you can add a monogram or a simple design while the customer waits?
Or a bunch of simple cookies, and then a couple more elaborate and they can mix and match?
OR, can you have them in the freezer? and pull them out right then?
i used to have stuff in the case.....but i've gone to almost all orders, been doing it this way the past 6 years...a few walk ins a week will come looking for cake.....i had so much waste at the end of the week it just wasn't worth it to stock the case, last month my son moved here and came on board doing cuppies, he keeps a some in the freezer for walk ins....
You might want to consider only being open for walk-in customers one or two days a week (Maybe Fridays if that tends to be the busiest day.) That way you can have several uninterrupted days of cookie baking & decorating for orders. And while you are doing those custom orders, you can bake and decorate extra from the same batch for walk-in customers. Reduce the available flavors or designs to walk-in customers as others suggested. Start pushing for advanced orders by posting notices to current customers.
I'm really glad to hear that some of you only do advanced orders and things are good.
I know I need to relax about some things in my bakery, for instance, I won't freeze cookies, just a personal issue I guess. I figure if people are paying $3 for a cookie, I want it to be fresh baked only a few days ago, KWIM? I have no issues eating frozen cakes or cookies at all, but I just feel like mine have to be the freshest they can possible be.
I would love to change my hours, but I now have almost 500 brochures circulating with my current hours on them. It stinks becaue before I opened I didn't know what it was going to be like or if people were even going to buy my cookies, now that I want to change things I feel like it's too late, like I have to keep things the way they are. How do you guys go about changing things? Just post a sign for a while and then do it? I know my voice mail can have a lot of info on it, maybe have a detailed message about how hours and procedures are going to change? I feel like I'm at a crossroads and I want to go one way but am stuck doing things the way they are. Sigh.
Number of brochures does not indicate number of walk-ins or actual customers. In 9 months, you have a better idea about the actual number of walk-ins versus those who pre-order. As a small business, you are entitled to change hours (and even go on vacation!!) When I owned my coffee shop, it seemed that I was constantly analyzing hours/days open/lay-out, etc. with the goal of eventually making a profit.
You are a business - not a charity. Make it positive and get the word out. Something like "Effective June 1st, (your bakery name) will be open to walk-in customers only on XXXXX from XXX to XXX. As the business has grown, my emphasis is providing custom orders with fresh, professionally decorated cookies." Re-do your brochure with your new hours or for custom orders only. Make sure to include a few brochures with each order and ask them to share with their friends. Post a sign in your shop with plenty of advanced notice. Give any walk-in customers a new brochure and maybe even a small discount on their first custom order (maybe 2 extra cookies or $10 off or something.)
I would just go back and look at your profits that come in from walk in traffic. And then how much you have leftover that you end up taking home for the family to eat/throw away. If it's not worth it, then go straight to order only.
Or like someone else suggested, you could just have cookies ready for walk in customers one or two days a week. But do you make more money making cookies for walkin customers that might sell? Or would it be better for you to allocate your time to pre ordered cookies to make more money that way? Just something that you have to think about.
Good luck with your decision!
Get labels printed up with the new hours and put them over the hours on your brochure.