Well, I'm fairly new to the tasting/wedding world. In fact, I might be considered brand spankin' new. This is my first year doing weddings and I've got a total of 12 scheduled for this year. I've done tastings for all of those, plus about that many more that haven't booked. I've done two this week, neither of which have booked. Looking back at each tasting I've done I can see things that I should have done differently.
I was just wondering, especially for those of you who have a high booking rate, what it was like when you started doing them. What were some of the things you changed to do better?
It's a constantly evolving process until you get your "script" down pat. When I'd find something that was causing frequent follow up questions, I'd revamp my tasting script to include that information.
You're not going to book everyone, and that's ok. I booked about 95% of those that came in, and that number is a result of what I consider good prep work starting at the very first email/phone inquiry. It's a result of refining my script, my pre-formatted information, and my post-sampling email with the quotes. (Those who attended the Columbus cake club meeting got to hear a bit on this very topic!)
It sounds like you are doing well! Just keep adjusting and fine tuning as you learn what is working and what needs a tweak here and there!
Debi's right, big shocker.
We book most of our tastings, probably 90-95%. I have spent the last few years perfecting my speech, answering the "tough" questions, and asking the right questions. I'd say most of the non-bookers were looky-loos in the first place.
I have gone back into some of the old non-booked sheets and looked up the photogs to see if they have any of the cake photos up and most of them, if not all, look homemade (not to bash home bakers, but rather they don't look like they were done by a person who has done more than one or two wedding cakes)
If you can accept that you aren't going to be the right baker for EVERY bride, it makes it a little easier.
My booking rate isn't nearly that high. Since the economy tanked I'm getting even more looky-lous.
well Debi & Jill, now you have me all curious.. what are the right questions to ask that you're able to have a 90-95% success rate?
I believe mine is in the preliminary work before they even show up.
They call or email for info. I don't spend hardly any time on the phone with them ... just long enough to direct them to my website and get their email so I can send them "my information packet with all the info you will need when planning your cake."
My emailed info packet had about 10-12 attachments ..... menus, pricing, why they should go with a "wedding" caterer/baker and not just someone who cooks food for an event, helpful hints on outdoor weddings, things they should know ahead of time before ordering a cake, a budget wizard I designed so they could plug in their food choices & headcount and know to-the-dime what their reception would cost them, and other stuff I can't think of right now.
The concluding paragraph was along the lines of "once you've had a chance to look this over, and if you like what you see, I invite you to contact us to set up a personal and private consultation where you and three guests can taste samples of our foods, cakes, and icings, and we can talk about your wedding and how Cater It Simple can help make your vision a reality!"
If my pricing was out of whack with their budget, they never called me and my time wasn't wasted. If my pricing *IS* in their budget, then the major part of the battle is won and I'm over halfway there.
Some may refer to it as pre-screening; some call it groundwork; some call it prep work. I call it "salesmanship"!
I do the same thing....I give them a LOT of info upfront even before the tasting so they don't waste any of our times. A lot of my tastings are the couple showing up to taste cake and then book. I also offer a delivery discount if they book at their tasting. Its amazing how many love that! I book about 95% myself, but am going to raise my prices this year, so I suspect that will go down. But I agree, before they step foot in the door, make sure all their questions are answered.
I also follow up with all of them a week later with a quickie email that it was nice meeting them if they didn't book. They always like that!
loriemoms, that reminded me ....... I started offering an "Early Booking Discount". I'd email them the quote which includes a dollar amount off if they booked by a specific date, which was usually inside of 3 weeks. On a $5000 catering quote, I'd offer them something like a $300 discount, which I would sell as "This is like getting your wedding cake for free!"
I don't book that high a percentage, but I suspect that it also depends on how saturated your particular market is. There are a lot of smaller cake businesses around here, and I know that some of them actively undercut other people's pricing, so depending on whether someone comes to me first or last on their list, somebody else might be able to take my price and undercut it. I don't even ask what other quotes they've gotten from other bakers, because I don't bargain with my pricing, take it or leave it. I'm booked up pretty much every weekend so it's no skin off my nose if I don't book everything.
I will add that I do plenty of prep work ahead of time too, so that might not be the only factor that comes into play. Budget is the biggest thing right now with the brides who I see. I'm not the most expensive and I'm not the cheapest, so dependng on whether they went to someone super expensive or super cheap before me, I'll either look better or worse in comparison based on pricing alone.
I really like the "early booking discount" idea. Everyone is looking for a bargain and that will make them feel like they're getting a good one! The couple I met with last night were meeting with several different bakers. I also think its a good idea to get them all of that information ahead of time. But then (and I feel like this is a dumb question), what do you talk about at the tasting? How long does it usually take? Mine normally take about an hour, it seems. We normally discuss all the details of delivery, setup, and then details about their specific cake.
with all of the info I sent ahead of time, my appts usually went 30 to 60 minutes, too. Remember, we are not grocery store cake order takers. We are building a relationship with our client, and that means we are talking about "their wedding", not just "their cake".
We look thru photos, we discuss flavors and what they like and what their guests like. Whether their family are a traditionalists and want more white than chocolate. How much food, beer and other desserts will be there? What percentage of their guest list are kids and how many guests are from out of town?
It was not uncommon for brides to grin and tell me "Wow, I had no idea there were so many decisions to make regarding a cake!"
Yep! It's a little different from walking up to a grocery store counter and saying "I want a cake ..... square ..... chocolate."
like Debi, I think that a major reason for my high booking rate is my prep work. I have a lot of info on my website, including pricing. This can nix a lot of looky-loos right away. Also, when we book the tastings, we discuss their wedding just a bit. Usually something as simple as "What stage of the planning process are you in?" will bring out a wealth of information.
Once the bride is at their tasting, I get some pretty basic info (contact info, wedding colors, other vendors etc). This helps me too, because if I know the florist or photographer, it can give me some insight into the brides likes/dislikes.
I also ask them if they know what they do/don't like. This usually gets me more "I don't like this..". but that helps me not show them something they won't like. Once I have this info, they are usually impressed that I am able to find/design them something that they like. (they don't even realize just how much guidance they gave me)
Lastly, I believe that we offer a tasty cake, that looks great, at a price that is reasonable. Pair that with good customer service, and you can't go wrong. (how cheesy is that?)