The next round of bridal shows is coming up in January and I am toying with the idea of not handing our samples at the next show.
It seems I spend the majority of my time "peddling" cupcakes and answering silly questions like "What flavor is the chocolate one?", "Do you have to go boxes?", and "How many am I allowed to take?". Not to mention those wonderful "Hey, what all can I get for free in here, I paid $10 and I expect to get my money back!" bridezillas. Then the other vendors come around snooping for a snack. In the past I have brought full sized cupcakes and it only confuses people more with comments like "Now, can you make 'real' cake in these same flavors? What would they taste like?".
I am considering giving truly interested brides a coupon for a free cupcake sampler that they would pick up during their normal tasting/consultation.
What are your thoughts on this? Has anyone ever tried something like this?
So when you say cupcake, do you mean a full size cupcake or a mini cupcake. How about a 2 bite piece in cuppies. I don't think you have a bad idea, I just don't know how well it would be received.
You might want to reconsider your samples. I put all my samples in souffle cups with lids and label each with the cake flavor/filling/buttercream as well as my contact info. I also provide little paper bags in case they want to take them with them. I also put signs in front of the samples stating the flavors as well. Faster, cleaner, and more memorable.
I always use the mini's...I serve them w/o the liner with a frill pick. This is very cost & time effective for me, not to mention green. I just make a ton and usually don't have issues with people taking more than one...and if they do it's usually one of choc and vanilla- or whatever 2 flavors.
I like the idea of the cupcake sampler, or another offer for the really interested brides. I try to offer something for the bride if she signs within 10 days of the show.
I'm gonna take the blunt approach on this, but if you don't have samples, then why even do the show? I would bet that you will get almost every bride/guest/vendor asking "where are your samples?"
I know that after doing several shows and hearing the same questions ALL THE TIME it can be a pain, but remember that this is a whole new crop of brides who don't know that they are asking thesame questions as the former-brides-to-be.
I always bring enough extra samples for vendors. as debi is fond of saying, the vendors are the REAL advantage of the shows, the brides are just extra. I view giving the other vendors samples as a chance for a referrals, so I plan on that. Heck, at the beginning of the show, before they even open the doors, I go around and ask "Who needs a sugar rush to get started?"
I always bring enough extra samples for vendors. as debi is fond of saying, the vendors are the REAL advantage of the shows, the brides are just extra. I view giving the other vendors samples as a chance for a referrals, so I plan on that. Heck, at the beginning of the show, before they even open the doors, I go around and ask "Who needs a sugar rush to get started?"[/quote]
True Story...I had one of Jill's samples and it was DELISH! (I think it was red velvet) Anyway...It is always good to share your goodies with everyone...especially vendors!
nope nope nope nope nope. MUST have samples. That is why people come to these things: one stop shopping. If a flower place only had a book of pictures and no real bouquets to look at, I'd pass by.
I think that everyone has it right, just streamline your process. I make very thin sheets, then slice and put in the souffle cups with lids. I have had many many brides tell me that this sanitary approach is what gave me the edge, and it keeps the samples moist. But I think minis are a great idea too. One cake place actually had minis with icing and fillings in ketchup-like squeeze bottles for the people to pick and choose what they wanted. Thought it was cute, although the question-answering I think would go up.
It sounds like you're having a problem with your sample delivery system vrs the samples themselves? Maybe you need to recruit help to handle sample related questions? At the bigger shows I have someone actually stand the whole day at the sample station to answer questions about the samples and encourage extras. I want to be known as the person who is so excited about their cake that I want you to take every flavor if it will help you make a good decision. And I ALWAYS take extras for every staff member I can find. They get hungry, and very grateful!
Are there some bakeries that don't offer samples at your shows?
BTW- to add, your cakes are fabulouso, so unless you have stiff competition, maybe you wouldn't NEED to offer much in the way of samples...
I can only speak as the bride. When I was planning my wedding a few years ago, I went to a bridal show and not one of the bakers has samples. I was so disappointed and didn't even bother to look any further at their booths. Looking at it from the bride's point of view, cake tasting is part of the experience (the best part!) and is part of what they get so excited about when attending those shows. I assume you continue to attend the shows because you get work from them. Decide how much work you may lose from not having the samples and potentially losing the interest of many brides and decide if it's worth the hassle of the samples or not. BTW, your cakes are beautiful!
Full size cupcakes? How much cake do you think a bride can eat in one day ... in one sitting .... as she visits baker after baker after baker? Save yourself some work and use the souffle cups with 1x1" (or smaller) cubes with a blop of icing on top.
I stacked the cups in a bussing tub behind my table. With breaking eye contact with bride A, I could reach back, grab a cup of cake and a fork and hand them to bride B and C while finishing my conversation with bride A.
I was in a bridal show where another baker was giving full size cupcakes away. A friend came over to see if it was MY cupcakes that he was seeing in the trash. (nope!) He speculated that they must have tasted really bad. I told him, "No ..... brides just can't eat a whole cupcake while they are ALSO sampling caterers, chocolate fountains, and other bakers."
Also check the bridal show rules. I saw one show contract that stated any food vendor was REQUIRED to serve samples. (This actually pi$$ed me off. While I definitely would serve samples, there was no other vendor that was REQUIRED to put out any extra expense with free giveaways!)
I make a bunch of quarter sheet cakes and ice only the tops. Cut them in little squares and stick toothpicks in each one. Have napkins and a little trash can close by for the toothpicks. I can get over 100 samples from one 8"x12" cake. I bring my french vanilla w/vanilla BC and my dark chocolate cake w/choc. BC. I have two of those donut tray covers that has a hinge in the middle. This covers them adequately and I don't have to always "man" the samples. I do have someone there to make sure people don't just go willy nilly on them and can answer basic questions if I am busy with another bride. It doesn't have to be fancy and it doesn't have to be super time consuming and costly. And you don't have to have a bunch of flavors, just the basics. If your product tastes great they will remember.
But NEVER go to an event without samples, the bakeries that bring them will get noticed over you regardless of decorating skills. Samples do 2 things - makes them hang around long enough to ask questions and creates a crowd type effect. If others see several around your booth others will wonder why and come to your booth to find out, then you hook them with your wonderful tasting samples.
Samples do 2 things - makes them hang around long enough to ask questions and creates a crowd type effect. If others see several around your booth others will wonder why and come to your booth to find out, then you hook them with your wonderful tasting samples.
Oh excellent point! I remember one small show show (estimated 400-600 brides) where I was between a bank and a photographer. At one point, I looked over the crowd of about 15 brides around my booth to see both vendors on each side of me sitting in their chairs, leaning back with arms crossed, just watching my traffic.
It was a GREAT feeling!!
Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I think several of you pegged my real problem - I think it is my current sampling system. Aesthetically, I'm not crazy about the looks of the souffle cups, but I think I may give them a try. And Debi you are definitely right, brides get fed SO much at the bridal shows that some interested brides just can't eat any more by the time they get to my table.
And about my vendor comments, I really do take good care of my vendors. I offer them samples before and after the event, but I guess I think that those 4 hours during the show are "bride time".
And Debi, I too get those jealous looks from the my booth neighbors who are sitting in their chairs watching my flurries of traffic. I wonder if they have ever noticed that I don't even have a chair in my booth? Or that I don't have a table separating me from my customer?
Again, thanks to everyone who commented on this post. Thanks to you my brides will be getting cake at the next bridal show after all!
Beautify your samples maybe--get cool stickers or cut out a flower shape or something to tape on top that has the name of your bakery & the flavors in the cup. I'd use double sided tape because I would go nuts real fast rolling pieces of tape <shudders a little>
Ooooh ooooh I got it! Cut out a tier cake shape!!!!!
Wow can I come & help???
Iagree that you definitely need samples. I have had groom's and FOB's tell me that they don't eat cake but tasted my samples at the bridal fair and told the bride to use me. If a bride/groom tastes my cake, I almost ALWAYS get the order.
I bake sheet cakes, cut into 1 - 2 bite pieces using a circle cutter, put in a clear souffle cup with a dollop of icing and put the lid on it, which has my label. All brides at the fair get a bag so if they don't want to eat it right then, they can save it AND they know where it came from. It must have been a good idea because when we went to the August bridal fair, another cake shop had started doing the same thing and they didn't in January or any of the bridal fairs they had been to before I did mine.
I always do samples and I always run out, so this year I'm planning even more.
I make 3-4 flavors of mini cc's, ice with a swirl of imbc and top with a simple star flower or something cute.
I take them in large sealed tubs (like the ones for gift wrap), which I keep stacked under the table, and refill as needed, and I display them on my large cupcake stand with napkins and a trash can nearby.
I have one helper all day to keep restocking and tidying up the area and explaining what flavors there are, and yes people can take one of each. Not many people are tacky enough to load up too much, and yes, they're going to have lots to snack on at a big show like ours. (fortunately I'm in a primo spot on the main wall when you first walk in! ) When we slow down at all, my helper also takes a platter and walks up and down the show offering them to anyone in the aisle as well as other vendors, and chatting with everyone she meets. "Hi--have you planned your cake yet? Would you like a sample?" She was brave enough last year to offer one to a competing bakery's helper, until the owner told her to get lost.
This works great and is easy for me, and people love the size. I also find many of the neighboring bakeries samples...in my trash can...but never mine!
Definitely don't skip the samples!
So glad you decided to serve samples! Speaking as a former bride and not a business owner, the suggestions for having the sample already packaged to go and labeled is awesome!
I totally appreciate the sanitary aspect of that because with samples on a stand or tray, I feel like too many people have breathed on them as they reached for one or passed on by.
I remember being super thirsty at a show and while I wanted to keep trying cake, it was hard to without a drink! Hey...that would be an awesome and memorable idea to have tiny cups for water available. You'd buy yourself a few more minutes with the bride if they are pouring themselves some water while sampling!
I took some samples home in cake bags and sadly, there weren't any identifiers as to who the baker was or what flavor it was. Big mistake!
Make your samples super cute and trendy with stickers/labels/color choices and young brides will go for it, IMO!
Good luck with your next show!
I know I really wanted to do really cute stickers with the flavors for the lids, but they were super expensive!!! So unfortunately I had to opt for the vistaprint multipurpose labels and put them on the sides instead
Something else I thought was helpful... I colored the buttercreams on the different cake flavors I offered. This way if someone told me they really like the "pink" one I knew what BC, cake, and filling flavors they like without them trying to remember.
I haven't done samples at the last two wedding shows and it didn't hurt my bookings a single bit. I make a point to tell them I offer a free tasting where they can sample fresh samples of the flavors they're interested in. Everyone seemed to be totally fine with it.
It's a hassle and I hate feeding all the extra taggers-along and children who aren't going to buy a cake from me. I do have a drawing for a free bridal shower cake which helps draw people to my table.
There are people here who don't do samples, and they don't seem to be affected by it.
I can't tell you how many orders I've booked sheerly on people loving my samples and saying it's the best cake they've ever tasted. I've had some book appointments months after a bridal show they saw me at and still comment on how good they remember my cakes tasting. Samples are a must! But yes, they are a pain. I do the soufle cups and bring 3-4 flavors, and keeping them stocked is a real hassle. This season for the bridal shows, I plan on bringing a helper to keep them stocked. I've done it all myself in the past and it's no fun.
I have participated in 7 different bridal shows. We gave samples on the first 2 bridal shows, but the amount of orders that we got compared to the others were not a big difference. The brides who ordered cakes from us when we gave samples didn't even try them. They booked us because of the pictures, wedding cakes and customer service that we had. It might be different for other bakers, but that is my personal experience.