Is The Trend Going To Pass Anytime Soon? Long........

Decorating By Cakebelle Updated 29 Dec 2010 , 11:26pm by Cakebelle

Cakebelle Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 12:48am
post #1 of 26

Hi all!
Okay so here's the thing.....I've been working at a small specialty cake store for the past 4 years, they only make custom cakes to order and cupcakes for sale at the store along with a few baked goods.
I eventually want to start my own place too in a few years, I think 2 years from now would be ideal, as I have 2 small children who will start full time school by then. I have over 12 years of caking experience and can handle it, no worries there!

But I have noticed lately that the store we're getting less and less custom cake orders, mind you that the prices at this place start at $12.00 per serving and up........Which for New York is not surprising.......but we were so much busier up until last year than we are now. People come in and place smaller orders and the average now is 10 cakes per week whereas it was around 20 last year! I mean they were raking in loads of cash back then! icon_wink.gif

So my concern is, is it still a good idea to be thinking of going into the cake business? or is this custom cake trend out the door?
What are your thoughts? Should I even consider it as an option or go in another direction?
Please sound off.........Would like to hear what all the experts have to say! icon_smile.gif

Thanks so much.........
Vicky.

25 replies
playingwithsugar Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 1:15am
post #2 of 26

The NYC cake designers I've conversed with over the past year have all told me that sales are slow for them, too, therefore, you would probably be right to wait out the two years and see if things pick up where you work. As soon as they do, that's when you know there will be more demand for high-end cakes.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

globalgatherings Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 1:15am
post #3 of 26

Vicky,

I've owned my catering company for 11 years. 2010 was a terrible year for me. So it's not just the cake business that is down in sales. I'm 51 years old and have never lived thru an economy so bad as this year. I am hoping that 2011 will be better.

Opening a business is a lot of work and very costly. I can only tell you my experiences, and right now is a scary time. Lets hope 2011 will bring some relief to this recession.

Good luck in your endeavors

Kelly

-K8memphis Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 1:15am
post #4 of 26

No I don't think custom cakes are a passing trend.

Many more people than usual are pinching for this economic climate. Even if they have money they are sitting on it I think.

I am almost speechless at the huge, dramatic shift we are going through. The stores that are empty of inventory when once you could hardly even walk through now there's plenty of room! The stores that went bust are legion.

I have freaked out over and over at empty parking lots over this Christmas holiday period. Crazy stuff.

50 & 75% off before Thanksgiving?

Look at say Coldwater Creek catalog--they used to have many items over a hundred dollars now they have a few items over a hundred dollars. Most everybody is spending less and the market responds to that. So prices are down because less costly goods are produced. So when they do sell still less money is flowing. People are not into blowing $12 on one serving of cake when their neighbors are out of work.

So all that to say--to me it's not custom cakes per se. This is just a reflection of the same hard times. Hard times will go away eventually and people will go back to livelier spending. Hopefully in two years we'll be doing better. Hopefully this year we as a country will be doing better!!!!!

Lizzard1 Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 2:04am
post #5 of 26

I totally agree with K8mepmhis, you're right on point! icon_wink.gif

Occther Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 2:51am
post #6 of 26

My thought is more about competition not just the economy. Are there other cake shops/decorators in the area that provide a better product or more reasonable price? Is there a problem with customer service? Maybe someone who greets customers or answers the phone? I have friends who bought my equipment and used a lot of my recipes to open their own cafe. Their business has continued to grow - despite being in a very economically depressed town.

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 4:34am
post #7 of 26

I own my own catering company that does well. I have actually been busier this year than the last few years.

BUT I have a p/t day job with a company that markets to multi-millionaires - seriously (You would recognize many of our customer's names). This company has been successfully been in business over 79 years and weathered every storm so far. These customers are now cutting back! When the rich and spoiled cut back - there is no hope for the rest of us. After 79 years - they are facing closing.

globalgatherings Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 4:48am
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

I own my own catering company that does well. I have actually been busier this year than the last few years.

BUT I have a p/t day job with a company that markets to multi-millionaires - seriously (You would recognize many of our customer's names). This company has been successfully been in business over 79 years and weathered every storm so far. These customers are now cutting back! When the rich and spoiled cut back - there is no hope for the rest of us. After 79 years - they are facing closing.




Please share some of the reasons why you are busy this year and what kind of caterings, ie: weddings, lunches? etc.. Any tips fromyou will be helpful and appreciated

CWR41 Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:09am
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cakebelle

But I have noticed lately that the store we're getting less and less custom cake orders...

So my concern is, is it still a good idea to be thinking of going into the cake business? or is this custom cake trend out the door?




Perhaps the direction you should go in is towards less customized cakes. Since you are confident that you can handle the decorating part, concentrating on making more cakes to please a larger market might be more profitable for you. Offer something more than the custom shop has to offer. If you've got two years to figure out your plan of attack, I'd recommend taking advantage of that time by preparing your own personalized business plan. (You'll be surprised how much you'll learn during this process.)

I wrote this in another thread... hope it's helpful:
The baking industry in general, has been called recession proof. In the U.S., Americans will tend to patronize restaurants less often during tough times and choose to cook at home more often, but they wont normally turn on their oven to bake desserts. Americans are more likely to continue purchasing bakery items on impulse or convenience. In other countries, the results may differ greatly during a recession. For example, the worlds largest bakery foodservice provider, CSM (based in the Netherlands), who already owns the majority of U.S. baking facilities and manufacturers of baking products, recently purchased the Best Brands Corporation (based in Minnesota) on February 4, 2010. They realize that Americans wont go without their baked items... sales continue to rise in the U.S., while sales are extremely low in Europe. You should be pleased to participate within a thriving industry. If the U.S. market is good enough for CSM, it should be good enough for those of us in the U.S.!

Good luck!

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:32am
post #10 of 26

I honestly think I've been doing well because because I've been purposely marketing to the "budget bride" whereas before I didn't. Times are tight and I've been using that as my marketing tool. I have not come down on my prices. But I have reworked my menus and offerings - making me less expensive. But I still earn a nice living and my name is staying out there where others are failing.

"There is a pretty wedding in every budget." and I honestly believe it.

Right now the average bride can no longer afford the high dollar hotel ballrooms and the wedding packages that come with them. I've been working a lot of backyard weddings, lodges, community centers, things like that. But I really push that the food and staff are the same quality without the same overhead.

I do a lot of bridal shows. I do 2 stage presentations each show (you gotta do those if you want to be successful at a show - bar none!). My booth is flocked after each one. Typically if you book 2-3 catering gigs after a bridal show you are doing well. I've been booking 4-6 per show.

I have a down to earth approach. I tell them they are here to save money, and I'm here to earn an honest living. What can we do together? I'm straight up about it. In fact, one thing I'm saying at the shows: if you are a platinum bride, I probably can't help you.

So, my honesty about being in this business to earn a living doing something I happen to love, being honest about money, and working hard to give them the most their pennies can buy has kept me going. I get told over and over "I hired you because you are so straightforward!" I never act like I'm above or better than them. I just have a different job than they do. I also don't act like I am better than my competition. Again, I just offer something different.

So, I don't know. It's hard to describe "me" as I write this. I just know I was busiest in the 90's. Still busy till about 2005 - then started getting slow - then this year I've been crazy busy (but still not as busy as the 90's). And I really think it's my personality getting the work. After all, in this business we are selling ourselves first.

-K8memphis Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 10:15am
post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

I honestly think I've been doing well because because I've been purposely marketing to the "budget bride" whereas before I didn't. Times are tight and I've been using that as my marketing tool. I have not come down on my prices. But I have reworked my menus and offerings - making me less expensive. But I still earn a nice living and my name is staying out there where others are failing.

"There is a pretty wedding in every budget." and I honestly believe it.

Right now the average bride can no longer afford the high dollar hotel ballrooms and the wedding packages that come with them. I've been working a lot of backyard weddings, lodges, community centers, things like that. But I really push that the food and staff are the same quality without the same overhead.

I do a lot of bridal shows. I do 2 stage presentations each show (you gotta do those if you want to be successful at a show - bar none!). My booth is flocked after each one. Typically if you book 2-3 catering gigs after a bridal show you are doing well. I've been booking 4-6 per show.

I have a down to earth approach. I tell them they are here to save money, and I'm here to earn an honest living. What can we do together? I'm straight up about it. In fact, one thing I'm saying at the shows: if you are a platinum bride, I probably can't help you.

So, my honesty about being in this business to earn a living doing something I happen to love, being honest about money, and working hard to give them the most their pennies can buy has kept me going. I get told over and over "I hired you because you are so straightforward!" I never act like I'm above or better than them. I just have a different job than they do. I also don't act like I am better than my competition. Again, I just offer something different.

So, I don't know. It's hard to describe "me" as I write this. I just know I was busiest in the 90's. Still busy till about 2005 - then started getting slow - then this year I've been crazy busy (but still not as busy as the 90's). And I really think it's my personality getting the work. After all, in this business we are selling ourselves first.




Wow this is encouraging--brilliant too.

PokiNielsen Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 1:30pm
post #12 of 26

tyingcake is spot on! It's all about marketing. Marketing yourself as well as your product. Straightforward honesty will get them every time.

bobwonderbuns Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 2:24pm
post #13 of 26

2010 has been slow for everyone I've spoken with. Several big online venues have gone under (into the oven... Sweet Celebrations...) and such and many decorators I've known have even quit the business altogether. On the other hand, I've spoken with a couple decorators who said the economy hasn't slowed them down a bit! I've been very slow, but I'm taking that time to regroup -- practice new techniques, get new photos made, etc. Maybe now that the holiday sales stats are saying people are buying the economy will show visible signs of picking up. Hang in there! icon_biggrin.gif

globalgatherings Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 3:30pm
post #14 of 26

tryingcake

That's great info, please tell us about the stage shows.

Thanks for sharing icon_biggrin.gif

leah_s Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 3:41pm
post #15 of 26

Stage shows? Do tell us more. I don't know what that is!

costumeczar Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 4:19pm
post #16 of 26

Based on the retail projections for holiday sales this year, I think that everything is starting to bounce back. Last year I was still slammed with orders, but the average cake was smaller than the previous years. However, it was the first year that I'd had two cakes booked that were around the $2000 mark, so that was the total opposite end of the budget spectrum.

Starting a business anytime is risky if you're not careful about your expenses, but if you plan well it should be fine. I think that people are more aware of the possibilities of what you can do with custom cakes, so they're asking for more adventurous designs than in the past.

DDiva Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 4:30pm
post #17 of 26

Trying Cake is definitely spot on!! I'm 13 years into this business and my business increased during the recession. Many of you know that my business was completely destroyed by a tornado earlier this year. We reopened in July in a new city and the response has been wonderful! It is about marketing, location, and who you are. I have always known that "I" sell my business. I am a very down to earth, call like I see it type of person. Like 'Trying Cake' I recently booked a wedding with a couple who said the same thing to me, 'We like your honesty'. I treat everyone the same...the way I want to be treated. I love people, and I love what I do. I'm told time and again by customers that they love my passion and can taste the love in my products. Most of my transactions end with a hug. Most of my business is still by referral. So, if opening a business is what you are 'supposed' to do, then do it. Succeed or fail, you'll never regret having tried!! Happy New Year to all of you CC'ers, and thanks so much for supporting me during a very difficult year! It meant a lot.
Teresa

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 5:57pm
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by leah_s

Stage shows? Do tell us more. I don't know what that is!




Each bridal show organization is different. So I can only speak for the ones I am involved with. At many, just before the fashion show, the have short presentations from vendors with booths. You have about 10 minutes to sell yourself. I'll try to explain this in writing, but I'm a talker, this is harder for me... I'll give it a shot.

The DJ announces me and as I'm walking up on to the stage with the mic in my hand (you cannot be shy and do this) I ask, "who here is a platinum bride?" Hardly any - if any at all - raise their hands. I say -

"Good! Those of you with your hands down - Let's talk! You and I are in the same boats! I love platinum weddings. I can certainly handle a platinum wedding. Ive done them and the money is great. But I can also tell you I didnt have any fun. It was stressful. Thank goodness for the planner who enjoys working with the bride with all the money. But for the rest of us, ever single penny counts. We have a budget and cant spend one more nickel or we cant pay our power bill, right?

So you decided all you can afford is a backyard wedding or a reception at a local hall. You have convinced yourself you need to settle. Listen, ladies, that is not settling. That is being smart! Please, please please, do not start your wedding off in debt from a one day fluff affair! All of this is fluff! You can run to the court house and be just as married. All this other stuff is fluff. FUN, YES! But still fluff.

Now that being sad does this mean you should just run to the courthouse and forget the big reception? Heck no! We all know most of us here have been planning our wedding days long before Mr. Right came along. So, have that reception youve always wanted. But stay within your budget. Accept your budget love it embrace it. If a choice is going to cause you to still be paying for the wedding after the honeymoon, dont do it!

Now, I believe there is a pretty wedding in every budget. I really do. You have to find the vendor that loves working with the budget bride and that is me. We will start out with your dream wedding ideas, and in keeping with that feel see what we can do to accomplish it on your budget (which you have been honest and told me the amount you can spend) and well keep the essence of what youve always had in mind. And in doing this your wedding will not be so cookie cutter. I gotta be honest here ladies. You all think your wedding is original. Im here to tell you its not. (I look at the DJ and say tell me if you agree) weve attended a ton of weddings. They are all the same! (the DJ usually laughs while agreeing) All down to the how the vows are said, the same chicken dinner with white sauce and that first song being played. There is nothing original about it. You and I are going to make your wedding wonderful and special and make it a one of a kind. All thanks to your budget.

Then I give two examples:

I once had a bride who only had $4,000 to spend on her entire reception hall, food, DJ, all of it. And thats all she was going to spend, period! So I asked her, when you think of your reception what is it that you see first thing? She told me she wanted a night club feel. Dim the lights, great DJ, awesome lights, dance floor packed. OK, I tell her.. is food is not important to you. She said no, not really. A-HA! Then why sink a ton of money into food? We found an Elks hall for $600 (alcohol will be a cash bar since a bar is in the lodge). Perfect! I found a rockin kick butt DJ for her that had all the lights bells and whistles. That ate up a huge portion of the budget. We did minimal decorations centerpieces, stuff like that. Afterall all the lights were dim. And heres the fun part served beer and pizza. YES! At first she was I dont know. I showed her the figures. Point blank, here are your choices, if this is the DJ you want, there is no money left for a sit down dinner. And if there were, it would be the same tired chicken at every other wedding. If you want a nice dinner the DJ has to go. Now you can do sandwiches, cheaper appetizers, things like that. Or you can break with the cookie cutter wedding and be remembered for having a kick-butt DJ and dancing all night.

I promise everyone had a blast and she was hugging me all night long for giving her the reception of her dreams. Guests thought it was a blast.

The next story is of a foodie. She could care less about music at all. Didnt even want a dance floor. She wanted nice food and mingling, like a cocktail party. So, we sunk all her money into food. I served Mediterranean lamb chops, Filet medallions and Shrimp everything was bite size and on a stick. We had an antipasti platter on stations around the room. Black tie wait staff serving from black platters. I did talk her into a small dance floor. But we hired a mediocre DJ. I think he was $350 in SoCal that is almost free. He did great at the special dances and kept jazz music going all night with an occasional requested dance tune. Did he fill the floor? Once in awhile. But the bride didnt care. The atmosphere was exactly what she wanted.

So, ladies, lets see what is most important to you and sink all your money there. Its your wedding day. It doesnt have to be like everyone elses. There are only two rules that you HAVE to adhere to when planning a wedding reception. #1: hire a good photographer. You cannot redo those pics drunk Uncle Al took for you. #2: DO NOT WORK YOUR FAMILY ON YOUR WEDDING DAY! If you say you dont need professionals on your wedding day your wedding will suffer. END OF STORY. For your mom to properly do a job at your wedding, she is not sitting in the pew at your wedding. Neither is your cousin or your sister if you are working them. If they are sitting in the pew, something behind the scenes is not being tended to. So, if your budget is so tight that you have to work family, my suggestion, postpone the wedding and save a little more, or cut down on the guest list so you budget is bigger per guest. But please dont use your family on your wedding day. Just dont. Come see me at booth blah blah blah its on the second floor back corner. I would love to help you stretch that budget and not spend one penny more

Then I leave the stage.

The second the fashion show is over my neighboring vendors hate me because my booth is flooded and no one can get to theirs. At my booth I give out bite size (1 x 1 x 1) cake samples and talk to each bride/couple. I make about 1500 per show and always run out in the last half hour.

I have a drawing for a free cake. And I just try to make it fun. Thats my way thats Dawn.

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:00pm
post #19 of 26

Oh, and usually I go on just after a high dollar wedding planner who won't take weddings less than $60,000. I am very careful not to put her down and point out how we market to different clientele. I must be doing something right. I can see her nodding and agreeing with me during my entire presentation.

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:06pm
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by DDiva

Most of my transactions end with a hug.
Teresa




Isn't that the greatest? I love it when they come seeking me out during the reception to give me hugs. I'm i the kitchen and here comes this bride in white wanting to hug me again.

One bride, while we were clearing away dinner plates, pulled me out on the dance insisting I have a dance with her. LOL - How could I say no? So I danced - complete in chef's uniform - and danced to some disco song I can't remember right now. All eyes were on us. I only stayed up there for what seemed 30 seconds. Then she gave me another hug and I took off.

That was the best tip ever!

DDiva Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:58pm
post #21 of 26

Those hugs make the 14+ days worth it!!

DDiva Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 6:59pm
post #22 of 26

I meant 14+ hour days........

indydebi Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 7:06pm
post #23 of 26

A baking industry magazine I subscribe to confirms that bakery items sales are on the upswing. Its all in the marketing.

Throughout history, "today" has NEVER been a "good time" to start a business. Hell, if we all waited until the time was "right", there would be no commerce at all.

Agree with the bridal show stage thing. I've been a featured speaker at shows and it really increases your visibility and expertise. And since I LUV a stage and a microphone, I'm just in Hog Heaven when I walk onto a stage! icon_biggrin.gif

tryingcake Posted 26 Dec 2010 , 7:45pm
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi


And since I LUV a stage and a microphone, I'm just in Hog Heaven when I walk onto a stage! icon_biggrin.gif




LOL - I always tell people God gave me a double dose of Ham Bone!

Cakebelle Posted 29 Dec 2010 , 6:04pm
post #25 of 26

WOW! thanks for all the replies! So much to process! I guess 2 years is a good time period to iron out all the business details. Will read some more! Thanks so much again!

A very Happy New Year to all!

Vicky.

Cakebelle Posted 29 Dec 2010 , 11:26pm
post #26 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Occther

My thought is more about competition not just the economy. Are there other cake shops/decorators in the area that provide a better product or more reasonable price? Is there a problem with customer service? Maybe someone who greets customers or answers the phone? I have friends who bought my equipment and used a lot of my recipes to open their own cafe. Their business has continued to grow - despite being in a very economically depressed town.




I don't really think so, service has consistently been the same for the time I've been there, the owners are actually very sweet and deal with all customers very professionally. There is another place that opened up a few blocks away but they are not in direct competition, they don't make custom cakes. But like with anything, there could be other reasons that we are unable to see. I think people just aren't spending like they were as for example in 2006-2007.
Like everyone else I just hope things start looking up for all of us as a country! YAY 2011!!! thumbs_up.gif

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