So I'm kind of deciding to avoid taking orders for a month or two in order to try to get in with a few caterers for weddings. I have one caterer that said they wanted to put me on their preferred vendor list so I want to follow up with them and find out what I need to do to maybe become their primary caker (they have a pastry chef but the brides provide their own cakes).
Most caterers do their own wedding cakes.....therefore I often get groom's cakes but not wedding cakes.... so I need to find caterers who need outside cakes....
I want to know:
1. Is it better to just be a referred vendor, or is it better to work out a deal where the caterer orders cakes from you for a slightly reduced rate for basic cakes?
2. What is the best way to contact caterers to where you will be desirable and they will give you business? Email? (Tried that, didn't work well) Phone? Cold call visit with samples?
I guess I'd have to call around first and find out who does NOT make their own cakes, and then visit with samples?
How much information should I give about myself, or is a business card directing to website good enough? I've been featured in two wedding magazines, locally...do I tote those mags along with me to show off?
I need to do this right because I'm being picky about orders until I can find a couple caterers to get me some wedding cakes....I think anyway...I'm just so burned out on novelty...I haven't even returned one lady's call for a kid's birthday cake, and I've turned down at least two other kid birthday cakes for this month so far. I have a HUGE Bat Mitzvah cake next weekend and then a clear schedule....
On a positive note, I do have a wedding tasting in a few weeks, who was a contact from a bridal show I did early this year and I thought was a failure! Cool....
I would call and set up an appointment with the caterer. That way you have time to meet them and see if you want to be working with them as well. I would take samples and put together a little informational brochure about your business and highlight that you were featured in the mags. I would also focus on all wedding vendors (djs, photographers, florists, salons, etc) as they can refer you as well.
I would PM Indydebi. She was in the catering biz for several years and may be able to offer you some insights.
Good luck and hang in there! It's engagement season, so hopefully you will have some more tastings soon. BTW, your work is stellar!!
I have been in business for 6 years and I have made almost every mistake imaginable. My first suggestions would be to NOT cold call the caterers. I would call them, explain your situation, and schedule an appointment to bring them samples.
RE: the referral/ordering debate, I once had a venue that wanted to setup a similar "ordering" agreement with me. They would order the cake from me, add in their fee and sell to the client. The problem came in where they promised the bride the world, and then came to me saying they had just sold a cake with days worth of delicate piping but they sold it for $300 (which they said was all the bride could afford). This "agreement" was dissolved immediately.
When I was really hurting for business, I offered some caterers and venues (don't forget the venue/hotel staff - they can be your best friends) a referral fee for every cake they referred to me. Don't make the agreement open-ended, and keep it low (10% or less). I also had it in the agreement that any bride that had contacted me (e-mail/phone) before I was contacted through the venue was "my" bride. This worked out much better for me, but it was still more stuff I had to keep up with!
Presently, I don't offer a kickback to anyone for referrals, and I almost never get referrals from caterers. I have a few hotels that have me on their preferred vendor list and I get a ton of referrals from them. All I have to offer them is being professional and showing up on time with a quality product. HTH!
cupadeecakes gives excellent advice!
Absolutely do not cold call a caterer! While someone might think Monday would be a good day to stop in, Monday was actually one of my busiest days as I finalized the clean up and the paperwork from my weekend caterings. Tuesday was list-making day (ok, that doesn't sound like much, but it is ... supply lists, food lists, equpment lists, employee lists; timetable list; etc etc); supply picking-up day; Wednesday and Thursday was food prep/baking/decorating day. Friday was crazy and Saturday was off limits to everyone. If you need to talk any length of time wiht a caterer, you reallly need to schedule an appt so they can set aside the time for you.
If you set up a deal where the venue takes the order from the bride and then orders the cake from you, then in my experience, the best deal is that you provide 3 or 4 photos of pretty standard cakes and say, "They order A, B, C or D and the price to you of each is......" Sorry, but if the venue promised bells and whistles, then THEY get to eat the add'l cost, not you. A line such as "any deviations from these designs must be approved in advance by the baker, who will advise the venue of the additional charges for the deviations" is always a good idea.
Provide a drop-dead-deadline for special decors, i.e. "gumpaste flowers require 4 weeks advance ordering." Emphasize NO EXCEPTIONS.
believe it or not, the caterer will actually LIKE having it simple and easy this way, especially the ones who have no freakin' clue what they're talking about when it comes to cakes (yes, there are some out there.)
But in my honest opinion, these kinds of arrangements rarely work out well. Yes, some do, but i'd venture to say they may be the exception. Many venues have their inhouse "wedding coordinator" who may or may not be experienced or certified as an event planner, and may or may not know what the heck she's doing. Either way, her loyalty is to the venue that hands out her paycheck, not to the bride or the vendors that she's working with.
I think a good way to meet caterers or wedding plannners ect... is to join a wedding guild or a wedding organization in your area. It is a good way to get to know people and see who you would like to be linked with. I have gotten referrels from photographers, florists, wedding planners and caterers. As and see if anyone is having a open house and offer to provide some cake. It is a great way to get known. It is nice to have the word out from a variety of vendors. Nice cakes by the way Good luck!!!
From my personal experience with this type of arrangement my only word is NIGHTMARE. The venue that I "WAS" working with provided in house catering and would pass on the cake to me. Unfortunately I went about it the wrong way. First things first always speak to the client directly never take orders through the caterer. If you decide to do so, make sure that your pricing is clear cut. The venue was actually offering cake to the clients for $1.00 per person, needless to say that agreement went south very quickly. If you do come to an agreement with a caterer, be sure that it works for you and it doesn't make their establishment look good offering spectacular cakes at dirt cheap pricing. HTH.
Agreements like this .... and I stand by my earlier comment that they rarely work .... should have a contract between the two parties. And as I eluded to earlier, if the caterer wants to give a bride a cake for $1.00/serving, that's fine with me. But they are still paying ME my standard rate of $3.00/serving! The caterer does NOT get to set the baker's price unless the caterer is paying the baker's overhead and expenses! Don't EVEN fall into that trap. We have some great first-hand experience in this thread that affirms it!
Hmm okay...thought so....
So I just need to focus my attentions on getting a lot of bridal vendors who will recommend me.... I'm thinking about caterers first and foremost since most of the area caterers already provide cakes, so that's pretty much business lost for me....so I need to find the ones who refer brides out.
One other thing I forgot to mention. Some of the larger hotels / convention centers will offer a quarterly sampling for potential couples. They setup a big ballroom and each table is decorated differently. They offer a nice sampling of their catering menus too. They're trying to sell their services, but most don't have pastry chefs or cake services. I made the offer to make them a free cake as long as I could stay during the event and talk with the couples. This has worked out wonderfully, and it's the one thing I still do to this day. Compared to bridal shows it almost free, and I always book 7 or 8 brides at each event.
I rarely get recommendations from caterers (probably because I am direct competition) but I get a slew of referrals from coordinators and planners. In exchange I give the planners a 10% referral fee. One planner gave me soooo much business I did her baby shower cake pro bono (at my suggestion).
I would suggest getting in with a wedding planner. I made friends with my wedding planner and she had one and only one main cake lady that she recommended. I still remember the taste of my wedding cake and everyone LOVED it. It was a great arrangement and I believe she got a percentage of the sale as well. They worked together nicely and we met with the cake decorator for the tasting and showed her what we wanted and it was all very simple and fast.
That would be my main suggestion. Put together a look book and send out to the local wedding venues with some cards attached. Adding in a nice letter of introduction and what you do and that you would appreciate any referrals couldn't hurt.
i live in a small town and am just starting out. What do you think of the idea of advertising at bridal shops. Also dressmakers who make wedding dresses and photografers(eek, spelling). any feedback appreciated
It doesn't hurt to contact anyone and everyone. Something will click!