Tastings, Revisited

Business By Kitagrl Updated 3 Mar 2011 , 12:24am by CGoguen

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 5:44pm
post #1 of 27

This is partly a vent and partly a question....but I'm getting tired of tastings. haha. Now I totally understand the need for tastings for big parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. But I'm getting people who are planning 50-60 person parties, and granted I know that's a fairly large party...but are tastings just supposed to be expected anymore? Sometimes I get emails from people that, while the person is a nice person, its almost as if they are expecting that since I am an "upscale cake artist" that they should be getting some sort of red carpet treatment....tastings, sketches (which I don't do unless I feel they need one, and then only after I receive a deposit), consult, etc.

I have a really good cake friend that is teasing me that I offer tastings and that's why people are asking me for them, but I checked my website and as far as I can see, nowhere on my website do I advertise tastings or consults. These people are coming up with this on their own!

Do you guys just downright refuse tastings? If so, do you lose orders? Do you have a rule that tastings have to be for a certain number of guests?

At the time I offer two types of tastings...I have a free one that basically whatever I can scrounge out of my freezer is what they get (I call it chef's choice) and the other is $25 which is for those who want to choose what flavors they try.

I do more free ones than I do custom, but I actually have several that choose the custom as well.

However its getting to where these tastings take an hour (at least) out of my schedule along with any and all phone/email time I'm doing....and that's okay I guess but maybe I should start making a rule that tastings are only for parties 100+ guests? And make anyone who still insists on tasting buy a homestyle iced 8" round cake for $25 (I've done that before)?

I dunno. Like I said I know tastings are very normal for weddings and large parties but man some of these are just medium sized birthday parties and...I mean....I don't know why some of these people can't just read all the rave reviews on my website about my yummy cake and trust me on it. haha.

26 replies
LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:04pm
post #2 of 27

We only do tastings for weddings. Period. We have had people ask about tastings for other parties, and we just tell them that they are only for weddings.

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:07pm
post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by CakeMaster2009

We only do tastings for weddings. Period. We have had people ask about tastings for other parties, and we just tell them that they are only for weddings.




I guess I don't personally agree with that necessarily....what is the difference between a 150 person wedding, and a 250 person Bar Mitzvah?

To me tastings are fine for huge parties because when you are buying 100 or more people cake, you want to make sure its good stuff...but for smaller orders it just gets to where the pay is not quite enough to cover all the time you are spending on consults and stuff....I dunno. I guess I need to rethink my policies...I tend to be a pushover and am gradually (very) having to tighten up the reins in a few areas.

Thanks for the input!

jason_kraft Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:12pm
post #4 of 27

We'll do tastings for anyone who wants to pay the tasting fee ($30 for up to 2 people, up to 3 cake flavors and 3 frosting flavors). I recommend charging for free tastings (since your time ain't free), something like $15 for chef's choice and $30 for customer's choice.

From the customer's perspective, if a vendor was offering a free tasting I would take them up on it just for the free cake. icon_razz.gif

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:15pm
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

We'll do tastings for anyone who wants to pay the tasting fee ($30 for up to 2 people, up to 3 cake flavors and 3 frosting flavors). I recommend charging for free tastings (since your time ain't free), something like $15 for chef's choice and $30 for customer's choice.

From the customer's perspective, if a vendor was offering a free tasting I would take them up on it just for the free cake. icon_razz.gif




Really? See I guess my personality is that I would not want to take an hour out of my schedule to talk to a salesperson (i.e. caker) even if they did give me a few bites of free cake....

I guess that makes me the minority? hahaha

My cake friend keeps trying to get me to stop the free tastings too.

What about consults? Should those be charged for as well? I hate charging for them but with gas prices the way they are (I do not have them at home, but at a coffee shop) and then I usually buy a small coffee since I'm using their shop, and then to spend the time....and then if I don't get the order its been a waste of time and money.

Hmm.

indydebi Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:17pm
post #6 of 27

They probably think you just go to your big bakery display case and pull out a piece or two from a couple of already baked and ready to eat cakes.

Just set a minimum. Either headcount, potential dollar figure, serving amount. But set one.

While I can appreciate that planning a party for (gasp!) SIXTY PEOPLE! icon_surprised.gif may seem like a lot of folks to them ..... its pretty small to me.

It's like the person who asked me for a "volume" discount because they wanted 4 dz cookies. Really? REALLY? I had a client who received 25 doz cookies a DAY and this chic wanted a volume discount for a one-time buy of FOUR????? To HER ... it was a big order. To ME ... it was hardly worth my time.

jason_kraft Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:21pm
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

What about consults? Should those be charged for as well? I hate charging for them but with gas prices the way they are (I do not have them at home, but at a coffee shop) and then I usually buy a small coffee since I'm using their shop, and then to spend the time....and then if I don't get the order its been a waste of time and money.



We've never done a non-tasting consult that wasn't over email or over the phone...if the customer has a design in mind and they don't need a tasting they usually just email a picture of the design and we discuss it over the phone.

There was one customer not too long ago who wanted to meet us in person just to make sure our company actually existed (party cake customers sometimes aren't used to bakeries without retail storefronts), we didn't charge for that since it was basically a 5 minute chat.

sillywabbitz Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:30pm
post #8 of 27

I do not have a business but I think it is more than fair for you to put a limit on tasting to cakes with a minimum serving size. Say you provide tastings for cakes with 100 servings or more. Then you can tell them if they feel the need to try a specific flavor they can order a dozen cupcakes for this price...etc.

I think it's really out of line for people to expect a tasting for small cakes. You loose too much of your time and ingredients to justify it. I do remember one lady did monthly tasting where people could come at a specific time and it was just open for everyone who wanted a tasting. It was not a consult..just tastings. If you feel you have time for that, it would be an option.

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 6:45pm
post #9 of 27

Hmm yeah I'm gonna just have to cut back.

Monthly tastings would be awesome if I had a storefront but since I use a coffee shop I really can't do that....

I guess an email today started this...she wants a tasting to sample my cakes and icings and a sketch and her maximum budget is $350. While I know that is a lot of money for cake (I'm too cheap to buy cake for that) it is NOT a lot when one considers my time, my gas for my big minivan, my sample cakes, my sketching, my email time, plus all my ingredients and time for the actual cake. $350 is a lot of money for me but when I start counting up hours, it starts looking like less and less and less! haha.

Definitely going to work on changing my policy. I just remember in the past I had been losing orders because people wanted a tasting and I was charging and they'd say "never mind" and hang up. So that's when I started being more available for tastings. I guess I should try being less available again.

Stephy42088 Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 7:03pm
post #10 of 27

I know what you mean. People always want the red carpet rolled out for their little tiny birthday party for 10 people...or I'm getting people who want to me with me for graduation parties already! I had to set a limit of 100 servings/people for free tastings/consultations, if it is less than that then I charge $25. Even still, people expect you to bend over backwards for their order of 3 dozen mini cupcakes. I think its a good idea to set limits on your consultations/tastings and make yourself less available, your trying to run a business, not be their best friend!

jenmat Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 7:16pm
post #11 of 27

another option that has been working for me-
AFTER they put down a deposit on something like you are talking, you can offer them a "to-go" box of your choice of flavors, or for $25, their choice. (Or just say, vanilla, chocolate and something else). OR you could just to a to-go tasting for a fee, and take it or leave it.

I can understand that if someone is spending $350 they would want to know what it tastes like. BUT I can also understand that as the baker it would be the time wasted that would upset me.

As Debi always says, a tasting is to make sure you can bake- your lemon is going to be like the vanilla, only lemon.

Now, I don't ADVERTISE that I do to-go tastings, and I don't do big celebration cakes like that. I do my to-go tastings for wedding couples who would like to make a decision or if the groom can't make it to the consult, or if the consultation is booked waaay out and they want to make sure they've made the right choice. Only on offer- I don't always offer it, but it is nice to have the option, because then even to the celebration customer, you aren't really saying "your cake isn't worth my time" to them, you look like you're willing to work with them and meet their needs while not taking more of your time than necessary.

lilmissbakesalot Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 8:09pm
post #12 of 27

I do tastings for weddings and cakes over 100 servings. I allow 3 people to attend and after that you pay $15 per head with a max of 5 people. Tastings are my choice unless there are allergies and then I will take suggestions. I don't make little cakes. I have five 1.5" square pieces of cake and 8 fillings (about 1 TBSP of each) on a plate for them to mix and match along with a little sample of fondant.

My explaination to the smaller customer is that the tasting is built into my wedding per slice charge. I charge $5/ serving party and $6/serving wedding and the consult/tasting is built into the price. I also do not torte party cakes and limit the flavor choices to one combo for the whole cake whereas wedding cakes are torted and they may choose any number of combos.

I have never had anyone stomp off an say it was unfair. I do offer a tasting for smaller parties for $30.00 and have had a few take me up on it. I also offer a to-go set up as well and that is also $30.00 per box. It has everything a normal tasting would just in small portion cups with little mini spoons.

cakesbycathy Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 8:11pm
post #13 of 27

It's okay to set limits.
I only do tastings for an order that is at least 100 servings. If it is less than that and they want to taste my cake they can purchase some cupcakes or a rough iced 6" round.

leily Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 8:23pm
post #14 of 27

i agree to set a limit. I will do tasting for any order that is 100 servings or more of a tiered cake (i won't do them for sheet/kitchen cakes)

I do disagree with the one who said they only do them for weddings. I don't care what the event is. If it meets my minimum serving for tastings then it doesn't matter to me. I have two wedding cakes already scheduled that are 50 servings and 80 servings. They did not get a tasting. With people doing smaller weddings these days i decided to base it off of servings instead of event to make it a little more worth my time.

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 9:55pm
post #15 of 27

I guess what I meant is that we do FREE tastings for weddings only. I guess if someone wanted to pay for a tasting for a party cake, we would do that. We really haven't had party cakes bigger than 50 servings so far.

sweetheart6710 Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 10:33pm
post #16 of 27

I read somewhere here on CC some time ago that someone liked to bake up chocolate/vanilla/popular flavors of cake in loaf pans and freeze them. Then when they had tastings, it was easy to cut a slice off. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Easy to bake last minute, or use left over batter in, but also not using too much space storing it. But of course your time/cost is the most important factor. I would set a minimun serving amount (100+), or charge for smaller serving amount if people insist. My guess is charging will weed out the cheap people looking for less expensive, smaller cakes. I also liked the idea of doing a 'to-go' taste testing (after a deposit is paid maybe?). Maybe box up some slices of cake/ scoops of icing and filling, and send them on their way. They can contact you later with their preferences or questions? I'm no professional, so I have no experience, but I think whatever makes you feel good about yourself and your business is most important, and the people will come icon_smile.gif

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 10:36pm
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetheart6710

I read somewhere here on CC some time ago that someone liked to bake up chocolate/vanilla/popular flavors of cake in loaf pans and freeze them. Then when they had tastings, it was easy to cut a slice off. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Easy to bake last minute, or use left over batter in, but also not using too much space storing it. But of course your time/cost is the most important factor. I would set a minimun serving amount (100+), or charge for smaller serving amount if people insist. My guess is charging will weed out the cheap people looking for less expensive, smaller cakes. I also liked the idea of doing a 'to-go' taste testing (after a deposit is paid maybe?). Maybe box up some slices of cake/ scoops of icing and filling, and send them on their way. They can contact you later with their preferences or questions? I'm no professional, so I have no experience, but I think whatever makes you feel good about yourself and your business is most important, and the people will come icon_smile.gif




I do keep cakes in the freezer so its not that hard, but still the time involved with prepping the tasting and then going to the coffee shop and having the consult and everything for a medium sized cake order (and for someone that may not even hire me) is getting to be a time waster, I think, in some cases, if the potential order is not large enough to make up for the time spent.

imagenthatnj Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 10:44pm
post #18 of 27
Evoir Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 10:59pm
post #19 of 27

That's FromScratchSF's set up, which is great, IMO.

I have a 7inch square cake box that I fill with about 8-10 varieties (2 of each flavour) of cake. If I have a consultation booked, I give them the box and advise them to take it home, share over a tea or coffee and discuss, then get back to me. I do not want to sit there "selling" each cake flavour and serving up refreshments. That takes too much of MY time. Similarly, I am happy to throw together a box of samples like this for someone to collect if they are at the stage of booking a cake for their wedding.

I have a blurb on my website to steer the free-tasters away:

Consultations
Wedding cake consultations are done by appointment only.
Generally only wedding cake clients need to book face-to-face meetings (including cake tastings) on premises, although I do offer this service to larger special event cakes also.
Most preliminary discussion, including confirming the availability of dates can be done via email or telephone. Email is very handy for transmitting images of the design styles you are interested in having incorporated into your cake design.
Wedding consultations require a deposit of $50.00 upon booking your consultation, which will be deducted from your total cake price upon your confirmed wedding booking.
Unfortunately, at this time we do not offer free tastings or free on-site consultations for designing your wedding cake, but we are more than happy to discuss your ideas on the phone or via email.


I find this works best for me. Hope this helps icon_smile.gif

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:00pm
post #20 of 27

I actually just bought clear "to go" boxes as well as teeny tiny clear lidded cups for fillings and icings....I use them because its easy to put together and sometimes the people who are tasting like to take the leftover bites home to somebody else to try out....

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:01pm
post #21 of 27

Evoir, I like how you word that! I need to incorporate some of those ideas on my site.

While my site does not offer tastings, I guess my site also does nothing to discourage them, either.

Evoir Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:11pm
post #22 of 27

Kitagrl - feel free to pinch any phrases you like from my blurb. I think its as much about educating people on what to expect, than anything else. I think expectations are built on (as you said) the 'premium experiences' they read about in those 'helpful' magazine articles, and maybe see on cake shows (although I am not sure about that; I don't watch them).

I am a huge fan of email. And really, any asynchronous communication. It allows me to work when I am working, answer emails when I have time, and also after I have had time to think. For example, I have a PITA bride atm who is pressing all my buttons, so I read her emails, think about it while I go aggressively knead some fondant (!) then reply to her when I have things sorted in my mind. I know tastings are a crucial part of the wedding side of things, but they are SO time-consuming that I try to now make them as efficient as possible.

By the way - I read you are gettingmore wedding cake orders now. Congratulations! Its very rewarding I think (both experientially and financially!)

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:20pm
post #23 of 27

Thanks!

Yeah I'm finding too that sometimes a customer doesn't know the best way to build a cake and so even if we do a face to face, I still have to say "let me take your info home and think about it" because I can't come up with designs on the spot like that!

I prefer email as well. I rarely call anyone, even if they leave a phone number, unless they call me first. And I don't like phone calls either because again, it puts me on the spot. I type better than I speak!

CGoguen Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:28pm
post #24 of 27

As somebody who has recently been a bride and needed to buy a wedding cake, I can say I really enjoyed the tasting I was provided. The baker had a tray of different flavors, frosting and fondant to try. The cake was cut into small strips, just bite sized. We sampled about 8 flavors, and combined it was probably about 1 serving of cake per person. This could easily be done by baking a small cake of each flavor, freezing and cutting just enough to sample. I ended up purchasing a premium flavor (more $$) that I would never have choosen without a sample.

Btw, I only had 50 people at my wedding. That didnt make it any less important to have a fantastic cake. I like to know what I am getting anytime I spend $200+.

Hope this sheds light on the other side of the story.

Kitagrl Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:38pm
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by CGoguen

As somebody who has recently been a bride and needed to buy a wedding cake, I can say I really enjoyed the tasting I was provided. The baker had a tray of different flavors, frosting and fondant to try. The cake was cut into small strips, just bite sized. We sampled about 8 flavors, and combined it was probably about 1 serving of cake per person. This could easily be done by baking a small cake of each flavor, freezing and cutting just enough to sample. I ended up purchasing a premium flavor (more $$) that I would never have choosen without a sample.

Btw, I only had 50 people at my wedding. That didnt make it any less important to have a fantastic cake. I like to know what I am getting anytime I spend $200+.

Hope this sheds light on the other side of the story.




Yes but did you get your cake from a single cake artist or from a bakery that probably had more flavors on hand?

The other problem I run into is that I don't have a place to have tastings on premises. Anytime I schedule a tasting I have to get in my car, pack all my stuff up, and go to the coffee shop.

If I could just have it at a bakery it wouldn't be nearly a problem.

Evoir Posted 2 Mar 2011 , 11:43pm
post #26 of 27

I work from my studio cakery at home (I have a whole room devoted to just my cake business, currently being refitted completely). Even so, I need to prepare for tastings by setting up a table, demo cake(s), magazines, books, computer, sketch pad, moving away sugar art currently in manufacture, setting out water/coffee etc etc etc. Its time consuming and I try to book as many as I can on the same day to make it easier on me!

I do appreciate the bride's POV too. Which is why I offer tsatings to ALL my wedding clients, regardless of guest list size. Its part of the wedding service I offer.

CGoguen Posted 3 Mar 2011 , 12:24am
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl


Yes but did you get your cake from a single cake artist or from a bakery that probably had more flavors on hand?

The other problem I run into is that I don't have a place to have tastings on premises. Anytime I schedule a tasting I have to get in my car, pack all my stuff up, and go to the coffee shop.

If I could just have it at a bakery it wouldn't be nearly a problem.




Kinda both. It was a separate business....but it was ran entirely by one lady and her husband. I can certainly see your point.

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