I am in the process of starting an @home business and am trying to perfect recipes before we open our doors so to speak.
I want to get honest constructive feedback from people and potential customers on what they think of the recipes I've been testing. We are having a tasting in a few weeks.
Most of the time when you ask people what they think, they say it's good or whatever. But that doesn't really help when you are trying to figure out what exactly needs improvement.
Has anyone else done this type of thing? What type of questions did you ask your customers?
Essentially, I'd like to print out some survey's or flash cards that each person would complete at the tasting.
I've never done it and I am not sure you will get conclusive results...for example, what someone might think is "too sweet" icing, others may love, you know?
In any case, I would suggest a card where the taster has to write the flavour they tried. Then have tick boxes asking if the cake was too sweet, not enough, just right; too dry, cake fell apart, just right; too dense, not dense enough, just right...you catch my drift. Chocolatey enough? Fruity enough? Same for the icing. Sweet enough? Was there too much icing, not enough, just right?
Then also have a comments box, for people to write anything else they feel appropriate.
Don't forget to provide pens.
I've tried it on a smaller scale: took donation cakes in a new flavor & had people answer specific questions (too much lemon taste, not enough lemon taste, etc). After all was over, I'd learned nothing! 1/3 said too much lemon, 1/3 said not enough, 1/3 thought just right!
In my experience the best way to get constructive feedback is to have a third party conduct a taste test with your products alongside competitors' products. Having other products in the test helps people make relative comparisons...i.e. product A was more moist than product B, product C wasn't as chocolatey as product D, and so on.
You'll also want to make sure you are following the law in your state, I don't believe MD or DC have cottage food laws. If they don't you would need to secure a licensed and inspected commercial kitchen before you can sell food products.
I've never done a survey for my cake business, but I did it in my previous life. The best advice I can give you is to use questions that require more than a yes or no answer, or a grading scale 1-5 with very specific definitions for the grading. For example rather than asking.... Did you like the chocolate cake? you could ask... What was you favorite flavor, in order of preferece (and list flavors)... or.... What word most accurately descibles the chocolate cake a.moist b.rich (and so on). Yes or No answers give you a rough idea, but may not always be as detailed as you need. Before you form the questions be sure to thouroughly think through what kind of information you are trying to get.
Treat it like a tasting
I'd have 3 choices of each type of cake you want to test. In other words, 3 different recipes of choc cake, 3 of strawberry, 3 of whatever cakes you want to test.
Have the tasters pick their favorite from each group and then have a space for comments on why they preferred that one over the others.
I'd keep it as simple as possible. You can really get too much info and people sometimes feel like they HAVE to comment just to show you how smart they are.
Limit it to a 'why did you choose this' and maybe a 'what would make it better' question. That's really all you'd need to get your basic recipes down and then you can add more as your business grows.
I watched Ina Garten do a recipe taste test with her friends and I think all they did was just choose the one they liked the best...no comments about why they liked it...they just did.
Anyway, like I said, keep it simple!
You only need to ask 3 things to get all the info you need:
1. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this cake a _______.
2. I would have rated it higher if ___________________ .
3. I would have rated it lower except _______________ .
this tells you what they liked and what they didn't. It's not overly involved and it's not one of those canned surveys that doesnt' tell you anything.
I learned this technique years (as in decades!) ago and have used it multiple times in my corporate sales life and in my own business. After seeing the great info and TRUE feedback that this survey brought in, I labeled all other types as totally useless!
Indydebi, I wish you would write a book. I swear you have so much useful information and tons of funny stories.
There is no home baking allowed in Maryland. And if you are close to DC/ Annapolis/ Baltimore, the Health Departments seem to take the law very seriously. Maryland law is just one step down from FDA regulations which are the highest. You will need to find a licensed kitchen to bake. And they do persue unlicensed bakers. I work in two states and unlicensed bakers stay low profile in Maryland.