I recently in the past month have had a couple of brides come to me with guest counts under 75. Most of them were 30-50 guest. I only offer complimentary tastings for 75 guest and up. For all my clients, cause people ask all the time to sample beforehand, I offer the option of a packed to go tasting for *$25 plus tax. Because I don't have time to meet with everyone for a consult, and I don't need to, I'm thinking only brides will have the option of meeting with me. Consults are free, but tastings are $25 plus tax. The standing rule now is that no one under 75 guest gets a free tasting and the fee is not applied to their order when they book. Should I even treat brides any different because of the event and let them come in? Some of these cakes can be done over the phone, but they want to meet with me in person. If they do, I think they should book on the same day as the meeting. (Something I don't always do with brides because I get back to them afterwords with designs and pricing.)
So far I have only completed one wedding with a small guest list since the start of brides with the smaller guest list inquiring thing. The bride had a small guest count of 50, who's wedding cake was booked within a week and a half time frame of her actual wedding (had an emergency with the cake situation). We did not do a tasting, and one was not needed. We did sign a contract and have her book her cake with payment in full on the same day as the consult. I normally wouldn't have taken a wedding cake on short notice, but it was small and I didn't have another one booked.
Now here's something I have been thinking about lately: Now that I have brides that are in the middle range, halfway between being a general order like a birthday cake and that of the 75 bridal and larger event range; I'm not exactly set on how to handle them. My regular orders do not have a contract. Payment is always the full balance before I turn my oven on and the invoice needs to be paid by two weeks of the event or no cake. In the event that it is a last minuter, payment must be made by credit card at the time of purchase. For events where the guest counts are above 75, they sign a contract. %50 is due at signing (with $100 being nonrefundable) and the remaining balance one month of the event. My dilemma is that I'm not sure if I should have the low guest list brides sign a contract. I'm leaning towards them doing so as the contract covers me on a lot of things that typically can happen with a bride or a client with a large event. The problem is that means per the contract situation a bride is allowed to pay me only %50 of the balance on a cake to feed say 30, basically a birthday cake, where as normally I would have the whole balance. What happens when her total is barely $100, the amount that is nonrefundable for me. Do I need to change my contract to cover this? (Just had a thought)... Or is it fair that I'm making the bride with the same size cake as a smaller event pay her balance by one month instead of two weeks as well as holding $100 of her balance nonrefundable? See an in between client. This is new for me.
*Btw, just to make sure, should I be charging tax on tastings to-go or for paid in person tastings, since I do not apply the fee towards their order (under 75)?
I did run into another situation that I hadn't thought of; a client's wedding isn't until 2012 but she ordered a to-go tasting last month. Her guest count is 250. I did not mention anything of the fee being applied in any way; but because she has a high enough count, and if she comes back to book her cake with me, should I deduct anything from her order if she were to mention it? Just thinking ahead of time, because clients who get tastings with an event over 75 may possible ask this. I'm not exactly sure on which route I want to take because over 75 guest is complimentary. Maybe I don't have to hold all of the policy true....hmmm dunno yet. I want to get opinions first.
I may be thinking to hard about this. TIA
The economy is tough right now and scaling back on the guest list is going to be common.
You need to decide if that's something you want to offer and be consistent. You policy should be clear and you should always stick to it.
Always have a contract! Even for party cakes and small orders. Paid in full before the event, or no cake-no exceptions.
Your contract should be changed to state your new policy.
If your State mandates Tax be charged then it's on anything you sell, no matter how small.
Set an amount for orders under $100. Deposit amount, balance to be paid when. None refundable portion.
Your contract means your rules. Brides ALL should have a contract, IMHO. There is a PITA factor, and a high level of anticipation, more so than any other event. So having it in writing is to protect you, define payments, and clarify ALL details.
No one says all brides/ cakes are created equal. I would expect the level of service/ consults/ hand holding would be greater for a bride who plans to spend $1,000 rather than $100 on cake. In the same way, I expect different service at a place I order a $35 steak, or a $1 McDouble.
It's not mean, it's business. One reason to get one, "in full" payment upfront is to limit the "administrative" time (accounting, calls/emails to collect or remind of payment, keeping track of what/ when due) you spend on a limited profit cake.
There seems to be some sound, business advice from both the previous posters.
I see from your fb page you are in Raleigh. I am on the Outer Banks! (Hey Neighbor!)
My area has become a destination wedding location. My cakes are getting smaller and smaller for the families who come to the Outer Banks for these destination weddings.
Just this past week I had a request for a 3 tier for 15 people. I thought Really? Really! At first I replied, "Ma'am, I just don't think it's possible to even make a cake that small". Then I had a creative moment. "Let me get back to you on that, maybe I can."
I like what I do and I take it as a challenge to fill an unusual request and think 'outside the box". Isn't that what custom baking and cake design is all about?
I try to listen to my customers and fill a need. Supply and Demand. My business is growing, and I am 'hungry'. Many of my requests are for cakes for 50 people and less.
I would say to use your best judgement in making the smaller cakes. It sounds like you have already answered your own question as far as deposits and contracts are concerned. I really like what Johnson6ofus says about the $35 steak vs the $1 Menu meal.
Times are a changing. I feel like we need to flow with the market.
That's just my opinion and we know what opinions are like. Opinions are like butts, everybody has one and they stink!
Not to hijack the thread, but...
I have had several brides that needed a cake to feed 20 but didn't want an 8" round cake for their wedding cake. I offered to do a three tier cake with the bottom and top tier made from styrfoam. They were so excited because no one else had offered this.
My usual price for buttercream is $3/serving and fondant is $3.50/serving. I knock off $1/serving for faux tiers. I know the time to decorate is the same, but I don't have to mix the batter, prep the pans, bake, clean the mess, tort, fill, clean that mess...
This may be an option you could offer brides.
I do not offer a consultation/tasting for this. I will do a sketch for the bride, but the cakes are usually very simple so the sketch takes about 20 minutes.
If the bride wanted a consultation, I would offer something "to-go" for $20.
I would think when it comes to the deposit, perhaps something like, "Deposit is $50 or 1/2 of the order total, whichever is higher"? That's kind of a catch all.
I am a part bride, and although a $1000 cake order is more work/income/strategy/labour, etc than a $100 cake order there is not difference in the importance to the bride. We are not talking about a budget service. One other poster compared the cakes to something like steak to a mcdouble, and while that is somewhat true in a way, I also completely disagree, here's why.
When my husband and I got married, we wanted it to be a small and intimate affair, and no expense was spared. We had 80 guests, thats it, and we wanted the very bestfor those 80 guests. Our cake design was simple and elegant, but we needed for it to taste good, as it was served as dessert....we were willing to pay whatever the costs were. A lady made our cake, and decorated it, and it was delicious and beautiful. It was 3 stacked square pink champagne coloured fondant tiers wrapped in black ribbons with beautiful gumpaste roses and lillies trailing from top to bottom. She did an amazing job. Now becuase we had few guests, and werent the normal 500 guest wedding, does that mean that we are less important or that our cake was less important to us than it was to the brides whos wedding has 500 guests? If you must charge for testing on a smaller order, i don't see a problem with this, I wouldnt have had a problem with it.....but as the other poster was comparing it to a steak, I can too. If I go to the gourmet steak house in our town, and take 4 friends, I would assume that our steak was going to be as good as the party next to us who has 10 perople and orders ten steak dinners......wedding cakes are wedding cakes, no matter how many they feed.
Just my opinion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is where it is abou the service you provide, not the profit you make. Each and every client has came to you to order a grreat cake, and should be treated importantly, if it was just simply about budget then they would have just ordered from costco, right?
I too had a very small wedding (50 friends/family). I would hate to think that my caterer/caker considered me less important (or too cheap) just because I didn't need the same volume of food/cake as someone with a huge guest list. I wanted my wedding reception to be just as elegant and the food to be just as beautiful and tasty as the next bride.
Here in Germany the avarage guest count is around 65-80. I have lots of weddings with 40-50 guests. Actually, even in the densly populated metropolitan area that I live in, you would be hard pressed to find a nice venue for more than 200 people (except for the large hotels, but they are more stuffy than nice). Next Monday I have a wedding cake for 25 guests. Makes no difference for me. Actually the small weddings are a lot more detail oriented and the brides are willing to go out on their cakes.
So be open-minded, this may be a new niche for you!
So you can cover all your bases and have a consistent policy for all orders, I would:
1. Change your deposit to a percentage of the total amount for ALL cakes rather than a set dollar amount.
2. Keep the tasting fee policy for ALL orders. (Even if it's a small wedding cake, I'm assuming the price is at least a couple hundred dollars. Knocking off $25 isn't gonna kill the bottom line on that cake.)
Everyone gets a tasting-$XX (for non-wedding orders too. Otherwise, someone may say that you feel one's wedding was more important than their event...can't have that)
All b-t-bs get consults regardless of the size cake needed
Everything else stays in place as you have it.
Short notice orders, regardless of the event, get limited personalized service before the event...not on the order itself...just the whole pre-event stuff.
Yes, still charge tax on tastings. The amount of the tasting is applied toward the entire order, on the final payment, right? If cancelled, the tasting cost should then be deducted from total, as well as the non-deductible amount (unless the non-deductible amount includes the cost of the tasting, before any refund is given. When you tally up their total, subtract the cost of the tasting, figure the tax, the amount of tax computed on the new amount should reflect the total minus the tasting...either way, the appropriate tax will be collected. Just don't forget when filing your taxes, (especially, if the order spans between multiple taxing time frames) to compute the cost of the tasting but don't forget to remove it from your taxable total when the final amount is collected (otherwise, you would be paying double tax on it, right?)
I treat all my wedding customers the same. I don't think you want to compare it to" Mc Donalds vs a high end restaurant" better to compare it to whether you are having a cup of coffee at that restaurant or an eight course meal the service should always be the same.
I just reread your post, OP. The answer is still the same. If you are charging for the tastings, regardless of whether it's applied to the total or not, taxes must be collected on that amount then, ultimately paid when you file quarterly sales and use taxes.
Instead of worrying about a guest count under 75, just set a dollar minimum and it's up to the bride to decide if she wants to pay that much or not.
I treat the smaller weddings as party cakes. 50% deposit, if they want delivery, 300.00 mim order for delivery, plus delivery costs and paid in full before delivery. If not, other 50% due at pick up. I only do the big contract for over 100 servings. The smaller weddings get the simple one page deal that everyone gets. It saves a lot of time.
Everyone, no matter what, gets a free consulation. The larger weddings I make an appointment becuase they get a tasting, but also they take longer. We get a lot of walk in weddings for 30-50 servings. They are delighted we will give them a cake, as many bakeries won't talk to them. We have cupcakes in a case, so if they want to taste cake, they can purchase them. They all understand this, as tastings are expensive.
Cakes over 500.00 get free tastings. This is simply for economic reasons. If I gave out free tastings to everyone who walked in the door, I would be broke in a week.
I treat all my customers the same. The 10.00 cakes get the same treatment as the 10,000.00 cake. They also get the same quality of work. the same smooth buttercream, the same delcious fillings, large or small. To treat someone better because they are shelling out more money to me horrible customer service.