jenmat Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 8:55pm
post #1 of

So I'm getting pretty worn out of these indiviual tasting appointments. I have a 5 year old and my hubby works nights, so I have her trained to watch movies quietly during tastings, but this also means I can only do one per evening or I am guranteed to have whining issues.
When I am approaching taking almost 100 weddings per year, and many of those book so far out that they request to come back in when they are prepared to design their cake, I am looking at probably 150-170 meetings per year!!! This does not count those brides that are using me as their "backup" tasting appointment and they already have someone else chosen (but think they are supposed to go to a few places just in case).
SO, I am thinking of doing "tasting events" about a week after bridal shows. I already have a local upscale hotel that would allow me to use their facilities to host the event. I am thinking of doing 2 events per post show time frame to cut down on all the calls. I would send out invites to brides and have them RSVP so I know who to expect.
I guess I am looking at the pitfalls and benefits to this. I know I can't keep doing what I'm doing, especially since we are becoming a licensed foster home in short order.
What are some ideas I should do for this event? How can I still make it personable for couples and have you gotten good feedback if you've done this?
Thanks so much in advance for any advice you can give!

22 replies
AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:11pm
post #2 of

All I can say is, I wouldn't dream of doing it any other way. I don't get quite as many inquiries as you, but I'll be danged if I'm going to have private individual tastings for people who may or may not book with me, who may or may not show up, who may or not be serious buyers...I could go on and on.

I host events maybe 3 times a year. I make appointments at one hour intervals with 3 couples to each hour (so 6 people total, but I have a big space). I bake up about 6 different cakes, andmake about 18 filling options. I have about 3 hours to work with, it's a mix of people who have already booked, so now they are just picking flavors, and others who I haven't met yet.

At my last one, which was a couple weeks ago, I had one no show. One out of 9 couples? Pfffft. Didn't even notice it. The rest were either already booked, and the rest have met with me already and have booked their date. So one night of cleaning and setting up the reception area, bake over the course of two days, make frostings...and I don't have to do it at ALL for at least another 3 months.

So I say no way to private tastings. But that's me. And I will do it if they are a big enough buyer and they absolutely cannot make an event. I will even box some up and they can come by the next day and take it home.

AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:14pm
post #3 of

Of course, I don't go to that length for someone who can't make an event, I will reserve samples from whatever I happen to be already making for an order that weekend.

jenmat Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:34pm
post #4 of

Wow, thanks! I really admire your business model and to get advice from you means a lot!!!
I guess I'm so tired of making appointments so that I can watch people eat for half and hour! This event style seemed to make sense to me.
If you only do them every 3 months or so, do you find that people get antsy and cranky because you aren't being as "accommodating"? I am worried brides aren't going to feel as "special" if I lump them all in together. If they can't make it, you do still offer to package boxes and make a time where they can stop by? How many people take advantage of that?

Do you find that some brides come ready to design their cake and then hog all your time?

when/how to do you the design appointments?
Thanks again for your time!

jason_kraft Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:42pm
post #5 of

After about a year of having individual tastings, we switched to to-go tastings only. The bride can pick up a box with 2 cake flavors (6" rounds, unfrosted) and 2 frosting choices for $30 ($10 for each additional flavor).

The idea for tasting events sounds like a good one, perhaps you could supplement that by offering to-go tastings between those events.

AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:42pm
post #6 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by jenmat

do you find that people get antsy and cranky because you aren't being as "accommodating"?

If they do, it would be news to me. I walk around from couple to couple after a bit, take notes for them on their contracts, make suggestions, answer questions...they keep themselves busy trying everything out. I have a florist friend who makes arrangements for me to decorate with, people check those out, pick up cards from other vendors, chat together...everyone is kept pretty busy. I I am worried brides aren't going to feel as "special" if I lump them all in together. If they can't make it, you do still offer to package boxes and make a time where they can stop by? How many people take advantage of that?

I had one this time, that picked it up the next afternoon, and came back and booked the next day. icon_smile.gif

Do you find that some brides come ready to design their cake and then hog all your time? Nope! If they bring ideas, etc., we'll make arrangements for a private consult if need be, or do everything via email.

when/how to do you the design appointments? Usually in the evenings at the studio, after everyone has a chance to get off work. I havea little one too, so I need my husband most times to keep him occupied. The front area of the property is a big reception style room, and the living quarters in the rear, so it's pretty private. But like you, I can't afford (time wise) to be having appointments alllll the time. I need to be as efficient as possible, and this has been the best decision I've ever made.
Thanks again for your time!


AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:44pm
post #7 of

Sorry, that was a big cluster of unformatted replies. Hope you could find all my replies buried in there.

AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 9:52pm
post #8 of

I think the best part of it, is I'm only baking and making fillings when it's a paid order, not to hand out to people for free. Other than the tasting event, I'm only in the kitchen when I'm getting paid.

jenmat Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 11:35pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by AZCouture

I think the best part of it, is I'm only baking and making fillings when it's a paid order, not to hand out to people for free. Other than the tasting event, I'm only in the kitchen when I'm getting paid.




Lawd, I'd give anything to be free of those chains!!! You both gave very good advice. Thanks so much, I think I'm going to do exactly what you've both suggested- tasting events every few months, and to-go boxes for the stragglers!

AZCouture Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 11:41pm

I'll tell ya, I am as accomodating as I can reasonably be, but I wouldn't like doing this very much if I were "constantly doing this", if that makes sense. I need my time with the kiddo and family and...nothing at all.

jenmat Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 11:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by AZCouture

I'll tell ya, I am as accomodating as I can reasonably be, but I wouldn't like doing this very much if I were "constantly doing this", if that makes sense. I need my time with the kiddo and family and...nothing at all.




Amen, preach it. I took vacation last week and I swear it was like I was committing a crime! If I don't get time to spend with the kiddo and hubby, then I WILL feel like committing a crime, people!
I just need to plan better and compartmentalize a little more so that my home can be my home again and not a showroom every night of the week. icon_lol.gif

costumeczar Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 2:24am

I tried the tasting events and it went over like a lead balloon. It just isn't something that people do here, but I have heard of people who do the to-go boxes. I do about 20 individual tasting appointments a month, usually on two or three days a month, and about 100-120 wedding cakes a year. People here expect an individual tasting and they don't like the group events, unfortunately. It would be easier to do them all in groups, but I schedule them all on one day, back to back half-hour appointments, and that works well for me. I have them bring in photos of cakes they like, I have the contracts all filled out with their wedding info beforehand so I don't have to do that while they're sitting there, and in that half hour I have time to design their cake with the caveat that things could be changed if they choose to, and they then eat the cake. Unless it's someone super chatty it shouldn't take longer than that, so I usually don't have to meet with them a second time. If someone comes late I send the cake home with them if it's going to back the next appointment up too much, but it usually doesn't happen that way.

costumeczar Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 2:28am

Oh, and if I didn't do tastings every other week or so people definitely get testy about it. There are too many other cake businesses in this area that I can't put people off too much or they'll just go to someone else. My August appointments are almost filled up already, which makes me nervous because there's a wedding show next Sunday and they all go crazy after that and call to make appointments. I'm going to try to get people to come to a bridal breakfast that I'll be at the following weekend so that I don't "lose" them by having to schedule them in September.

AZCouture Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 3:03am
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar

There are too many other cake businesses in this area that I can't put people off too much or they'll just go to someone else.


If I had as many decorators to compete with as you, I would probably have to change things. I don't see it as putting people off though. I explain why I do tastings the way I do, as a chance to showcase everything I offer, rather than just say "pick three flavors". So wait a little bit, and you'll get to try everything! Usually, people just book and look forward to the tasting. I've never gotten the sense that anyone was put off by it. (and the great thing is, if they are, that's cool too, cause someone else will come along that does look at it as a good thing to wait on. NEXT!)

costumeczar Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 3:18am
Quote:
Originally Posted by AZCouture

Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar

There are too many other cake businesses in this area that I can't put people off too much or they'll just go to someone else.

If I had as many decorators to compete with as you, I would probably have to change things. I don't see it as putting people off though. I explain why I do tastings the way I do, as a chance to showcase everything I offer, rather than just say "pick three flavors". So wait a little bit, and you'll get to try everything! Usually, people just book and look forward to the tasting. I've never gotten the sense that anyone was put off by it. (and the great thing is, if they are, that's cool too, cause someone else will come along that does look at it as a good thing to wait on. NEXT!)




Oh, there are too many people around here waiting to pounce on people, you can't wait around here. I don't give them a choice of what they're going to be tasting, either, hahaha!

jenmat Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 4:06am
Quote:
Originally Posted by costumeczar

I tried the tasting events and it went over like a lead balloon. It just isn't something that people do here, but I have heard of people who do the to-go boxes. I do about 20 individual tasting appointments a month, usually on two or three days a month, and about 100-120 wedding cakes a year. People here expect an individual tasting and they don't like the group events, unfortunately. It would be easier to do them all in groups, but I schedule them all on one day, back to back half-hour appointments, and that works well for me. I have them bring in photos of cakes they like, I have the contracts all filled out with their wedding info beforehand so I don't have to do that while they're sitting there, and in that half hour I have time to design their cake with the caveat that things could be changed if they choose to, and they then eat the cake. Unless it's someone super chatty it shouldn't take longer than that, so I usually don't have to meet with them a second time. If someone comes late I send the cake home with them if it's going to back the next appointment up too much, but it usually doesn't happen that way.




See, I am worried about that aspect. I do know there is another baker south of me that does tasting events and has enormous success with them. I am hoping I can be a successful copycat! I don't have near the competition you do either though. I have put people off for 2 months for tastings and they almost always wait. I'm in the same boat you are though- I'm booking into mid- September for tastings and I had 5 emails about bookings for next June this morning.
Ugh, sometimes I find myself turning orders down just because I don't feel like scheduling another tasting!!!
Costumeczar- what day per week do you do the back-to-back? It must be Sundays? I'm in the bakery Mon-Sat and am REALLY trying to keep Sundays for family and rest. I need to recharge or the creativity will begin leaking out my ears and I won't be able to get it back!

TheSugarLab Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 6:08am

I'm a new business owner (our four month birthday is on the 16th) and I'm still trying to figure out how to do tastings. Right now, we are a made-to-order bakery without a store front so I'm not baking every day. I like the idea of doing tastings all in one day but we just don't have that much interest yet. I have received a few inquires about wedding cupcakes so I know the tasting/consultation will need to be a little different.

Any advice for how to set up the appointments in terms of format? I know I'll have to do individual appointments since that's what other bakeries do in our area.

costumeczar Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 12:35pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jenmat

[
See, I am worried about that aspect. I do know there is another baker south of me that does tasting events and has enormous success with them. I am hoping I can be a successful copycat! I don't have near the competition you do either though. I have put people off for 2 months for tastings and they almost always wait. I'm in the same boat you are though- I'm booking into mid- September for tastings and I had 5 emails about bookings for next June this morning.
Ugh, sometimes I find myself turning orders down just because I don't feel like scheduling another tasting!!!
Costumeczar- what day per week do you do the back-to-back? It must be Sundays? I'm in the bakery Mon-Sat and am REALLY trying to keep Sundays for family and rest. I need to recharge or the creativity will begin leaking out my ears and I won't be able to get it back!




Yes, there is the brains leaking out thing...I've been doing this for 16 years and I'm SERIOUSLY considering quitting. I've just about had it with the whole wedding politics, tasting appointment entitled brides, BS demands, blah blah blah. I much prefer selling flowers etc over my etsy shop and not having to do tasting appointments, I hate them!

I'd guess, though, that if someone else in your area is already doing the big one-day open house thing like you say, that you could do it too and get away with it. It's just not something that the brides here want, they expect a certain level of individual attention that you can't give them at that kind of event. They would all want to come back for an individual design consult, which makes doing the one-off event kind of pointless for me.

I schedule all of my tastings either on Saturday in the mornign if I have all afternoon deliveries, or on Sundays. I do cake work every single day, so even if I had a day off (what's that?) I'd still be doing something. This week I didn't schedule any cakes at all, and I spent all day yesterday on the computer doing contracts, sending bills, answering emails and just dealing with the usual BS. For a "week off" this pretty much sucks.

jenmat Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 4:21pm

Oh, there are too many people around here waiting to pounce on people, you can't wait around here. I don't give them a choice of what they're going to be tasting, either, hahaha![/quote]

That has to be exhausting. I know we could move and make more money per serving in a bigger area, but it is things like this that make me grateful for a smaller market.

I also am sure I will still have to meet with most clients- once. My problem is that everyone books their cakes right after they book their venue. This means that it could be a year and a half before the wedding and they haven't even thought about design. So I would still have individual design consults, but I would MUCH rather do those than have to set a table and watch people eat knowing I will see them again in 6 months to design their cakes!

I really, really, really hope I can make this work. Last night I had a tasting turn up almost a half hour early. She was lucky I was dressed and didn't answer the door in my bathrobe!

DeliciousDesserts Posted 17 Aug 2012 , 12:16am

Wow. I have to say I really respect some of the people who responded & I am very surprised to be in disagreement.

I view my consultations as my opportunity to sell. I'm not just selling cake. I'm selling me.

My individual consultations take about an hour to 1 1/2. I send a consultation guide that tells them what all to bring & expect. I almost always design the cake right then & there. I warn brides that booking a consultation before they have larger elements planned may mean they need another consultation. Those are billed $25 & do not include samples.

I love the idea of a tasting event, but think I would really miss the personal nature of a consultation. Too many people at one time with too many questions.

jenmat Posted 17 Aug 2012 , 12:59am
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeliciousDesserts

Wow. I have to say I really respect some of the people who responded & I am very surprised to be in disagreement.

I view my consultations as my opportunity to sell. I'm not just selling cake. I'm selling me.

My individual consultations take about an hour to 1 1/2. I send a consultation guide that tells them what all to bring & expect. I almost always design the cake right then & there. I warn brides that booking a consultation before they have larger elements planned may mean they need another consultation. Those are billed $25 & do not include samples.

I love the idea of a tasting event, but think I would really miss the personal nature of a consultation. Too many people at one time with too many questions.




I think you're missing a crucial part of the issue. I'm not eliminating consultations. My problem is that the culture in my area is such that brides book so far ahead that they are insisting on TWO consultations- one initial tasting, and then one design consult. I simply cannot do both or I'm going to go a little nuts. I have the capacity to do many more weddings than I am currently doing, and one of the big complaints is that I book so fast that many brides get turned away. If I can eliminate the one-on-one tastings, I can take more orders and give better service with my design consultations.
While I do like the idea for charging for additional meetings, I could see a big problem with brides trying to eliminate the design portion altogether to save $$ and trying to do it over email or phone. Sometimes that works, but I would much rather do a design sketch in front of them and finalize or tweek over email. Eliminates a lot of back and forth.

AZCouture Posted 17 Aug 2012 , 1:06am
Quote:
Originally Posted by jenmat

[
I think you're missing a crucial part of the issue. I'm not eliminating consultations. My problem is that the culture in my area is such that brides book so far ahead that they are insisting on TWO consultations- one initial tasting, and then one design consult. I simply cannot do both or I'm going to go a little nuts.


Yep. I don't understand how someone thinks this method eliminates personal one on one time. Either way, I can't express how successful and popular this event is for me. *If* someone wants to work thru email/phone after the tasting event, great! Saves us all time. But most times I'm meeting with someone again, and that's to book the date.

DeliciousDesserts Posted 19 Aug 2012 , 4:08pm

Ahhh...now I see. I misunderstood.

Here in Charelston, we too book about a year in advance. Well...the popular bakeries book that far in advance. I'm still starting so I'm not yet in that boat.

I do understand completely what you are saying. Many of the brides at the bakery where I used to work would try to get past the second consultation by using email or phone but it always took For-Ev-Er!

Jenmat, I didn't see your last post before mine. We must have been composing at the same time. A year and a half?!! Wow. My policy is not to book more than a year in advance. I do that for a few reasons...brides change minds too much in that amount of time (which means more drawing etc.) & price increases. The deposit not only ensures the date but also the price per serving.

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