Concerned - No Cake Artists At Bridal Shows

Business By Pearl645 Updated 9 Nov 2012 , 2:34am by AZCouture

Pearl645 Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 5:21am
post #1 of 54

I just saw a wedding cake and bridal show advertised here on Facebook for end of this year and the list of exhibitors contains no cake artists. Last year I went to a huge bridal show and there were only two cake artists. This year, neither of them came back to the show and there were no new cake artists. Is this something you have noticed in your area as well? Am I to assume they got so much business from it they are overwhelmed or actually believe the event flopped for them? I have never done a bridal show because they are all very new here in the last two years and I am watching to see the success of each one but it is concerning that a cake and bridal show hasn't pulled in at least one cake person yet the prizes include a free wedding cake along with other stuff. What do you guys think? This is abnormal or cake people are cautious of bridal shows for many reasons?

53 replies
FromScratchSF Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 6:23am
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My biggest problem with bridal shows is they are expensive. The organizers expect you to pay for the booth AND give out free cake, some even expect you to raffle off prizes. No other vendor at the show has so much out of pocket expense, I don't think.

So basically the price/time to participate is steep.

costumeczar Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 1:54pm
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Most cake people around here can't afford a booth. I did shows when I first started out and the ROI is pretty low.

Pearl645 Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 9:09pm
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Yes the booths are expensive and all the free samples and promo material to give out would add up. Thanks for the responses.

kakeladi Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 9:41pm
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Many times vendors dbl up - share a space, so that might be what's happening.

heartsnsync Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 9:46pm
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I recently attended a luncheon hosted by a bridal show company that does events in my area twice a year. By the time you add up the cost of the booth, signage, fliers, creating the cake dummies, samples, paying staff to assist, etc. the bottom line is about a $2,500.00 investment.

I have been on the fence about doing their large show in February so yesterday they gave me VIP tickets to their August show. There were about 50 vendors there but only four cake vendors when I know good and well there are at least a dozen bakeries in my city that have store fronts that do wedding cakes and then who knows how many smaller bakeries I know nothing about (i.e. home based). Out of the four, two were handing out samples and were busy and the other two had no one at their booths. I am sure that a lot of the traffic at the cake booths giving out samples was simply due to people wanting free food. However, I am sure they would do more business from the event than those that did not offer samples.

I am still deciding as this would be a large investment with an uncertain return. Personally, for now I am going to continue to meet and do tastings with event organizers at the local hotels and conference centers and see where I stand with my business activity come November or so before I make a decision.

Don't know if I helped your question but thought I would chime in.

Pearl645 Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 9:51pm
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Hi yes thank you. I was concerned about all the extra costs of doing a bridal show like you mentioned and the ROI. All the fliers, signage and how could i forget the dummy cakes! My gosh. I don't think I would do this anytime soon. I feel like the money that would be spent for a bridal show could go towards more targeted advertising and upgrading my website and kitchen.

momma28 Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 10:09pm
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I don't do bridal shows anymore...too high a cost and since my business is established my business comes from referrals now and simple word of mouth

Pearl645 Posted 13 Aug 2012 , 10:15pm
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Hi thanks for your input. Interesting responses. Seems like a lot of cake artists use other avenues for getting wedding cake business with a more predictable ROI than bridal shows.

ibeeflower Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 12:37am
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Our business (non-cake related) is part of trade show every year. Like others have mentioned, there is the booth fee, cost of flyers and business cards, supplies, displays, overtime for employees, etc to consider. Our business doesn't really get any new business from these things. The people that actually do well are the people that have supplies to sell on the spot.

There is little ROI like most of the people have mentioned.

costumeczar Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 1:05am
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Originally Posted by momma28

I don't do bridal shows anymore...too high a cost and since my business is established my business comes from referrals now and simple word of mouth

Most of my business comes from referrals at this point too.

My favorite comment was from one of the organizers of one local show...The booth cost something like $700, and she said "All you have to do is sell one cake to make that back." I told her that I didn't know what kind of profit margin she thought I had but it wasn't that!

cambo Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 1:43am
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I did my first bridal show 1.5 years ago and it was an awesome experience! There are several shows in my area, so the year before making my decision, I attended ALL of them to see which one I thought was right for my business. It was the best decision I've ever made! Yes, there's an initial investment (which deterred me for years), but I got most of that back with two bookigns and in the weeks following the show, booked my calendar almost a year out! I know not everyone will have this kind of response, but I couldn't have asked for a better experience! I haven't done one since because I stay pretty booked by word-of-mouth. It put my business on the map in my area!

I would really like to do another, but will have to change from a February show to an October one because I found that the February brides were booking for that summer and since I'm booking further out, I've gotta back that date up! I loved everything about the experience!

costumeczar Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 1:54am
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I was at a wedding show yesterday that had five cake businesses displaying (I was there for my bridal assocition, not for cakes.) The best advertising that I could have had for MY business was having these particular businesses there, because I tasted their cake and it was pure crapola. One of my friends took a bite of one sample and threw the rest of it out, and a girl had some from a different baker and couldn't eat it either. I've been to shows where poeple were giving out cake mix with canned icing as examples of their "best work." My point being that if you do a show, make sure that you have the quality behind it because if you're handing out sub-par samples, word will get around, and the word also spreads to the other vendors who are there. Those vendors will then not refer people to you because they tasted your heinous samples.

Pearl645 Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 2:37am
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Well I'm happy you had success at your bridal show 1 1/2 years ago. Unfortunately, I think the ones here by me are still underdeveloped. I'm still watching them to see how they evolve. Not seeing how I can get the ROI on this event just yet.

The reviews seem consistent that it is hard to re-coup the costs and more. The fact that I'm not seeing more than two cake artists participating in local bridal shows with almost 50 exhibitors worries me. One bridal show had zero cake artists last year! One of my friends shared a booth for her events planning business and paid $2000 and said she never got the business back from people who took her cards. Of course, she didn't go back this year.

FromScratchSF Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 6:24am
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Excellent point - not all bridal shows are created equal. The one and only show I did last year was sponsored by David's Bridal, it's a traveling show with the same national vendors - very little local. It had over 3,000 people that came from all over the bay area. I was the ONLY cake vendor they got to sign up for it. I gave over 2,000 samples and I only booked 4 weddings from it, all four were high price-point cakes. Sure, I made my money back but that's still horrible ROI. No offence, but I learned the pricepoint for my cakes tends to be above what your typical David's Bridal bride has a budget for, and if the bride lives over 50 miles away chances are I'm not going to make the cake no matter how good it is. So in November when the promoter for the show calls, I'll be declining.

I'm giving it another try this weekend with a different show, it's a much more exclusive event, sponsored by Vera Wang and Martha Stewart Weddings. The vendor list is people more in line with my price point (now that I know what to look for!) and they are all local. I must have chosen well because I found out that 4 other cake artists are going to be there. I'm hoping my ROI will be much better (although the competition coming is pretty steep)!

So yeah, not all shows are created equal.

costumeczar Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 10:58am
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That's true, FromScratch... I've done shows that are aimed at more exclusive vendors and still had zero business from it, though, so just be careful when you're buying into the shows. There's a wide variety of shows here in terms of the crowds they attract (one is the country club crowd, and others are aimed more toward the tube top crowd) but I haven't seen a good ROI from any of them. I don't do shows at all any more,and I still have people call and say that they had my cake at such and such a show. They insist that I was there even when I tell them I wasn't. Smaller shows are probably better to avoid the "overwhelming" factor where they forget who they saw there, but it's a trade off for foot traffic at the smaller shows. You have to see what works for you.

momma28 Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 12:32pm
post #17 of 54

I have also been to events where you could not believe a cake artist would bring those dummies or those samples as an example of their work...HORRIBLE. To me it seemed like a general disrespect for the clients in the area as if to say "You are too dumb to know whats quality and these are your only choices anyway" I for one do what I do with the quality that I do it in more for myself than anyone else. I need to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I am doing the best that I can.

Sadly I have also had bridal expos take pictures of my work and use them on their flyers/posters/billboards even when I am NOT going to be at their show!!! They are advertising a standard of work that wont be represented at their event. The first time I saw it I was half flattered until I realized that it looked like I was endorsing their event and that I would be there icon_sad.gif

heartsnsync Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 2:20pm
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What the others of you have said regarding what displays and cakes there were at a show being less than stellar was true at the event I attended on Sunday as well. Every single on of the dummies on display were done in royal icing and with gum paste or fondant pieces that looked old and some were even dirty. The cake tastings that were being served were from metal sheet trays and consisted of 1" high cakes with frosting quickly slathered on. They were quickly cutting out pieces of cake and dropping them on small paper plates. The cake may have tasted great (I do not know as I did not wait in line to get any) but the presentation to the brides was sloppy.

My daughter, who assists me in my business, attended the show with me. Without telling her my opinion I asked her what she thought of those vendors and their presentation. She said that they did not appear professional and like they did not care because their dummies were poorly done and dirty and the way the served the cake was messy.

I had already thought, like some of you, that if I were to commit to do the show I would definitely have done all new dummies, brought examples of my sugar flowers, put out my best work, and brought small nicely done cupcakes on pretty cupcake stands. Not meaning to brag, but I would have blown those other vendors out of the water.

That being said, I KNOW there are cake vendors in town that are my competition. They just weren't at the Bridal Show so that gives me pause as to why. One, they are so busy they don't need to go. Or, two, they don't want to be a part of it for financial or business reasons.

LoveMeSomeCake615 Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 4:15pm
post #19 of 54

We have several bridal shows that are done in our city, and we have yet to participate in any of them. It's just such a huge undertaking to pay for the booth and prepare all of the samples and displays etc. We have always been hesitant about them because we have heard the ROI is not good. But then we wonder if it would be good just for getting our name out there?? Now that we have a storefront, it would be even more of a challenge to do, since most of them are on Saturdays and of course our shop is open on Saturdays. It's good to hear from those who have done it and their experience!

kakeladi Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 6:18pm
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.......The cake tastings that were being served were from metal sheet trays and consisted of 1" high cakes with frosting quickly slathered on. They were quickly cutting out pieces of cake and dropping them on small paper plates....

At each of the shows I have done in 2 different states, health dept laws demanded we have samples in lidded cups. We could NOT serve on paper plates or have open/Uncovered cake out at all.

momma28 Posted 14 Aug 2012 , 8:21pm
post #21 of 54
Originally Posted by kakeladi

.......The cake tastings that were being served were from metal sheet trays and consisted of 1" high cakes with frosting quickly slathered on. They were quickly cutting out pieces of cake and dropping them on small paper plates....

At each of the shows I have done in 2 different states, health dept laws demanded we have samples in lidded cups. We could NOT serve on paper plates or have open/Uncovered cake out at all.

For the few shows I did in the beginning we ALWAYS used the lidded cups. Just for convenience/ease and neatness
Pain in the patoot to cut on site. I did it once for a venue tasting UGH

Lola_pr26 Posted 19 Aug 2012 , 7:08am
post #22 of 54

I was at a bridal show here in Puerto Rico about a month ago and believe me, it can really go either way.
Out of 100+ vendors/displays, there were only 5 cake artists. Only two (myself included) were offering cake samples. I gave out more than 1,500 mini cupcakes in the 3 day event and people kept asking for more. The cakes were already made, just placed on a respectable platter (which was super heavy by the way) and where given out. No way should you cut the cake during the event. I did manage to grab a sample from the other vendor and boy, my 5 year old goddaughter couldve made a better batch. Sure, I gave out tons of buisinesscards but at the end of the day, only had 1 booking and no other calls. It sucks that after so much hard work there wasnt alot of response from it.

As for one the CC poster who mentioned ganging up with another vendor, do watch out! Some Expos accept it while others ABSOLUTLY REFUSE IT! One vendor per spot, that way they can leech more money out of the venue. Another tip, if you arent fully licenced, its best to ask BEFORE paying a table wether you are requiered to have it. Here in Puerto Rico, on the morning of the show a person from the State Department fgoes booth by booth requesting your licence and making a note of it on a clipboard. If you dont have it at the moment, they allow you to continue to set up but you MUST present it BEFORE the show officially opens. If not, then thats about $700+ down the drain. icon_eek.gif

FromScratchSF Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 7:08pm
post #23 of 54

Alright - I need to VENT and I figured this current thread will do...

I just did a show yesterday. I posted before that I had only done one event in the past, it was much bigger and I had much higher hopes for the event I was doing this weekend because it was a more targeted crowd, local vendors etc. I can now say, for about 95% sure, I will NEVER do another show again.

I'll try to keep my issues in bullet points:
- Must provide cake samples. They wanted 2 FULL sheet cakes because they wanted to cut 2x2 pieces and wanted to serve 200 pieces after the fashion show with champagne. I told them I though that was a LOT of cake. But since I've gotten almost sued from an event that I did in the past where I didn't bring enough cake and the contract I signed said I was guaranteeing a certain number of cake samples, I did as told.
- They managed to get 4 other cake vendors, all were also providing cake. I was told that they were going to keep everything very organized to keep everyone's cake separate. They told me they've done this many times before and know what they are doing.
- I made 3 cake displays in 6 days (My fault - I waited until after ICES to see what newfangled toys I could bring home). I wasn't able to start work on any of them until about 6 pm each night when my husband came home and I was filling regular orders at the same time. I got very little sleep this past week.

OK, now for what happened:

- A lot of people that bought tickets didn't stay till then end. I guess the promise of cake and champagne wasn't enough to get people to stick around for 4 hours. Go figure.
- The catering staff waited until it was time to serve the cake to start cutting the cakes in the kitchen. They were wheeling one cart of cake out at a time. Well, they never made it to the tables that were set out because the hungry mob starting grabbing cake off the carts as soon as they got out of the kitchen.
- Each vendor was supposed to have a color-coded plate that they put the cake on so the mob could tell which vendor they were eating. Well, they didn't buy enough plates. I guess doing simple math like 200 servings x 5 vendors = number of plates to buy was WAY above someone's pay scale, so they only bought 120 plates of each color. When they ran out of colored plates, they just started using white plates left over from the hor d'oeuvres from earlier, but there weren't that many. Then ran out of plates. They also ran out of forks way before they ran out of plates.
- When they ran out of plates, they told the mob THEY RAN OUT OF CAKE. In 5 minutes the place was empty. I go back in the kitchen... and I had an ENTIRE FULL SHEET CAKE that they didn't even serve. The most irritating part was I was the only vendor dumb enough to do as told - everyone else only brought 1 full sheet, so although they has some cake left, they didn't have nearly as much as me.
- Oh, and they were telling other vendors that cake was for guests only. I personally had to grab my cake as it was coming out of the kitchen to pass out to the vendors around me.

To say I was livid is an understatement. They had us pre-score the cakes so I know exactly how many servings went out. And I scored them 1" x 2" because I though 2x2 was too big. It was about 150 servings. and I passed out a good 15 to my fellow vendors that I chatted up thru the day.

So, doing the math, this is how much I think I invested in yesterday's fiasco:

- Booth fee: $500. Not negotiable.
- 3 display cakes: new styro, fondant, dusts, colors, sugar flowers, isomalt, isomalt molds, $300-$400.
- Hours invested making display cakes: 48 or so
- 2 full sheet cakes, retail value $980. Out of pocket expense to make those including ingredients and overhead (and not including paying myself any wage), around $400-500. I didn't skimp on anything. Best foot forward and all.
- Parking: $20
- Promotional postcards, business cards & signs, $200
- I turned down 7 orders for the weekend. There is no value I can place on that.

Total out of pocket investment (without paying myself a dime): About $1800.

For my $1800, my cakes were seen by 450 people, but tasted by around 150. Those 150 had very little idea who's cake they were eating, and some of the cake other vendors brought were down right disgusting. So it's very possible those 150 think I have horrible cake. icon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gif

And I had a whole sheet cake left that I literally spend an hour after the event to try and pawn off. I still ended up taking 1/2 sheet home.

To break even, I'd need to book 5-6 weddings from this, maybe more. I can't imagine that would happen. If I get any business from a bride that saw me yesterday I will be shocked. In fact, I think it may have hurt my reputation. My only hope at this point is referrals I may get from vendors I met and personally handed cake to.

No yeah. I don't think I'll be doing any more shows. thumbsdown.gifthumbsdown.gifthumbsdown.gifthumbsdown.gif

AZCouture Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 7:16pm
post #24 of 54

Oh crap J...that sucks. On so many levels, does that suck. So I guess no matter how high brow the show, people will still act like herd animals and rush the free food. icon_sad.gif

jason_kraft Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 7:29pm
post #25 of 54

Sounds like either the venue didn't know what they were doing or there was poor communication between the event organizers and the venue. Both the venue and the event planner should be able to organize and handle mobs as long as everyone knows what to expect.

We've done a few niche shows (focusing on gluten-free living) and they've all gone very well, but even so we stopped doing shows since we were already consistently booked.

Pearl645 Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 7:32pm
post #26 of 54

My goodness what an outcome. I saw your display cakes and set up on your Facebook page and they were amazing with the swirled pattern on the white cake and your red fantasy flower cake. I am really shocked to see such disorganization for this event. I saw that they were showing off Vera Wang gowns and the venue looked very posh so I expected this to be organized way better. Honestly, this reminds me of the two bridal shows I went to. One was badly disorganized for too much money.

Let's hope people will recognize your display cakes on your website when they try to locate you online from your business card. That would be the only way but then again, that hungry mob...who would remember which suppliers cake they guzzled down. I don't know what else to say. I'm really sorry you lost 7 orders for this. Hope you can recover this cost and more soon.

FromScratchSF Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 7:44pm
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FromScratchSF Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 8:00pm
post #28 of 54

Oh, my consolation prize - I stole 2 cases of Izze soda that was left over. LOL

costumeczar Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 8:29pm
post #29 of 54

And THAT is why I don't do shows anymore. Everything you said...I've seen it all happen here before in various places and shows.

ChefAngie Posted 20 Aug 2012 , 8:47pm
post #30 of 54

Bridal shows are expensive-I was talking to a fellow cake decorator-this is what she did.
She contacted wedding planners and had a cake show with decorated dummies and tasting-provided coffee, tea, bottled water and now she does wedding cakes for two of them.
Happy Baking and Decorating,
Chef Angie

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