Wholesale Wedding Cake Pricing

Business By Stitches Updated 25 Oct 2012 , 10:30pm by avgsuperheroine

Stitches Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 4:02am
post #1 of 13

I've got a problem that I'm struggling with and I wanted to know if others have this problem and how you all deal with it.

The problem: 'per person' or by a 'cake size' fee structure.

My current pricing is by the person. I'm not totally sure why, I think I just did that because that's what I thought everyone else was doing. The issue I'm having is one of the Chefs who buys my cakes is getting really cheap about the guest count. He's being pressured by his manager. Our arrangment is; the Chef books me for all his wedding cakes with a list of dates for the whole year. Then every couple of months he emails me the details for the up coming cakes......once the bride and groom have picked out their menu and cake design. The Chef is supposed to tell me if there are any changes in the cake order as soon as he knows this (usually it's the week of the wedding). But now several times he calls me days later after the wedding, after he's recieved my bill and my per person count doesn't match his. He wants/expects me to adjust my price to exactly what their count was by resubmitting my bill.

We all know the reality of making cakes is; you can't really make cakes to an exact per person count. I have charts where I've worked out my sizing so the stacked cakes increase in the same increments so each layer looks in balance with the others. But I can't add or subtract servings from those with-out changing the size of the cake, throwing the whole design out of balance.

I keep thinking in the back of my head, the next time he tells me at the last minute the count has gone down by 3 people I'm going to take a knive and cut those 3 portions out of the already delivered cake. Like oops, you said 124 people and that's what I made your cake to feed, so now I'll just take back those 3 extra servings I gave you that you now don't want to pay for. It never seems fair that I always have to loose finacially.

This whole issue isn't worth loosing a good customer over, yet it iritates me greatly.

So I'm currently thinking abour charging my wedding cakes by the cake layer sizes. That seems to be the only way in my head that I don't get screwed by the per person count. If I charge X dollars for a 14", 10", 6" wedding cake which feeds X number of people, it's not my problem if you cut the cake wrong and don't get enough per person servings. And this way, I don't feel cheated not being compensated for extra portions they always get. Some Chefs cut too small and some too large, no matter what I tell them, no matter how many charts I give them. So if the Chef bought the cake by sizes it's fair to me no matter how many people he feeds out of those cakes.

I feel like this is such a childish problem and I should be grateful for his orders and just keep my mouth shut. On the other hand, logicly it's not fair that they get more cake then they are paying for when we go by a per person pricing.

I'm guessing that most of you will say, just set a deadline for the final count and set that in stone with my billing. But the facts are Chefs always play with the per person count, to lower their costs. Since I can't be there to count exactly how many people he does feed I/we are always on the side of the bill that gets cheated.

Help.........this is driving me nuts...........

12 replies
BakingIrene Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 4:12am
post #2 of 13

You have the right answer.

You can still add on if the decoration is extremely time consuming--like a separate charge for a cluster of gumpaste flowers.

But you get the secure payments and the secure orders. TWO big reasons to do the math for the cake per tier as opposed to per serving. AND you don't have the bride changing her design every two days...

KoryAK Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 4:31am
post #3 of 13

I think I would just take the "per person" off the final bill as the factor. This may be a good time to say X size cake feeds 50-60 and costs $$, period.

Stitches Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 1:21pm
post #4 of 13

I forgot to mention another source of my frustration with pricing 'per person'.

Since the venue gives the bride the top cake for their 1st anniversary, that means that it's my personal donation. I don't get reimbursed for the top cake at all (nor do the Chefs realize that).

But I'm nervous to change my pricing structure to a "by the size of the cake" if no one else is doig this. I fear it will be a struggle getting Chefs to understand why I'm changing and why I'd doing something different then everyone else.

BakingIrene Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 1:55pm
post #5 of 13

Well, there have been plenty of posts on Cake Central explaining how startup bakers can make extra $$$ by selling whole cakes to restaurants. That has to be the mindset that you are dealing with--buy the whole cake and slice as required.There is no harm to that model of selling cakes. FAR better than having the fuss of bridezillas and momzillas...

So when you can look at this matter from the outside, you can still make $$$ on this.

Maybe you need to negotiate a flat fee for that top tier. Go have lunch with the head chef and ask some questions. Tell him that you are not being paid for the top tier, nicely. See what he has to say.

Otherwise scale your prices to account for top tiers in your budget. That means about 5% more for the other cakes. You would lose more $$$ if you were doing too many decorations for the per-serving rate. So if you negotiated that, then you can negotiate the smaller issue of the top tier.

And as far as cutting cakes, most caterers at a direct-sale party would be doing the same as the chef--cutting according to the actual head count and accommodating people who ask for seconds.

cakesbycathy Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 4:23pm
post #6 of 13

If it were me I would up my prices slightly to accomodate for the top tier. Explain to him why this is happening. If he has a problem with it you can always give ask him if he would provide an extra 10 servings of chicken to the guests and have the cost come out of his own pocket ( I bet the answer is no).

Then I would tell the chef that the final count is due 1 week before the wedding and that the count he gives you is what he will be billed for, regardless of how many servings he needs in the end.

DaDa561 Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 4:38pm
post #7 of 13

We've chosen to go with a flat rate per cake size. We charge additional for special request cake (i.e. carrot, blackberry spice, etc.), special icing (cream cheese, whipped cream), or additional gum paste flowers (we provide 2 large and 3 small with associated leaves built into the cost).
We have had no complaints. We advise the customer that x size cake will normally feed y to z number of people.

BakingIrene Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 5:10pm
post #8 of 13
Originally Posted by cakesbycathy

Then I would tell the chef that the final count is due 1 week before the wedding and that the count he gives you is what he will be billed for, regardless of how many servings he needs in the end.

I think the conflict might be that the management of the venue is accepting head counts as close as 2 days before the event. The chef has a kitchen to provide the extra servings but management does NOT understand about cake. The chef can only decrease portions so far--guests will ask for seconds and that is where he has to push back at management.

The chef is on the front line with the guests. I would do my level best to get this chef on my side because he is also being squeezed by management. That's why doing lunch might get you some inside information about how to deal with the squeeze.

But let me repeat again that the aggravation of one bridezilla/momzilla a month is a lot worse.

Stitches Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 6:50pm
post #9 of 13

I actually consider this Chef to be a good friend. I've been his pastry chef/employee for many years and I've paid him to be my consultant for my business. I do talk very honestly with him. He has his own issues too, everyday dealing with his boss the manager....whom he does try to explain things to, but the manager is a one way street kind of guy! I know the manager well too, I worked for him for years. There's only so much the Chef can do, he's not going to fight with the manager and risk losing his job in this bad economy.

I did just this month raise my per person pricing, from 1.85 to 2.50 (which is a pretty good hike). That's an extremely basic cake, not even piped flowers. So far only 3 brides have purchased a cake from my second price level. Had more brides purchased an upgraded cake I would have absorbed the less profitable cakes. I don't think this manager even makes an attempt to up-sell brides at all.

I can only tell this Chef so much with-out offending him, because he does try to give me work. I'm currently looking at doing a big sampling drive to find more customers. I'm considering making this pricing change with any new business from the start. BUT I would like to know if I'll be the only vendor who's trying to sell wedding cakes by the cake size? If I piss off potenticail clients with my pricing structure I'm shooting myself in the foot, which I'd rather not do!

BakingIrene Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 8:35pm
post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by Stitches

BUT I would like to know if I'll be the only vendor who's trying to sell wedding cakes by the cake size? If I piss off potenticail clients with my pricing structure I'm shooting myself in the foot, which I'd rather not do!

I don't think this is a problem. Smart, well-connected bakers sell whole cakes to restaurants. The rest of us dream of such sales. If you use some industry standard like the Wilton charts for wedding servings, you can verify that you are charging competitive prices by the cake.

The price structure of direct wedding cake sales will be different for many economic reasons. Like delivery and set-up. If a client says anything, you can refer them to online wedding cake galleries where the per-serving prices across the US run from $6 to $20. Let them take their pick...

But you might be worrying about the wrong end of the stick.

What would you do if this venue started adding surcharges onto your cake prices? Because once the cake slices become almost too small to serve, that's the next way that this particular management will try to boost their profits.

That is what I hate about one distributor that I have to deal with: their markup is 220% (my $100 item is resold for $220 without any work or value being added). It pisses me off every time I look at their website. And when I dropped one of my prices last year, I had to email them six months later to drop their price so that the markup was constant...after they had sold several items at the 300% markup.

Stitches Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 9:10pm
post #11 of 13

It's funny in a weird way, but everyone calls the "mark-up" differently.

When I sell something for $100. and the reciever resells it for $200., this happens:
When I was selling to a coffee shop they called doubling my price a 50% mark up. In kitchens they call it a 100% mark-up. You seemed to call it a 200% mark-up. All using the same numbers example I've written above.

Anyway, that's not important. I have to admit I didn't quite understand your last example. Would you please explain it?

The kitchen serving my cake is not any different then a clothes mechant who buys in clothing. They double the price they paid, that's how they make a profit. If they didn't, they wouldn't make any money. From that amount, they also have to pay their overhead and salaries, theft/losses, etc...

jenmat Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 9:18pm
post #12 of 13

I worked for a bakery that did some similar type sales, and they always sold "package deals."

For example- you can say your 3 tier 6, 10 and 14 serves 115-130 people. It costs $450.
Then, the next size up- a 6, 10, 16 serves 140-160. It costs $500 (or whatever I'm throwing out prices just for the sake of argument).
If I am a bride and I have 125 people, then I can choose cake A, or if I really want more cake, I can choose B. Then the chef can cut whatever he needs to cut to make his guest list.

Then, you need to spin it. Say, "I know how hard it is to talk with a bride about the size of servings and to try and come up with just the right serving count. I hope to make the sales easier for you and the billing less complicated by giving you the flexibility to cut the cake to fit the guest count."

I think this makes WAYYYY more sense than what you've been doing. He is spending time re-doing invoices which is ridiculous, and you are making cakes and then not getting paid what they are worth.

avgsuperheroine Posted 25 Oct 2012 , 10:30pm
post #13 of 13

I organize educational events for an organization. We utilize an events center for this and their menu is set up the same way on a per-person basis. We're allowed to give the final count 2-3 business days before hand. This is specifically for the food count, which is how we pay. By the count we give or up to 5% more by the ACTUAL number of people who show up. No less than the count we gave.

In my estimation a wedding cake or specialty cake isn't like a per-serving event cake. They should price it out not the way they do the regular menu but as an a la carte item by size. They should have other places in their menu that they list items this way. Gallons of coffee, snack mixes by the pound, a dozen rolls or muffins. These are only ordered by the gallon, pound or dozen. You could ask to do the same with the cake.

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