I had a request for a three-tier, jungle cake for a baby shower. When the customer was given the price estimate, she said she was hoping for something in the $75 range. A three-tier cake? For $75? That's just one example of customers wanting the moon so they can show off at parties, but only wanting to pay grocery store prices.
When people come to me with small budgets and big dreams, I need to know how to turn people down "nicely". What have you said to customers in the past? We're pretty busy, so I'm fine with not doing certain cakes, I just need to be able to come out and say no without using the usual "we're booked" excuse.
The first thing to do is establish the budget straight away, so you can say here's what I can offer you for $75. You should also make it clear up front what your prices are per serving. Everyone has a base price at least. You just need to be able to set a base and be able to explain that it doesn't include anything custom.
For your specific conundrum, I would be very straightforward.
Thank you for your interest in therealmrsrilye's cakes. Unfortunately I am unable to produce the cake you requested within your budget. Here is what I can do for you for $75 (then explain, what, if anything, you can do for her).
I look forward to hearing from you soon. Best of luck with your event.
But seriously, establish a base price. That way even the customer can do simple math to determine whether or not it's in their budget.
Also, make sure they are aware of exactly how many servings they will receive with "three tiers." I would ask, "Are you having a baby shower with 25 people or 100?"
I just say, "what a lovely idea for a cake; it costs £250...... oh you only want to pay £75........ here is a design for £75, if you would like this design please ensure a deposit is paid by (........nice short notice date so you know where you're standing ASAP) else your date may become unavailable as we book up pretty fast this time of year!" I don't even bother to chase these people if they don't pay.
Sometimes they just need to be educated in what a cake actually costs and in my experience they love what they get for £75 :-) and if they're nice about it and i'm not too busy they might get a little extra free hour's work on the details :-)
Thanks everybody! I did give her another option (it was still generous) for $75. But I have to say it's a little unrealistic to feed 45 people for $75. But I do like the clear cut responses you all have given me. Very professional yet firm.