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Wedding cake consultations, etc.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Lotus cake studio was trying to post this thread, but she is having problems with her computer's cookies, so I have posted her question in the meantime:


Do any of you charge for consultations or samples? I have seen places that charge $25 for consultations which go towards the price of the cake if the client signs a contract or other places which don't charge, but charge for samples ($X for each flavor or Scott Clark Wooley charges $75 for a 6" cake as a sample). I decided to opt for the $25 method. I include a 6" cake which every fourth of the way has a different style of decoration and I also include maybe 2 other flavors which aren't decorated (1/4 of a 6" per flavor). The whole consult lasts about two hours. I've done this for almost 2 years with no complaints, but I did get one recently. A bride made and appointment for a consultation then later called back to cancel and said it was b/c she had to pay for it. After I explained to her how I am not making any money off of it since they go home with samples and a 6" cake which mine start at $40, plus it goes toward the price of their wedding cake anyway, she changed her tune. I also explained how it was more of a deterrant to weed out people taking advantage of the free samples. B/c I have gotten quite a bit of calls for consultations where they make it clear they cannot afford to get their cake from me, but want to make an appointment anyway to get free samples. I just can't spend that kind of time giving out free stuff if someone isn't serious. This woman understood that, but it did get me thinking about it.

I also work part-time at a bakery doing their wedding cake consultations. (For those of you who aren't familar with me, I only do vegetarian/vegan cakes so this isn't any competition). We have free consultations and samples. On occasion, the brides tend to be so indecisive and need to come back for 1 or 2 more 60 - 90 minute consultations. Example: bride and groom come in and settle on a cake after just over an hour. They are happy with it and the bride want to come back with her mom just so she can taste the sample they chose and to see the cake they picked out. Well, the bride comes back with mom, but with her fiance and dad as well! The parents are butting in and changing everything around. What was supposed to be a dropping by to taste some samples and look at a photo ends up like a small 90 minute war. They end up with a much different cake than what the bride and groom wanted (even the groom is changing his mind again). After 90 long tiring minutes of arguments, everyone agrees. It calls for quite a bit of gp flowers so I tell the MOB I will call her the next day with a quote after I talk to my boss about it. I call her to tell her the price, but she says, "Actually, we've changed our minds. We went out to dinner afterwards and talked about it and my daughter thinks the cake was too overstated. I told her there's no need to rush and we could just call you for another appointment. Thanks for everything Vedika! You are so helpful!" I was so floored I didn't even know what to say. How do you deal with people like this? I feel like we should maybe give the first one free and charge for additional appointments or do something! I don't want these time burglers coming back again and again. Do you know anyone who does this?

On a similar note, is there a nice way to tell brides beforehand to just come with one or maybe two people at the most? Not just for my sanity, but for her overall sanity. With the abovementioned bride, halfway through consult #2, she put her head on the table and looked like she was going to cry. I've also seen other cases where the bride brings too many people and it just makes it confusing for her to choose what SHE wants. I really don't know what they're thinking anyway. This is a time for choosing a wedding cake. Not the Smith family reunion!

What kind of setting do you have for your brides? For my business, I work from home so I have been meeting them in a nearby cafe, but I think that is going to change soon and I will meet them in the lobby of my apt. building. There's a separate sitting area (an atrium) behind the front desk which is much quieter than any cafe, and the furnishings are quite lavish. At my part-time job, we just recently set up a cake room. We used to just talk to the brides while standing at the counter. We had a smaller counter off to the side where they could look at the albums and try samples. These would last about 30 - 45 minutes. But now that I bring them to the cake room, they spend way more time. They're sitting in a beautiful room which is nice and quiet. They tend to spend more money, but they are a lot fussier about what they want once you get them sitting down.

Lastly, anyone want to comment on this?. It's a Q & A about buying a cake (mentions consultations) written by Steve Klc. I don't find myself agreeing with all of it. But more on that later!

Thanks,
Vedika
post #2 of 14
My thoughts on consultations-

If charging for consultations in your area is acceptable, then do it. I do not charge because no one else around here does and I believe it would hurt my business. I look at it as very cheap advertising. However, I give out 2" rounds (made with cookie cutters), not whole cakes that are generally made when I have leftovers. If a couple wants to know exactly what there cake will be like, I will make them a 6" cake AFTER I get a deposit and they get a discounted price of $20. I also do not mind an additional consultation once I have gotten a deposit because not everyone can make up thier mind in an hour (and it is the exception, not the rule). Most of my consultations reach about an hour in length but some have been as short as 10 min. or as long as 2 1/2 hours. The atrium of your apt building sounds ok. I meet people at thier homes or location of choice. And don't forget- not only are you in the cake business you are also a sales person!

As far as weeding people out, I took the advice of people on this board and have been giving a lot more info (usually price) before I set up an appt and it seems to be working. I also have a friend with a website and she sends people there "in the mean time" and she says it weeds out a lot of the people who can't afford her or are not looking for what she has to offer. I am hoping to get my website up and running shortly.

Now about the Q&A you asked us to look at- some of the stuff was ok but some was way off the mark. And in either case- IMHO- this guy sounds bitter. I believe in stating your case but you should never berate or put down someone else to make yourself look better. This would turn me off as a customer. It is unprofessional, negative, and unacceptable in my book. But then, I don't have very strong opinions. :)
post #3 of 14

it's all up to your market!

Before I had a shop I did not charge for a consultation. Now that I do I charge $40 for a consultation, $30 of which goes to the cake if signed and $65 for a tasting with three mini cakes, coffee/tea or champagne and $40 goes toward the cake if signed. I meet for 1/2 hour, show my dummies and photos chat about flavors and then it is up to the bride and her family to decide. They walk away with a written estimate, some cake (leftovers into a box) and an idea of what they want and I can do for them.

Usually a bride will call and simply order a cake or opt to come in and sign then try a cake for flavor sake. I will provide a sample with a contract and down payment. ( it is all about time and knowing what you want as a buyer.)

My brides have been for the most part very sure of themselves so getting the cake and planning the wedding are very much their domaine.

I charge for delivery and I charge extra for Rolled Fondant, elaborate decoration and heavy use of chocolate.

My business is by appointment only with an office for meeting brides and other potential cake buyers.

It is my pleasure and joy to provide people with cakes and pastries!:lips:

Best of luck to all!
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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post #4 of 14
As to the content of the link you provided unforunately I think he has mostly true and valid points....but his style ....he's a bit harsh, yes.
He's not at all trying to relate to the average client, he's out to prove he's up-scale/a top notch artisan and in my experience their are MANY wealthy buyers that want artists that are tough and un-compromising like that. There are people in this world that believe the more they pay for something the better the product is, period.

There's more psyhcoligy (oops, can't spell that) to all of this then just taste price. The women I've been working for wants to be the next Collette Peters but she only shows wilton cakes in her books and is the cheapest wedding cake around. Regardless of the quality of her cake, that will always hold her back.

Oops.....got to run, I'll be back.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
There are people who schedule tastings, and want to try only one flavor; they're in and out in 20 minutes, and know exactly what they want. These dream clients balance out the headaches that come with the other kind: They spend 2 hours, choose 5 flavors, and drink wine with 10 of their closest friends, all at your expense.

It's not the ingredients that cost so much, but your time. You can tell them "I'll fit you in between 4 and 5, but I have another appointment after you". This way, the client knows that you're not catering TWO events for them. If the client needs to talk more with you, that should be expected, but you can set limits to that as well, and you can also state in advance that the tasting is free, but any additional tastings will be charged for.

Mothers are notorious for screwing up everything that the bride wants. I think that goes with the territory, and the person who is paying is, sometimes unfortunately, the one you need to follow in the end. But I have found that with a few suggestions, I can usually get them to compromise.

I have no comment on the link that you posted, other than many of the suggestions are a bit too generalized.
post #6 of 14
Is it a fairly regular practice to offer wine or champagne with tastings? Are you liable if the client leaves your shop and is stopped for a DUI or gets into an accident? I just thinking if your consultation is 40 min to an hour and your client has 1-2 glasses of wine/champagne they may be over the drinking limit. Do you only offer 1 glass per person? Is it left to the clients' discretion? Just curious how this is handled. I was thinking of having champagne at my grand opening and was advised against it.:(
post #7 of 14

beverages

Sparkling cider anyone?
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
Reply
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
Reply
post #8 of 14
Excellent idea! Thank you!!!!
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Or BYO;)
post #10 of 14
(working at a country club) I used to bring out all my books and several cake pans (to show height, etc...) and set them on our cake table. When they arrived we'd talk, I'd ask if they wanted to look thru books for ideas or if they already knew what they wanted. If they didn't know I'd explain about picking out several cakes and or features, then ask them if they wanted time to look thru them, to feel free to take as much time as they wanted, when they had questions....signal to the wait staff....and then we'll talk details. I'd go back to work until they were ready to talk.
I think they liked this...they could talk freely with-out having someone around, could take their time,etc... We didn't charge for any tastings but these were members in a private club.

Before I figured this out, I'd have ladies who wanted me to sit there while they ate lunch and talked about non-cake related wedding planning. My manager was the one who taught me to be tough with these people and don't let them run the meeting or you'll be there all day.


Then, the little bakery I was at (yes, last day was yesterday) the women charged 25.00 up-front to set up a time and tasting. Even with that she got stiffed twice last week. She has a table and chairs for 4 if more people show they are left to stand. I never saw a consult that lasted more then 1 hour, her people aren't picky. But I did see people look thru her wedding books that didn't seem to like what they saw, and left with-out setting up a consultation. Somehow there has to be room for people to leave if they don't feel their a match with-out feeling pressured to talk.

I don't think there is any "right" way that will please everyone. The more you deal with the public the more people will come along that don't "fit in" to your type of clientele. You can try to please everyone but sometimes you just drive yourself crazy. Like I mentioned about my boss selling the cheapest cakes in the area. You have to realize that not everyone buys based on the same factors. Many people you'll be able to relate to and some...no matter what, you just can't hit it off with them.

I think the lobby to your apt. sounds LOVELY and that's a more professional setting then the cafe (gives them insight to who you are). Although a private office in your apt. would be nice. Somewhere where you could leave them in privacy with-out worrying they'll take a photo while you could continue working on something else.

You should focus your style of consultation geared to the clientele you want. Remembering you can't please everyone.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #11 of 14
We've done a few cakes over the years. We don't charge for consultations or tastings. We schedule them on the hour and Sophie is so good that they seldom run over. We only provide the flavors that we are baking that day, which usually is 4-5.
There are some in the area that charge and we find it an advantage especially if they don't like the cakes which I'm sure won't be the case with anyone here. We are selective in area only.
Steve seems to be a little full of himself, but maybe that is his way of weeding. I don't find it helpful to bash others to make us look good(unless their illegal). He's correct about advertising but all wet about bakeries. I'm not seeing anything special about the work shown that is not available in the upscale bakeries here. If this is his way of justifying his prices then I would be leary. He seperates the cake artist from the pastry chef. I don't think the industry has come to that yet especially since his inference is that one must have been a pastry chef to become a cake artist.

As far as serving alcohol during a tasting, we do it all the time. We usually do 4-5 a day and all day Sat. When Soph is out front selling cakes I'm usually in the back serving up a glass of wine or beer after finishing our work.:beer:

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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post #12 of 14
This string from two years ago intrigued me, and I'd like to ask all the wedding cake pastry chefs here what advice you'd give to brides (and their mothers, sisters, friends and bridegrooms) about the wedding cake consult.
What questions should they be able to answer before the sit-down consult?
What should they be thinking about at the consult? Taste, look, expense? Or should all of these be worked out before the tasting?
What would make your job easier?
What would make their job easier?
What irritates you the most during a consult?
Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Good questions, phoebe.

Ideally, a bride should know what flavor and style she is looking for, but I don't expect this, and am happy to advise them, so that I can make the perfect cake.

With a portfolio bursting with pictures, I can at least get an idea of what the bride likes or doesn't like, and it's easy to narrow down the look from there. Same goes for flavors: After the first tasting, a client can pay for a second tasting, to narrow down their choices. Yes, second tastings are sometimes requested.

I would hope that the client has a realistic idea of what they can get for their money, and what they want to spend, but, again, that's what I'm there for.

Last minute orders can sometimes be aggravating. I really wonder about the client who doesn't think about the wedding cake until 3 days before. :rolleyes:
post #14 of 14
I now offer several options.

1. the "look see", come on in and look around, discuss and see if you would like a tasting. Some brides book right then and there.

2. the nibble, a slice of cake and brief consult. Again, some brides book right then and there.

3. the tasting, 3 mini cakes and an hour of discussion, sketching and planning.
there is a fee for this one. Many brides will book at the time of the tasting.

A bride should have an idea of flavor, design and budget.
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
Reply
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
Reply
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