Monday, May 30, 2011

There Has To Be A Limit

Ah, choosing the wedding cake...One of the best parts of planning a wedding. Who wouldn't love tasting lots of cake and having people wait on you and your friends as you have a little cake party?

Well, the people who are providing the free cake, for one.

My mother was a violinist who played a lot of weddings. When she met with a client all she had to do was grab her violin and go to the meeting. It isn't quite as easy for bakers. We have to prepare the samples, which takes time and costs something to do.

We also can't make just one cupcake for people to try, so preparing for tastings isn't cheap.

I've written about whether people should or shouldn't charge for wedding cake tastings before, but it seems that a lot of people are now moving toward charging for them, for a number of reasons.

I don't have any plans to start charging for tastings, but I do set some limits.

First, I choose what flavors I'll have available. I bake everything fresh for the appointments, so I just do some basics plus extra of whatever I'm baking for weddings that week. If you pay for the cake you can tell me what to make. Otherwise, I choose.

Second, I limit the number of people who can come. My clients are the bride and the groom, so there's no need to bring nineteen random people with you. One baker said that she had a client call and say that the families were going out to dinner, and they wanted to come and eat dessert at the shop for their cake tasting. Needless to say, the baker told her that wasn't possible.

Third, I have set times that I do tastings, I don't scatter them in with other things. If someone is coming in from out of town or something like that I'll try to be flexible, but in general I do all my appointments on one or two days a month. That helps me be able to bake everything at once and not have to interrupt myself when I'm doing other things in order to do random tastings.

Fourth, the initial tasting is free of charge. After that, clients can either buy a cake to sample or wait until I happen to be making some of the same thing and come by to pick up a specific flavor. Since I bake everything from scratch and I don't just start with yellow cake mix and add extracts for different flavors, I can't make ten flavors form one batch of cake batter. It's much better for how the cake tastes, but it makes it difficult to provide samples of specific flavors at all times. Also, I've had people call after a tasting and say that they want to try the vanilla and the chocolate cakes again. Well, they still taste like vanilla and chocolate, so I don't really understand why you'd need to try those twice, know what I mean?
Every business has to set limits for themselves. I try to be accommodating, but I've found the way that I can work tastings efficiently and keep my costs down so that I don't have to pass the increases on to clients. I want to help people choose the cake flavors that they like, but I also want to keep my sanity and my finances intact in the process.

What limitations do you put on tasting appointments or other client meetings?

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


Kristin said...

Well said Kara! Do you have a polite way of keeping folks on schedule? I tell folks they have 45 minutes and have back-to-back appointments, but some folks, even when the next couple is there, refuse to speed up their cake tasting. My blabbering is only 15 minutes...

Karen said...

I usually schedule an hour although most take from 30-45 minutes. I offer three flavors of their choice (yeah, I know, but that's what I do). I tell them there is enough for six people to have a taste of cake. I make three 4" round minis, which yields 6 tiny slices. This has worked for me, but you're right, it does cost time and money and I have considered charging, but do not charge at the moment.

Kara said...

Karen, I used to schedule hour time slots, then I'd spend half an hour between each appt waiting, so now I schedule half hour slots. limiting it to three people total helps speed things up, too. Most people come in with an idea of what they want so I don't usually have to spend twenty minutess doing the cake design.

Kristin, you should try to keep things going by staying in control of the time yourself. Some people will definitely linger, but if you keep an eye on the clock and move things along byt getting samples out at a certain point intot he appt, etc, it helps. If the next person shows up you can always say that you'll be right with them, you're just finishing up with the last appt. Then ask the lingerers if they have any questions before you finish, and tell them that they can always call you with questions later.

My grandfather used to ask people who wouldn't leave after a dinner party if they'd like a sandwich for their ride home. That might work. "Would you like a glass of water to take with you on your ride home? I'll get it for you right now."

Jamie said...

I would rather not charge either. I have been pretty successful with the way I run mine, thankfully. I host one every few months so (depending on demand) for about 9 to 12 couples. Naturally, there are a couple of no shows each time, but I can absorb it, and it keeps me from doing private tastings....which try to avoid at all costs, literally.

Christen said...

Very well said! I went to talk to three bakers to choose my wedding cake. Only one of them even offered a tasting. Needless to say I went with the one who offered the tasting. The cake needs to be beautiful and taste good.

Kara said...

Christen, I think it's surprising when people don't do tastings at all, because you do need to know what you're buying. But I guess a lot of people have become so disgusted by being taken advantage of, they just stop doing tastings and tell clietns they can buy a cake if they want to try it in advance.

It works fine for me to do tastings with the limits that I've described...It's a good compromise between a free-for-all and not doing them at all.