lets talk business

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Joined Mar 6, 2001
We have had many really good points brought up in other posts talking business, could we bring the issues here?

I have a rather strong opinion about Suzy homemakers doing wedding cakes. I don't care! I don't feel like it advances me personally to worry about them or waste my time dwelling on them. Yes, they exist, yes they take business away from legit businesses.....but yet they've existed for a long time and will continue forever. I can only control myself.

What about deposits and cake supports? I hate the game of getting supports back. It's always a hassle. You talk to the bride....she forgets....you get parts back (not all of them) you get frustrated, she's confused....! I've noticed a couple decorators that charge for seperators as apart of the cost, no returns, no refunds, no hassle.

I prefer to take this route. I figure I'll just charge my actual costs plus a small fee. If someone has a big stink over this I'll refund them their money if they return the whole set promptly.

But what about your base, decorative cake stands? That's different then internal supports. Everywhere a bride looks there is rental fees. I feel for her, but real wear and tear happens and I don't think cake decorators are really any different then other businesses. I think a straight rental fee should be charged for cake stands and it should be a daily fee like any other rental. If they break the item/stand then what? I'm not sure how to handle that.....

I'd really love to invest in some nice silver plated cake stands. Martha uses them alot. I have used them at the club, they really dress up the cake tremendously! I've had brides shop all over town looking for them, they want this look! How I'm going to do this remains a problems. Everything nice is several hundred dollars. Right now I'm thinking a flat users fee to go toward replacement plus a rental fee. It's always a brides option to not use them. But if she wants this look she'll have to understand it's expensive.

What about the acrylic stands? Their not cheap and their fragile to boot. Or the iron stands etc....they have to get broken and twisted along the way. How do you handle this? Eat the costs?
 
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Hi, W.
As you know I had a wedding cake business similar to yours for about 3 years. Here's what I did about cake stands, seperators and the lot:

For any of the Wilton style (white, clear or off-white plastic) seperators, columns and base plates, I charged full price plus about 10% mark up and added the cost to the total bill for the cake. If these items were returned to me (IN TOTAL-NO MISSING PIECES!) within 1 week of the reception, I refunded the cost. If anything was missing, they paid for the entire set up. I suggested to the bride that if she wanted the refund she make absolutely clear to her caterer that they were responsible for gathering all the pieces and getting them to me. I also included with the receipt a copy of an inventory of cake stand pieces used for the caterer or family member to check against. If she or the caterer wanted me to pick them up after the reception, I charged an additional delivery fee.

For fancy silverplate cake stands and the like, I charged a deposit equal to the cost of replacing the pieces and a daily rental fee of $20. The rental fee was calculated with the reception day being day 1, then each day until return was paid for. When the piece was returned, I refunded the deposit. Again, if I had to pick them up, I charged another delivery fee.

I got around a lot of the objection to these fees by developing relationships with rental companies and caterers. Many rental companies carry the cake stands and such and often these items became a part of the bride's rental bill for plates, stemware and such. This way, when I found out who was catering and supplying rentals to the bride, I'd just call them up and add the items I needed to the bride's acount.

Worked great, but I got burned on my supplies for a good six months until I figured out a plan. Give the bride options, but stand by and protect your bottom line. You are in this to make a living. Right?
 
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Joined Nov 27, 2001
I charge a deposit to hold the day and cover the cost of the equiptment. It is usually a set amount UNLESS they need a special stand. Then it is more and I rent those. They get there deposit back when it is returned complete and in good condition. I charge the same as fnf stated if they don't or are late. I make the bases on my cakes nice enough that the brides don't generally opt for a stand.
 
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Rentals: Silver Cake Plateaus,Silver Trays, Cake Stands, etc....
There is a rental fee as well as a refundable deposit on any equipment used for the set-up of the cake. The client is responsible for the safe and timely return of these items within 2 days(48 hrs.) At this time the deposit check is returned. If any item is damaged the amount will be deducted from the deposit check. If the equipment is not returned in 2 days, a late fee of $5.00 per day will be charged. If the equipment is not returned within 1 week the deposit check will not be refunded. Separate deposit check is required for rentals.

I have a cabinet maker make my cake bases. Or just cut them for me. 5/8 thick solid. I finish the edges w/ a glued on edge tape and glue on double faced satin ribbon, and I cover the base with a really nice wall paper(grease resistance). Then I glue on some wooden things to the bottom to slightly raise the board. Looks expensive and helps with getting your fingers out from under when delivering. I've done huge ones, where I gold leafed the entire board. And I charge them for it $$, it's included in the price. It's theirs to keep, no returns. OR, if it's a small cake, I use a masonite type board and cover it with fondant, depends on the design.

Construction: I do not use cake separators, or pillars. Sorry no plastic look. I use straws or dowels and foam core. Cost is included. I've invested in "stress-free supports" did not get a chance to use them yet. Bought them just in case of real difficult designs. Those have to be returned, and a deposit.$$ Cost me.




:bounce:
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
See I wondered about bases because as far as I know, no one is using silver regularly (or at least advertising that fact). Although you see them alot in the magazines. Either a flat tray or a traditional cake stand which usually rises about 3"to 4". For a very small reception I love the look of a footed glass stand (I haven't had the chance to do this though).

To consider: yes I'm familar with what you describe Spoons, looks clean and professional (I do like this look!)....yet it takes time and effort. Where as a purchased item (like a silver cake stand) just costs money. If you have a damage statement where they don't get their deposit back if the item is damaged....this seems like a wiser move....opinions? If time is money.....

Inside my cakes as my support system I use wilton plates that came with the clear twist legs (never straws). But I then I use wooden dowels cut to height inserted in my cake so their not visable. I haven't done anything with visable pillars in along time, but when the occasion arises I plan on using my reg. wilton set and covering the thin legs with gum paste. I've seen this done by several people, it can really look great.

Oh, another question/point....about using foam core....Are you buying this cut into rounds (if so where)? Because I don't find this very easy to cut in round shapes!

Not sure I know what your describing Spoons as "stress free supports" could you explain?

Anyone sell or talk to your brides about decorating the cake tables? Or are they on their own?
 
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Spoons (I am still trying to figure out who you are on the other board)- Let me know how you like the stress free supports. Earlene loves them but they are a somewhat big investment for a small business.

W- you can find info on the stress free supports at www.earlenescakes.com As far as foam core goes- it does not come in rounds, you have to cut them yourself. An exacto knife works well for me.

If you are looking for easier bases I have a friend that might have some ideas that you might like. YOu can see her work at www.weddingcakes-cleveland.com, she uses painted wooden table tops, custom made box stands, and glass table tops that she elevates with sturdy candle holders.

Have you ever tried the straws? They are a lot easier to use and the physics of it all is kind of amazing. Because of the way regular pillars displace cake the straws work better structurally. Rose Levy Bernbaum has a complete scientific description of how this works in the Cake Bible.
 
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I just don't feel good enough about the straws (I do know what you mean and know they are popular). If the weight shifts they move and on an angle they provide 0 support, they buckel. A wooden dowel can't buckel even if the weight shifts.

I deal with the displaced cake by inserting those hallow tubes (from wilton) into my cake. Pull out the tubes so I have a clean view to the bottom of the base of my cake layer. Then insert my doweled legs. A dowel set into a cake where it's weight just mushes the cake down doesn't always sit perfectly level since it's on mushed cake. Too dangerous. That's a part of the reason I pull the cake out and clear the bottom.

Then when it comes to serving, it's very easy for the cutter to take mine apart because no cake will be stuck to the supports and they don't have to fish for them with their fingers.

I don't think I loose any more servings then a straw system. Basicly I ruin 4 pieces for each dowel leg. But then I always give huge portions to cover my back side.
 
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Joined Jul 2, 2001
Wendy, in response to your PM here are my thoughts on silver cake trays although they are very nice I rarely see them used I think because of the cost. I called a couple of area bakers and this is what they said; They charge a deposit in the amount to replace the item and charge about 25% of that cost as a rental plus a 18% service charge. As a caterer, I find the mother of the bride or other designated person as soon as the thing is clean and we load it in their car. I then make them sign a reciept that they have received it to cover myself.
As far as what you can do to get your foot in the door with me; You really only get one chance to make an impression and that is with your samples. If they are as good or better than what we are currently using then you will get your chance. Small and not quite as important at first but something to work up to. If you continue to do well, then you get moved up the list. The last thing we or our brides want to worry about is the cake. Also earlier, someone spoke about adding fresh flowers to the cake, while I don't know if there is a separate cost or not, all our bakers do it.
I know my staff doesn't touch it until it's time to cut the cake. and the florest is long gone. Hope this helps. Good luck
 
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
ummm,
To much to consider. 1st, Wendy, you will eventually have to give some consideration to the suzy's. When one is set up right next to you at a bridal show and telling customers that they are 1/2 the price because they don't have the overhead that you do.
Deposits: great idea, but when you grow you will find a few hurdles not to mention a bookeeping nightmare.
Fodigger,
I am so disappointed we did not meet. Which store did you visit, the little one with the rolling pins or the production bakery?
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2001
Thanks for the input Fodigger. You'd be supprised how much some of those plastic cakes stands cost, plated silver is in the same price range as some. Anything we use for our bases costs us money, if I have a deposit to cover damage or loss and charge a fee I feel like I'm coming out ahead of the other route which would be making my own bases. It's not a money making thing but when you make your own boards your losing money on your labor and you can't get a fee out of it.

Couple other quick questions (if you don't mind). Do you need me to call first if I'm just dropping off a brocure and a sample? It rarely appeared to me (from what I saw) that sales people called first. If the door was unlocked they just walked in. Is that wrong? Do you take offence to that approach? (With some exceptions: I wouldn't show up during meals, I'd call any big prospects first)


Do you want a verbal pitch or are you sick to death of them (like you said it comes down to taste) and if you like it you'll call? I don't think any sales pitch works it the product doesn't sell it's self. I respect the fact that your busy and smart enough to call if you want my product. If you (the business owner or manager) engage me in conversation then I'll follow your lead. Otherwise a 1 minute intro. is how I want sale people to approach me, is that what you want or would that be too weird?
 
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Joined Nov 10, 2000
Wendy,
stress-free supports. http://www.earlenescakes.com/newringsupportset.htm

Anna, haven't had a chance to try them. I hate the fact of having to get back anything(supports,etc) But, I purchased them just in case I have a huge difficult cake.

Anna, I don't post on a regular basis. I just check it out once in a while. Pick up some tips. Not to sound snobby, having a culinary background,I can't relate to some of them. Someone would ask for a mousse recipe and I'll post one. A real one. Others would post mousse made with jello pudding and cool whip. Not too fond of the crisco buttercream either. No offense anyone. Just personal preference.I know you preach IMBC. Because it's the best. And it is. I use it. Was someone serious about using lard?

Well I love all these threads, Wendy you started some interesting ones. I'll try to keep up. And contribute. How do you find the time to come on the computer. I see you everywhere? I don't have time.

My cake bases take time and effort, but, I charge the client. And they don't look cheap. :D
 
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Huh, with-out working a 60 hour a week job I'm lost. I also wake pretty earily and don't have children so I have far more free time then most people.

ANYWAY, boy I feel stupid when you posted stress free supports Anna, I was thinking for your arm, HA. Well I finally looked, that looks great! How much are they? I also looked at your friends web site, she does fabulous work!

Time is flying and I still can't decide if I want to do one of those bridal shows. I sure don't like their fees!
 
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Joined Nov 27, 2001
Spoons- the other board is good for decorating tips- I have found a couple of people to bounce ideas off of and it has been helpful. I am definitely an IMBC person and most of them are not. Most do it because it is less expensive and they claim it is easier. However, after making some "practice buttercream" (just shortening and powdered sugar)for my kids to play with I don't see it saving you any time because the clean up takes 10 times longer. Regarding the stress free supports I have the same feelings as you- they would come in handy for those huge pyramid type cakes but who wants to worry about getting them back?

Wendy- the only stress free support system I have for my arms is hubby- but if they made another kind I would probably buy it :). My husband actually helps deliver all the cakes, does marketing for me, and on occasion has been known to be "cleaning *****". He seems to be a good investment:)!

Did you know that some of those fees for the bridal shows are negotiable? Can't hurt to ask, all they can do is say no. I don't know what they are asking for but the prices here would be covered in one or two average cakes. That is not a bad deal in my opinion. As far as what show to do- What neighborhood is it in? Where is it being held? How many people do they expect? How many other cake people will be there? If all those questions are answered to your satisfaction then it would probably be worth it. I am doing one in February that is at a prestigious location with only one other cake person and 600-800 brides expected. That could definitely fill my calendar.

Have you decided when and how you are going to take the plunge?
 
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Wendy, here is how I like it done. Call first but be prepared know my name first. I might be the one answering the phone. If you ask for the owner or manager strike one against you( mind you these are just my opinions) It shows you're not prepared.Hello, Mr. Smith I realize you're very busy but, I had some of my awesome cake samples to drop off for you it will only take a minute or so of your time and I wanted to know what would be a better time 2:30 or 3 pm this afternoon? I know you will really enjoy my cakes. 2:30 ok that would be great I'll see you at 2:30

You go to see him at 2:30 sharp. Mr Smith? Hello my name is Wendy. Thankyou for taking time again out of your busy schedule. I've put 4 mini samples of the cakes that I do and a brochure for my company.Thank you again. Good-bye

That day mail a nice note again thanking him for his time. This most likely will get to him the next day. If you have any questions or if I can be of service I would love the opportunity to discuss them with you. I can be reached at 555-1212. Again, Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Wendy
Wedding Cakes Galore

Or something along those lines. Hope that helped.
 
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
Anna,
I never did find out, are you legal in the sence I described? I'm wondering because of the negetive coments from your competetors. If you have all the same overhead and expenseses as they do I'm against that.
I have to admit something though, I had a wonderful conversation with a women and husband working out of their home illegally. She unconsciously targeted me because she is in the same area. I waited till I had heard something from three of our clients about how she was trying to undersell us. We had actually lost a 2600. cake to her two weeks ago.
I called her and told her I needed to set up a time to come talk to her and her husband. Being very defensive of the little empire she had built over the last year, I explained that I really felt that I was being completely fair talking with them vs calling the authorities. A few cups of coffee and a few hours later I had come to find out that these were very nice people but just plain ignorant to the legalities and responsibilities of running a business for profit. I came prepared with paperwork to show them that it takes a small location like ours 90,000. in revenue to break even doing it the right way. Needless to say, they are working on becoming legal.
Jeff
 
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Unless they growum different down there in Texas Panini, I find it real hard to believe your illegal freinds plea of ignorance. You learn what you want to learn.


Thanks for the imput Fodigger! I'll do that as much as possible. I have names and stats for country clubs but I don't know where to find sources for hotels, banquet halls and restaurants. Any ideas? Otherwise I'll have to do my call ahead "what your owners name?" lengthening my process. Can I get names from the NRA?


Between my friends and family they choose my name,the cake artist . Hopefully it will be an easy name for my clients.
 
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Yea, you might be right. As long as they are not directly affecting me anymore and not jeopardizing people's health I can't waste anymore time on them.
Have you gotten your legal ducks in a row. Liability ins. will be something you might come up against with the hotels and halls.
It is the norm here, thank god. You can get some good coverage for min. dollars. Also, make sure the hall or site has plenty of liability ins!! If they don't, anything can come back on the vendors.
A pecan shell in November is costing my ins. company approx. 9500.00. less my 250. deduct.
Jeff
 
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My ducks in a row, HA! Not even close. I'm not certified (never was neccesary until now), classes start next month. Still have to find a place to sub-lease from....tons to do, never enough hours in the day. Just plugging away.
 
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