After Part 1 you should have decided where you will be holding your Home Bakery Wedding Consultations. Now we will talk about policies, procedures, and deposit requirements.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is going into a wedding consultation without any kind of set policies. Not having things such as appointment schedules, set fees, tasting limitations, and deposit requirements is just asking to be taken advantage of.
Creating Policies & Procedures for Consultations
Let’s break down the different aspects of what you need to make your interested bride aware of before a consultation.
Set an Appointment Schedule
You’ll want to be very clear with any potential client that you take consultations by appointment only. You can have set hours or be more flexible to the bride’s schedule, but either way you need to be sure you set an appointment rather than allowing her to show up at any random time. Having a designated appointment will allow you the opportunity to clean your home while having everything set up professionally and in an organized manner
My personal appointment availability revolves around my busy work days, my kids’ school and sports schedules, and my church schedule.
My available times look like this:
Monday-Wednesday 9:00am-1:30pm or after 6:00pm
Sundays after 2:00pm.
I also let the bride know if she needs a weekend day other than Sunday, I can try to accommodate her schedule if my number of orders for the weekend allows. You know as well as I do, weekends are the busiest and messiest time for a cake decorator. You can try to be as accommodating as you can without putting yourself in a bind with your other orders from customers who are already paying you.
Whenever you choose to be available, be very upfront and clear, don’t feel bad if your times aren’t completely convenient for the client. Just because you work from home does not mean you have to give in to crazy demands. Storefronts have set business hours and no one expects the shop owner to stay open late or arrive early if it’s not convenient for them. They just make arrangements to be there during business hours. You deserve the same respect.
Tasting Options and Limitations
You’ll need to decide if you will offer cake tastings. If you decide to offer cake tastings you need to also set limitations on what you’ll offer.
It’s really necessary as a home baker to put limitations on the number of samples you offer at your tastings in order to prevent loss of time and profits. When I had a shop this wasn’t an issue, because I could use the leftover batter and other ingredients from the tasting to make cupcakes to sell in the case out front. As a home baker this is more difficult to do. You don’t want to have a lot of leftover items you may not be able to sell.
I recommend only offering up to 3 flavors of cake and 3 fillings. Then charge a flat fee that is non refundable and does not go toward a deposit or order total for any additional flavors beyond the first 3. This is what I do personally and have never had a client complain or act surprised or offended by this policy.
Cake Tasting/Consultation Fees
The last thing to decide is whether or not you will charge a fee for a consultation. As a home baker you have to take into account you may not make up the cost of ingredients for the samplings because you don’t have a store to sell the leftover from. It always boils down to the bottom line and being sure you are making money, not losing money. You obviously want to offer good customer service, but not at the cost of losing money.
There are two options I recommend in case you are worried about charging for a consultation. These are the two options I offer my clients.
Option 1: Offer a free consultation only which does not include a cake tasting.
This is a great option for any bride who has possibly already sampled your cake and knows what flavors she wants. You may lose out on being paid for your time here, but you won’t lose money on ingredients. The cost of lost time will be small if your bride places her order with you. And she most likely will if she’s already tasted and loved your cake. This is a time to discuss details of design,size, delivery, flavors, etc.
I also recommend setting a time limit on these types of appointments so that you aren’t losing an entire day’s work. You can set this when scheduling the appointment by saying something like: “I offer 45 minute appointment times during these set hours.”
Option 2: Offer a fee based consultation with a tasting, but will still be free with a booking.
This option would include a set amount of time in addition to the cake samples we talked about before. A good rule of thumb is to charge for one hour of your time and a minimum of the cost of ingredients you’ll be using to make the samples. It should cover the cost of the entire batch of each flavor. However, you may choose to charge whatever you feel is appropriate.
I charge a flat fee for the consultation with a tasting that includes up to 3 flavors. This fee is then credited towards the final cake cost if an order is placed. If the client does not place an order then the fee is paid during the consultation and non refundable. As mentioned in the above section on tastings, I also charge a fee for additional flavors beyond the first three. This part of the fee does not go toward the final price of the order and is non refundable.
So, as you can see, I am still technically giving a free tasting to booked clients, and keeping those who are just in it for the free cake from wasting time I could be spending on true potential clients.
Option 3: Offer a fee based consultation regardless of booking status.
Don’t feel badly if you would like to charge a fee for the consultation. You’re most definitely worth the fee and most brides will fully expect to pay for the consultation. It will also help to ensure only very serious customers are scheduling appointments.
Decide how much this fee will be and let the potential client know upfront in very clear terms that the fee is non-refundable, does not go toward the order total, and required to book the appointment.
It is absolutely imperative to require deposits on all wedding cake orders.
This should not be optional, ever.
The amount you require for deposits is your own personal choice. But I recommend using a percentage of the order total. I choose to require 30% of the order total. This deposit is required for the order to be officially booked and is non refundable regardless of the amount of notice an order is cancelled or the reasoning for the cancellation. I make this explicitly clear before the consultation is even booked so that the bride knows exactly what to expect.
Why should you require a deposit?
You want to charge a deposit to encourage the customer to uphold the order and to keep from losing money on any last minute cancellations.
The deposit should cover the cost of ingredients/supplies you may purchase in advance. A deposit also helps cover the cost of any lost orders in the case of cancellation.
When you book a wedding you will surely have other orders you will turn down because you will be booked. You need to be sure this potential loss of income is covered with the non refundable deposit.
This is also an ideal time to decide on whether you will accept payment plans and set payment due dates. I’ll touch on this a bit more in an article about How to Take a Wedding Cake Order. But I wanted to mention it here because it’s very important to already have these numbers decided upon before scheduling a wedding consultation.
How to Put It All Together
Now that I’ve gone into detail about each aspect of making policies for your consultations, here’s an example of how it can be put into writing for posting on your website or sent in an email/message to potential customers:
(Please feel free to copy/paste this example and make any changes to suit your needs.)
A note about consultations:
Things are done a little differently because we are a home bakery…
Consultations are scheduled by appointment only and generally take 30 minutes to one hour. You may choose to have a consultation only or a consultation with a tasting. Consultations are free of charge. However if you choose to also have a tasting there is a $30 charge due at the time of the tasting that will either be credited toward a confirmed cake order total or if an order is not placed it will be a non-refundable fee.
This fee is to cover the cost of ingredients used to make your tasting selections.
Tastings are offered with up to 3 flavors of cake to sample. You may add any number of flavors you would like after the first 3, however, there is a $5 charge per flavor, which is not credited to the order total and is non-refundable.
A NON-REFUNDABLE deposit of 30% of your order total is required at the time of order placement to hold your date. Orders must be paid in full at least 15 business days prior to your date. This is the same date for any cancellations to be made and be eligible for a refund (minus the 30% deposit). Any cancellations after this date or orders not paid in full by this date will be considered cancelled and not eligible for any refund.
All orders/cancellations are required to be in writing.
You now have a list of ideas on where to hold a wedding consultation and understand how important it is to have policies and procedures in place for your consultations. In part 3 we’ll talk about how to actually conduct the consultation; including how to prepare samples, items you should have present during the consultation, and what to say during the appointment.
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