When to Say No: 4 Orders to Decline in Your Bakery Business

Do you know when to say no to an order?

Many bakers don’t even realize there are times when you can and should say no. I know especially when you’re first starting out, you think you absolutely must take on every order inquiry to grow your business.

This simply isn’t true. 

Let’s take a look at four times you’ll want to consider saying no.

When to Say No

1.The request is beyond your skill level.

Whether you’re a newbie or a well seasoned decorator, you will receive a request for a design that is beyond your skill set. This is a great time to pass on an order.

Yes, you should be ever expanding your skills and pushing yourself to do better, but if you know what the customer is asking for is something you definitely can’t do, you need to pass.  A paying order is not the time to decide to do a complicated technique you’ve never attempted before or make your first carved cake. Set aside time for learning new techniques and skill building outside of when you’re working on an order.  

It’s completely fine to admit to the client (and yourself) a design is outside of your comfort zone. The last thing you want to do is take on an order that you know will not meet the client’s expectations. Accepting an order for a design you know you aren’t capable of is setting everyone up for disappointment. It’s also setting yourself up for a potential customer service disaster. 

When you receive a request for a design you aren’t comfortable accepting, say just that. Thank the customer for their interest, but unfortunately you aren’t comfortable with taking the order. You recognize it’s outside of your skill set, not wanting to give false hope, or leave the customer disappointed with the outcome.

2. You’re dealing with a bargain hunter.

I have a confession to make.

You know how people love to tag you in posts on Facebook Yard Sale/Online Sales pages when someone is looking for a cake to be done “for a fair, reasonable price?” You know the ones. They post a picture of a cake  from the cover of CakesDecor magazine, that was done using a dummy cake, which took 2 weeks to complete.

So here’s the confession: I never go after these customers when I’m tagged in these types of posts. 

They aren’t really looking for a fair or reasonable price. They’re looking for CHEAP, or even better, FREE! I can’t grow my business or make a profit on these customers.

We’ve talked extensively about how you don’t want to be the cheap cake lady, and seeking out these customers would make you just that. As you learned in How to Charge for Cakes, you can’t just randomly choose a price for an order. That means when you have a customer looking for a bargain, you will probably want to point them to Walmart or a grocery store as quickly as possible.

Of course, you can take time to explain why you can’t give them the bargain they’re after, and offer a different design option that fits their budget as well. It’s always good to educate the general public on what goes into a custom cake, as some people truly don’t realize the time and cost you may have. 

However, most clients who want a $1500 cake for $50 will not care what you have to say. Most only want the cheapest possible option, and aren’t interested in the fact you only use organic ingredients, or special order your chocolate from a Swiss chocolatier.

I have a secret for you though… these aren’t the customers you want anyway. They tend to be the biggest headache, and surprisingly difficult to please! So do yourself a favor and just say no!

3. You’re booked up/it’s a last minute request.

I’ve been there. Actually, I was there just last week. It’s really hard to decide what to do when you have last minute requests or you’re just booked up for a particular weekend. It’s really tempting to take every single order thrown at you, but you’ve got to stop and think about how it will affect your other orders and what kind of strain it will put on you. 

If you’re truly booked or your other orders will suffer by taking yet another order, then you need to say no. If you will be rushing to get everything done and your work quality suffers, it can damage your reputation, making that little bit of extra money not worth it in the end. 

Taking on too much work will put additional stress on you, which is also not worth the few extra dollars you may make. Remember, your well being and your work quality are what’s truly important. I know it’s hard to disappoint a customer, and the guilt tends to fall on you when you say no, but it’s not your fault they waited until last minute. Don’t let anyone pressure you into feeling obligated to accept a last minute order. 

4. The rude, time wasting, or condescending customers.

I know that there’s an old adage out there that customers and business owners alike tend to throw around:

The customer’s always right.

Personally, I feel this is not correct and does not always apply. If you are dealing with a difficult, rude, or condescending customer, you need to run the other way as quickly as you possibly can.

You deserve to be respected, and to be treated as a professional.  You do not need or have to put up with people who talk down to you, don’t think your business hours or policies apply to them, try to bully you into giving them prices they want, or forcing you to do a design you aren’t comfortable doing. 

This type of customer can’t be pleased and you shouldn’t feel obligated to attempt the impossible. You can’t do it, so don’t even try! If you’re afraid to flat out say no, or don’t want to create a bigger issue, simply let them know you’re booked or that you aren’t taking anymore orders for their requested date.

Hopefully this list has helped you realize when to say no. Taking every single order thrown your way isn’t always in your best interest. Next time you’re in one of these situations remember the things we’ve talked about in this article. Don’t be afraid to require respect of your time and abilities. 

How about you? Are there times you decline orders that I haven’t covered here?