Navigating the Complex Wedding Cake Ordering Process

There are many obstacles to overcome in the wild world of wedding cake ordering. Brides have demands. You, as a retail bakery owner, must manage these demands in order for your business to remain profitable.

How many of you have experienced a four-hour wedding cake consultation? It happens. What about repeated calls for change requests leading up to the wedding day? Sure.

These and many other variables can affect the labor time you devote to producing each wedding cake. And if you do not account for these variables and manage them effectively, they can quickly eat into your profits.

Note to self: Profit is not a dirty word. This is paramount to understanding your place in the wedding cake universe. By establishing your own policies and procedures ahead of time (and writing it all down!), you can be well on your way to running a successful business.

Wedding Cake Contracts

First of all, Minette Rushing, owner of Minette Rushing Custom Cakes in Savannah, Georgia, recommends developing your own wedding cake contracts. Take the time to create a contract that reflects your business, she recommends, and invest in professional legal counsel. That’s a must.

A contract is necessary because it outlines expectations, provides written details and protects your business (liability and peace of mind).

Rushing emphasizes that the devil is in the details. This is why is so important to spell out everything: payment policy (deposit and final balance), finalization policy (can changes be made?), and what is your liability and when does it end.

A pricing addendum is extremely helpful to factor in each of the following: wedding cake, sugar flowers, set-up fee, additional service fee, groom’s cake, cutting cake, rentals, delivery charge, sales tax, total charges, deposit/date accepted, balance due/date paid, client name, event date and signatures.

Among the often overlooked details are wedding cake instructions. To steer clear of problems down the road, be specific with notes for the decorator, cake topper, flowers, cake stand, color reference, number of servings, size, shape, cake and filling flavor, icing, and date, time and place of reception.

Beyond such important details, Rushing points out other things to consider include your policy on exceptions, allergen policy, whether to sketch or not to sketch, and terms for changing a contract for an individual. 

Executing the Plan

Formalizing a documented process from start to finish is one of the best ways to avoid mistakes and confusion. Beth Fahey, owner of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Illinois, has developed a detailed action plan that offers many useful ideas for any bakery in the wedding cake business.

For starters, plan ahead for how your staff will interact and follow through with customers. Have pricing information next to every phone in your bakery, and set parameters for the duration of calls. Remember that spending too much time on one call can cost you dollars.

If your bakery has an online wedding gallery (a very good idea), code each photo so you know which cake that customers are talking about when they call. Position your computers near the phones, so there is easy access for your staff. Finally, train your staff on how to ask customers to come into the bakery for a consultation.

Price quotes can be tricky business because the age of online information has opened the floodgates for price shoppers. “If they are bargain shopping,” Fahey cautions, “that is probably not your customer.”

Handling price quotes by email is always a good idea because it gives you a record. Creative Cakes uses a “contact us” form for wedding couples to request a quote. Available on the bakery’s home page (creativecakesbakeryandcafe.com), the form allows customers to specify type of request, name, email, expected number of guests, pickup date and time, recommended budget and special instructions. Brides can include a photo file with the form.

The key next step is guiding the wedding couple to a sit-down consultation in your bakery. So should you charge for consultations? “In our area, it did not fly,” Fahey says. “But we will charge ($25) a credit card if they are a no-show. Now everybody shows up.”

Each consultation lasts about an hour. At Creative Cakes, the wedding couple samples cakes, fillings and buttercream. They peruse a wedding cake catalog that includes photos and wedding cake information. After sampling, the Creative Cakes consultant provides them with an estimate of their desired wedding cake or offers a range of prices based on guest count and design selections. Couples can either book their cake at the end of the consultation or keep an estimate on file.

Creative Cakes also developed a wedding cake worksheet in which they can choose from the various options of designs and add-ons. “Give them information. They will feel empowered,” Fahey says. “They can take the worksheet with them, but remember that you always want to close the sale whenever possible.”