Attracting and retaining skilled cake decorators

 Give decorators their own workspace so they can focus on the task at hand.

Cake decorators come in all shapes and sizes, different personality types, and more often than not, have unique styles and fashion tastes. Cake decorators create art, and like a lot of artists, can lean toward eccentricity. “I’m looking for pink hair, tattoos and rings in precarious places,” says Sherri Paul Thigpen, owner of Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune, MS. “Cake decorators kind of get this stigma of what they look like. Cake decorators come in all different packages.”

Decorated cakes have become very artistic and you need quality, artistic decorators to compete in today’s market. You’ve got to learn to deal with the different personalities of cake decorators, because you need them in your bakery, Thigpen says.

Maintain high skill level and moral

When you base your cake prices on how fast it takes someone to decorate, it’s imperative that your decorators are efficient. The best way to become skilled and efficient — at anything — is to do it over and over. Let your decorators decorate cakes. “We don’t want them making icing, we don’t want them making cakes, we don’t want our decorators cutting cakes or putting them on boards,” Thigpen says. “We want them to decorate cakes and use their artistic ability that way.”

Each decorator at Paul’s has their own workspace with the materials and tools they need. Thigpen shows her appreciation in many ways to give Paul’s the best chance at maintaining its best decorators. When Paul’s does a television commercial, it shows its appreciation by letting the decorators showcase their skills. “We let them decide what cakes they want to put in the commercial, we let them decorate the cakes they want in the commercial and we let them be in the commercial,” Thigpen says. “and they all get excited about that.”

Train newbies your way

Turnover in cake decorating remains an issue. With the average employment time of younger people at 18 months, Thigpen and Paul’s are reluctant to dive into the decorating deep end right out of the gate. New decorators learn on boarders and take that responsibility while they learn. The boarders stay the same and “custom” boarders created by the new decorator are not allowed. “We don’t allow them at the beginning of their training to think up new boarders,” Thigpen says. “We tell them what we want them to do, show them how we want them to do it.”

Once a decorator becomes proficient and your gut tells you they’ll be at the bakery for longer than a few months, do your best to nurture their talent and show your appreciation.

As television displays more and more highly artistic and elaborate cakes, consumers seek out bakeries to buy those types of cakes. Keep sales high by employing and training artistic decorators who work efficiently and provide the quality products that customers want to buy.