Party Time

Get new customers into your bakery by hosting cupcake decorating parties for children and adults.

Looking for a new revenue generator? With a little extra time and fair amount of planning, you can use birthday parties to bring in some extra cash for your bakery. And we’re not talking about dedicating space in the back as the “party room” — see how one bakery in the suburbs of Chicago utilizes the shop as the venue…and the party itself.

The scoop

Alicia Eisenmann, owner of Delish Cakes in Bloomingdale, IL, created a unique kids’ birthday party concept when she opened her bakery two years ago.

The $180 birthday party package, which lasts two hours, hosts up to 12 kids, who each get to mix, bake, decorate and take home six cupcakes (two vanilla, two chocolate, two red velvet). The party also includes an extra-large pizza to eat while the cookies bake, and a birthday cookie-cake, which the guests all take part in decorating at the direction of the birthday girl (or boy).

Plan in advance

Hosting about one party per week, the bakery has seen great success in the concept, thanks in part to some advance planning.

Because Delish Cakes only occupies about 800 total square feet of space, parties are only held on Sundays and Mondays, outside of the bakery’s hours of operation and production. The shop is closed on Mondays, and Sunday parties are held after closing time at 3 p.m. “We don’t get many Monday parties during the school year, but they’re big during the summertime,” Eisenmann says.

The party requires that all guests are a minimum of 6 years old, so that kids are all able to reach (and see over) the work stations, as well as follow all the directions. “We let them do most of the work — but we mix the dry ingredients for them,” Eisenmann says. “That’s a lot of little hands in the flour.” Then the kids get to pour the liquids, crack the eggs and mix the batter. When it’s ready, they scoop the batter into the cups.

The timeframe didn’t need much planning. Eisenmann first estimated the party would last about two hours, right down to the minute. And time was the biggest investment the project required. The ingredients don’t take out much from their daily production, and the buttercream is from what’s left over after the weekend’s cakes are decorated. “We really didn’t have to invest much more than time,” she says.

The pizza was a natural addition to the concept, despite the fact that the bakery does not sell them in the shop. They simply partner with a neighborhood pizzeria to provide the pizza, which is included in the $180 price of the party.

Staffing appropriately

Eisenmann has found that 12 is the magic number for keeping the parties running smoothly with the least amount of staff and labor. The parties require one or two staff, depending on the number of kids and their ages. For example, keeping 12 first graders focused for the two hours will require more man-power than for a group of six 8th graders. “Parties for younger kids usually require more staff, just because the kids need more help,” Eisenmann says. “But the older kids are pretty much on their own the whole time, which is nice.”

Delish has hosted cupcake birthday parties for teenagers as old as 16 or 17 years old. Eisenmann has noticed that the older kids’ parties usually take a little bit longer, because they put more effort into carefully decorating the cupcakes in greater detail, whereas the younger kids are often happy with simply slapping a blob of icing on top.