Monday, July 15, 2013

How Confident is YOUR Cake Delivery?

Today I share a blog article by my friend Kara Buntin, owner of "A Cake to Remember" in Richmond, Virginia.  A brief preview: she tells a true story of a box that held the wedding cake that was picked up from a table and just dropped on the floor .... with the cake still in it!..... and how the cake survived. 


While this is definitely a rare event at a wedding, I share the story to prompt the question: How confident are you with your cake delivery?  Whether you are the bride or the cake designer, it is a good question.

Cake designers should be confident in their cake assembly and delivery and be able to convey their confidence to their client/bride.  Brides should feel confident the cake designer they have selected is more than competent in being able to get the cake to the event.

All of us are aware that "stuff happens" that is out of our control and I am in no way promoting that perfection in all things are possible.  Stuff happens.

Kara's story is a good illustration of a professional who understands many of the "stuff happens" elements and how she went above and beyond to help make sure the cake was delivered intact.  Her professional expertise helped derail what could have been one of those derailing accidents that could mar a bride's wedding day.

Good job, Kara!!


Photos of Kara's work can be seen on her website, acaketoremember.com .

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wedding "Professionals"

My friend and wedding guru, Andy Ebon, writes a great column discussing "what is a wedding professional?"  I am providing the link to this article because this topic comes up way too often in all fields of the wedding industry.

In the cake industry, there is debate on the licensed vs. unlicensed, home baker vs. commercial storefront, full time vs. part time (by choice or by circumstance). 

In the above example, I am defining "home baker" as one who is permitted by their state laws to legally bake and sell baked goods from their home kitchen or one who has built a commercials, health department approved kitchen in their home.  This is different from the baker who is working out of a home kitchen "under the radar".

My intent is not to debate the home vs. store, full vs. part time or any other aspect.  My intent in sharing this is to get vendors and brides alike to think about the services being offered and being bought.

Vendors, what is it you offer that defines you as a wedding professional?  Can you spell it out so your clients really get it?  What is the value you add to your service that makes a client believe you are worth the few extra dollars?

Brides, are you shopping for the best professional or the best (lowest) price?  While we all understand and can appreciate keeping costs in check for a wedding, there is certain knowledge, skills, licensing, inspections, equipment, etc., that costs more than the fly-by-night business person who may be offering an unbelievable low price.  

Enjoy Andy's Article:  "No Respect! Why So Many Wedding Businesses Don't Get Any"



Sunday, March 3, 2013

testing.....
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Determine a Cake Budget

My friend Stacey (who makes the best tasting "Crunch" snack ever!) has written a wonderful view of cake budgeting and the how's & why's that go into it. Brides will find it very helpful as they set up a wedding budget, and vendors will find some great tips on what questions to ask a bride to guide her thru the ordering process.

I am happy to share her blog article!

http://staceyssweetshop.blogspot.com/2011/08/howd-you-arrive-at-that-number.html

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pricing: Getting Your Mind Out of Yesteryear

A fellow caker sent me an email with a pricing question. It seems her mom made cakes in the 1970s-1980s and was frequently telling my caker friend that she was overpriced, reminding her of how much mom sold cakes for 'back in the day'. My friend was asking me, "Was mom underpriced or am I overpriced? Have things REALLY gone up that much?"

This type of thinking is more common than anyone cares to admit. Many folks get their mind locked into a certain era in time and their vision of what pricing trends are today are blocked by their wall of yesteryear's thinking. Plus, as we age, time seems to stand still. I remember a few times when I have referred to something that happened during my high school days ... then I have to pause and remind myself that was (gulp!) 35 years ago!



A friend of mine who is a realtor tells me that the hardest client she has when it comes to selling a house is an older, retired couple who just can't believe their house is worth THAT much money. If they bought the house for $20,000 forty years ago, they figure they are doing well if they can sell it for $40,000. My realtor friend says the hardest part of her job is convincing them the house is worth $110,000. The couple's idea of pricing is blocked by the wall of yesteryear's thinking.

What I shared with my caker friend is a little of my own history.

In the late 70's/early 80's, I was charging 75 cents a serving for wedding cakes. that included delivery, set-up, AND I'd stay and cut-n-serve it! Someone told me back then they had a relative in another state that was charging (gasp!) $1.25/serving!! I remember saying, "Wouldn't it be great if I could charge $1/serving!" And I think we ALL did it on the side back then! (health license? you needed one of those? No kidding? Huh! Whadda ya know!)

So .... an 8" round 2-layer cake that serves 24 at 75 cents/serving = $18. but .... since I didn't know much about proper pricing structures back then, I probably charged $12 or $15 for it.

In 2006, I was charging $1.75 for cake and $3.00 for the cake package: cake, plates, forks, mints/nuts, punch/cups, tablecloth, delivery, set-up, cut-n-serve, clean up and tear down. Within a year or 18 months, I was up to $3.50 just for the cake. doubled the price after I became educated about current cake pricing trends and a few good lessons on how to develop a proper pricing structure.

Yes, things HAVE gone up that much. In the 70's we all gasped when gas went up to oh my gosh 36 cents a gallon! We thought for sure gas rationing was coming with the price so unbelievably high! McDonalds used to have a commercial showing a guy counting his coins and ordering a hamburger/fries and coke ".....and we give you something you dont' expect .... change from your dollar!" You could get a whole meal AND change from your dollar!! Now we feel lucky to get ONE THING for just a dollar.

I sold little quarter sheets for $8 back then. The infamous "star" cakes (Wilton shaped pans) I sold to my friends for $12 or $15 because they had so many colors and were so much work. Today, if I got desperate enough to make one of these, they would have a price tag of $35 or more.

It's hard to imagine we actually made money back then. But we did. My husband worked a factory job and during the 1970s recession he was lucky to work 4 or 5 months a year. My cakes paid our rent.

As we age, we like sharing stories on how much things cost us 'back in the day' (don't even get me started on the price of a Hershey chocolate bar today!) but we also have to remember that these are stories, not pricing guidelines etched in stone, never to be altered or adjusted to meet the costs and inflation of today.

That's what my caker friend needs to remind her mom ..... that mom's pricing was probably just fine in 1972. But forty years later, things cost just a little more!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Equipment Review: Turntable

I've been in a few conversations lately about turntables so I am posting about the turntable that I use. A turntable is such a "must have" piece of equipment when decorating a cake. I put off getting one for a long time because I just wasn't comfortable with putting a very heavy 14" cake on the plastic ones I had seen in the shops


But then I found this one at my local cake supply shop in Indianapolis, Ms. B's Sweet Supply, in Speedway (yes, it's near the Indy 500 racetrack!) http://www.msbssweetsupplies.com/




It was only about $15 .... very comparable to those plastic ones I had seen in the other stores, but with two levels of pressed wood construction, I felt much more comfortable with it being able to hold the weight of my large cakes. The formica top makes it easy to clean. To keep cakes from skidding, I just put a small square of non-skid material (sometimes called shelf liner) under the cake. This material can be purchased in rolls at Walmart or Dollar General stores.


Here is a photo of the underside of the turntable with a better view of the wood construction. The table turns smoothly and easily, no matter how heavy the cake is.


I was so impressed with this turntable that I bought a second one. Even if you're not a baker, this is a great kitchen tool or it will work wonderful on the center of the kitchen island or dining room table.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Change

There's an old story about mice in a maze. The mice get trained to follow the path that leads to the cheese. Once they master this route, they fly through the maze. Then that evil scientist decides to move the cheese. The mice continue along the same route a couple of times, but discover no cheese at the end. What to do, what to do? The mice will change their route. They will go exploring. They will find new options and new routes. Eventually they find the cheese again. And there is dancing and joy in MiceVille!

People, however, aren't that smart. People will continue to do what they've always done with the thought of "if I keep doing good, then the cheese will be there."

People don't seem to realize that the cheese they are pursuing can get moved. People don't realize they have to change their routine and they can no longer follow the "but we've always done it this way" kind of thinking.

While there are so many examples to cite, I'm going to use just one as an illustration: social media.

Social media (facebook, twitter and many others) have changed the way many of us live our lives and make our shopping choices.

Long gone are the days when the business owner had control of the message being disbursed about their business and product through traditional newspaper, magazine, radio and yellow pages ads. Today the message is being disbursed by customers and it's being disbursed quickly and immediately.

Long gone are the days when the message was put out there just to be read and then discarded. Electronic postings and messages last for infinity. The messages are more than just a message. They are interactive. The customer is pulled into the business through online contests, instant messages about the daily special, feedback on the product of the day, etc., making the customer feel that they are not just a customer but that they are actually part of the business.

Change can be hard. It can be confusing. It can be fun. It can be exciting. Sometimes change can make us feel like we are taking a step back, but it's about the whole journey. It's about knowing the demographics of the market, who the business is trying to reach and how that market can be reached.

Here is a great article by my friend Tony Fannin, President of "Be Branded", talking about marketing and how today's customer uses technology in their decisions:


"What the Google Generation Can Teach Us About Brand"
http://bebranded.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/795/

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Customer Service - Own Your Mistake

My 18 year old daughter recently had an issue with a bank. Recently, she closed her account at bank A and moved to another bank B. Three weeks later, she is paying her cell phone bill online and accidently used her Bank A account information. The payment went through and charged her a $35 overdraft fee. In a panic, she called the bank to explain her error and was told she had to pay the fee. Within minutes, because she was anxious to make this right, she and her dad were on their way to the bank to resolve the problem.

She was clear that she intended to reimburse the bank for the cell phone payment. That was her error and she was owning that. But my daughter and her dad were confused on why a payment was made on a closed account?

The bank told her they didnt' show the account was closed. They grilled her about about if she had "really" closed the account and repeated a number of times that they didn't show the account closed. My daughter was firm that she had closed the account and evidently the processing wasn't completed on their end. She told me she felt like she was being accused of trying to scam them, when in reality she was in the bank's office within minutes to get the mistake fixed.

To the bank's credit, they did waive the fee and did close the account (this time). But the point to this post is what they didn't do. Never once, during the phone call or the face to face conversation, did the bank clerk or the bank manager ever say, "Gosh, I'm sorry this happened."

As consumers and as business owners, we understand that "stuff happens." We understand that paperwork gets lost in the shuffle, system glitches happen, and simple mistakes take place. I've heard it said and I've said it myself many times, "The measure of customer service isn't how you are treated when you buy the service. It's measured by how a problem is resolved after the transaction."

My daughter made a mistake. She owned up to that mistake. She called the bank immediately and said, "Gosh, I'm sorry this happened." She wanted to make sure the bank was properly reimbursed. And she wanted to know how a payment could be issued from a closed account?

The bank made a mistake. They didn't close the account properly. But they refused to own their mistake. They didn't apologize.

A good business person will validate the customer's concern and tell the customer, "I'm so sorry this happened .... let's see how we can resolve this with you." A really good business person will also add, "Thank you." Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to resolve it with you.

A customer who has a problem should allow the business the opportunity to correct the problem. Given that opportunity, the business should use all of their good customer service training and knowledge to validate the customer's concern and take all reasonable (key word: "reasonable") efforts to correct the problem.

A simple "I'm sorry this happened" will go a long way toward avoiding a negative impression of any business. And it would have eliminated the need for me to point out the obvious in this blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Simple Step-by-Step Assembly

While many cakes can be (and are) delivered fully assembled to the reception site, some are completed once they arrive at the venue. The cake in these photos could have been assembled ahead of time, but I opted to put it together at the venue and took some step-by-step photos to show the progress. Cakers, this is also a good visual to show how you can get two or three photos of cake designs using just one cake .... just take photos after each step!

Here is the cake as it was carried into the venue. It all fit on one large baking tray, making it easy for me to carry it. The baking tray is lined with a rubber, no-skid material (sometimes referred to as shelf liner ... can be purchased at any Dollar Store or Walmart), to prevent the cakes from sliding around during transport. Notice the supporting dowel rods are already in the cakes.Once inside, I stacked the three tiers. Since the dowel rods were already in place, it was a simple matter of just setting each tier in place:Wrapping the ribbon around the base of each tier took just a couple of minutes.Then it became a simple matter of applying the daisies, which were made from fondant ahead of time in the shop, around the cake. From the time I walked into the venue to the time I walked out (which included unpacking my cake tools, clean up, and then packing up again) was around 15 minutes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Of course all of we wedding bloggers will be talking about The Royal Wedding today!

As many of you know from reading my posts, I am a big fan and advocate of wedding and event planners. When the wedding date was announced, I was a little surprised and found myself thinking, "How are they going to pull off a royal wedding in such a short time?"

Well .... they did it. And they did it in spectacular fashion!

The details, the invite list, the security, the secrecy, the transportation, the street closings, the timing. Executed like fine clockwork with pomp and circumstance fitting for a future king.

Wow. My congratulations and admiration to all of those behind-the-scenes people who make events like this happen!

While many American brides won't have to worry about details at this level, there are still numerouis details that need handled for a wedding to take place.

So again .... brides, I strongly encourage the use of an event/wedding planner. Even if its just Day Of services, you won't be sorry! You are "Queen for a Day", so allow yourself to be taken care of so you can enjoy your celebration with family and friends!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Featured on Truffle Tramp's Blog

I have been interviewed and featured on a fellow cake decorator "Truffle Tramp's" blog. Truffle Tramp is out of Washington State and posts wonderful articles and stories with a sense of humor on the cake industry. I am always honored to be selected to appear in other blogs and I thank Truffle for the wonderful article! Please visit her blog and enjoy her wonderful writings! http://truffletramp.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

News Release: Who's Who

I have been invited to be published in the upcoming Cambridge's Who's Who. I have been listed in previous Who's Who going back to 1996's "International Who's Who of Professional Management" and am honored to continue to be invited to appear in numerous Who's Who publications.