Making your cake clients happy can be tricky. There must be a balance between providing great customer service and making sure you have the time and energy to complete the cake decorating you promised. Well-thought-out policies and procedures can help protect your company as well as help it run more efficiently and effectively.
Many customer complaints and issues can be avoided with a thorough, fair contract with clear policies.
It also helps to explain your policies thoroughly during the consultation. Make sure your customers understand what you require and what to expect. Ultimately, you'll have happier, more relaxed customers.
9 policies to put in place for your cake business
These are some of the policies I put in place when I started my cake business. You may not need all of these, or you may need more. Determine what works best for you, your clientele, and your business.
Require a non-refundable deposit
"In order to schedule your cake on your event date a 50 percent non-refundable deposit is required. Without the deposit, we will not hold your date. Priority will be given to the paying customer."
Your deposit may be a little more or a little less. Set a deposit amount you feel comfortable with. The deposits are to ensure the customer will be ordering the cake and to cover your costs (time and ingredients) in case the cake is cancelled after you have started on it.
Ask for final payment 2 weeks before the event
"All final payments are due 2 weeks prior to your event date. If payments are not made by the due date the cake may be cancelled."
I always require final payments before starting on a cake. You do not want to spend your time and money on a cake that's not completely paid for. You also don't want to be trying to track someone down during or after the event to receive payment.
Do not allow refunds
"Refunds are not provided for any reason. Due to our full schedule and our attention to detail, we spend many hours planning and preparing before even beginning on a cake."
You can choose if you want the money to be transferable and let people reschedule their event or to use the deposit to order a different cake. Some decorators state the deposit is non-refundable and non-transferrable. You decide what works best for you.
Ask that all cake creations be provided by you
"Our company will not provide a wedding cake when sheet cakes, cupcakes, groom's cakes, cheesecakes or cake pops are provided by any other baker without our permission. We have a reputation to maintain, and it would be unfair for your guests to assume another baker’s cake was our cake. The cake provided by our company will be removed from the venue if another cake as stated above is served at your event."
This policy is also to protect yourself in case another cake makes people sick at the wedding. You do not want to be blamed for food poisoning when it was not your fault.
I also added “without our permission” because I don't mind when others provide desserts for DIY events like birthday parties. We discuss this policy during a consultation to make sure I know who will provide other desserts, so I can be prepared.
I have also heard many stories about professional cake companies getting to the wedding venue and seeing a cheap grocery store groom’s cake on the cake table. Make sure this does not happen by discussing this policy before the event.
Provide sketches after the deposit
"Once the non-refundable deposit is made a full sketch of your cake will be emailed to you for confirmation. Changes on the design can be made up to 1 month before the event."
Full sketches can be very time consuming, so make sure you have the deposit before sketching. While at the consultation, draw a quick sketch as you discuss the design ideas. This should be enough to help your customers decide if they want to use your services.
Warn customers about keeping cakes outdoors
"Any cake placed outside during an event has the possibility of melting or deforming due to the heat. We are not liable for a cake once it has been delivered or picked up."
This is your time to specify what you will and will not provide for an outside event. Discuss better options — such as keeping the cake displayed inside or using an air-conditioned tent — and do not agree to conditions you do not feel comfortable with.
Most people don't know what can happen to cakes outside in the heat, so you need to educate your customers. It would also be good to have them sign that you have explained this to them and they understand the consequences.
Charge for delivery!
"The cost of delivery is $0.55 per mile between the event and the bakery. The distance will be determined by the shortest distance as calculated by Google Maps. There is a minimum delivery fee of $30."
Deliveries take time and are very stressful, so charge accordingly. The going rate for delivery fees is about $0.55 per mile. Make sure to charge for both ways.
Look at a map online and find the radius around your bakery that would be included in your base delivery fee. If the event is beyond that radius, charged more based on mileage.
Remove liability for pick-ups
"If you choose to pick up your cake and transport it yourself, we are not liable or responsible for the cake once it has left the bakery. You should prepare your vehicle so it is clean and free of items that could roll or slide into the cake. We do everything in our power to provide a well-structured cake, but please note that cakes are very fragile and break easily. Drive carefully and slowly."
Customers who don't want to pay the delivery fee may choose to pick up their cakes rather than have you deliver them. In this case, you want to make sure to protect yourself.
Most people do not know how fragile cakes are! Make sure you discuss how to transport a cake so there no surprises.
I make sure customers initial this policy before leaving the bakery so they understand that they are completely liable once they walk out that door.
Make serving sizes clear
"Wedding and custom cakes are designed to serve the number of people you specify. Our cake serving size is 1" x 2". If you are serving larger slices of cake and run out, we are not responsible to provide additional cake."
Choose a cake cutting chart and stick with it. Explain the portion sizes to your customers during the consultation.
If they feel it will not be enough cake for their guests, give them options like making the cake larger or adding a sheet cake. Do not just make the cake larger without having them pay for it.
Also, remind customers that the cake slices are 4"-5" tall and that the serving is actually quite large. Many customers tell me they don't think 1" x 2" is enough per serving; when I remind them how tall each slice is, they usually agree it's enough.
Other policies that you may want to consider adding to your list could be related to:
- Food allergies
- Cake stand rentals
- Specifics due to location, climate or culture
Whichever policies you choose, stand by them. Have the customer sign a contract acknowledging that they've read and understand your policies. Then if customers complain or come back to you asking for a refund, you are ready to defend yourself and your company.
What other policies have you established or do you plan to establish for your cake business?
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