When taking a cake order, there are so many things you need to know, that it just gets confusing sometimes. In this post, I go through the things you need to find out from the customer and the order in which it’s most helpful.
Getting the answers to these questions is so important in getting the cake order correct AND having a happy customer. And that’s what we want, right? A happy customer and no drama for us. 🙂
In this post, I’m going to go through what worked best for me when I was selling cakes from home. Now, I never owned a huge bakery, so I don’t know how it works running one. But I did have a small home based cake business that I worked part time at home for several years until I started this blog.
These are the things that I learned…some of them the hard way, but I hope they’ll be helpful to you.
At the bottom of this post, I’m also including a printable with all these questions listed out. You can simply print it off for free and go down the list with your client.
I want to also talk about the order of these questions. I didn’t necessarily ask all of them up front. Asking certain questions up front (for lack of a better term) will allow you to weed out a lot of customers who aren’t willing to pay the price of a custom cake and those who want you to make it at a discounted rate.
If you want more information on how to start selling cakes from home, you can see that post here.
Ok, let’s get to the questions and the order I like to ask them.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST & THE ORDER OF QUESTIONS:
There are a lot of times I would just get a random text or Facebook message with a pic of a cake and the text just says ‘how much?’, or ‘can you make this?’. Well you need more information than that in order to answer that question.
I would usually say something like this: “Thanks for reaching out. In order to answer that question, I need a bit more information.” Then I would ask the first two questions: When do you need this cake and how many people will it be serving?
If they need the cake on a date you’re unavailable, well then the conversation is over. You can’t do it. (Although you definitely want to be nice about it.)
Now, if the date is do-ale, then the next question about serving size is really important. People don’t know how many servings a certain size of cake will make. They may actually need a bigger cake, or perhaps one that’s not so big. You need to find this out up front because you’ll have to know what size of cake it’ll be before giving them a proper quote.
Now, if you have a minimum price, this is also the time that I would let them know. “My cakes start at $150…, but I will need to get more information from you before I can give you a quote for this design”. You’ll use your own minimum order price there of course.
This will save you a lot of time because if the person cannot pay the minimum price, then you won’t be able to make the cake for them and you haven’t spent a ton of time designing a cake and getting a quote out to them.
After those first areas are hashed out, then you can move on to the other questions, which we’ll get into below.
Ok, so, let’s slow down a bit and talk about each of these questions in a little bit more detail.
First and foremost, you need to find out the date of the event, or at least when the customer wants the cake. That will tell you right off if you can do it for them.
If you’re unavailable for that date, then you don’t have to go back and forth with the customer getting all the details about the cake…you’ll know you can’t do it for them.
THE SERVING AMOUNT:
Just like we talked about earlier, you’ve got to know how many people they need to serve. People just don’t know what size cakes to order and you can’t give them a quote until you know what size the cake will be.
Another thing you want to ask in regards to servings is if this will be a wedding cake, will the bride and groom keep the top tier to freeze for an anniversary cake?
In some areas, it’s tradition to save and freeze the top tier of the wedding cake and eat a bit of it on the first anniversary. Yeah, it’s gross, but people like tradition.
Anyway, if they’re wanting to do that, then you can’t count the top tier in the amount of servings because they won’t be serving that tier.
THE MINIMUM ORDER (IF YOU HAVE ONE):
Early on, you can also let them know you have a minimum order amount. It took me awhile to start doing this, but once I did, it saved me a lot of time.
You’ll feel like you’re losing a ton of potential clients, but really you’re not. You’re just saving yourself tons of time going back and forth with quotes and changes and then the customer saying no. It’s better to just state up front what your minimum is.
So, maybe your minimum order amount is $150 and that’s the minimum you’ll do, then let them know that. If someone wants 6 cupcakes and your minimum order is two dozen, then let them know that. That’s not mean, that’s just setting boundaries on what you’re willing to turn your oven on for.
Generally, if the customer is just trying to get a cheap cake, they will know what your bottom line is right there without you having to go through a ton of questions.
If they’re okay with your minimum order, then you can move on to giving them a more specific quote.
Ask them where the event will be held. That may not be important if they’ll just be picking up the cake from you, but if you’re going to be delivering it, you need to know if you can get to the venue and how far away is it etc.
Will it be a two-tiered cake and you have to drive it up the side of a mountain? Is it down a dirt or rocky road? You need to be prepared for these things.
You might want to know this information before giving them a quote, since you may need to charge a transportation fee. That’s up to you.
You also need to know if it’s an outdoor event. This is important. Frankly if it was an outdoor wedding and the cake would have no where to sit other than in the direct hot sunlight, I would just decline the order.
There’s just nothing you can do to make a cake stand up to high heat like that and you’re sure to get an unhappy bride. Even if you tell them all that and they swear they still want to take a chance, my answer was no.
I just did not want to take a chance on having a client take me to court for a refund for something like that when I knew it would not stand up to the heat.
Now, not all outdoor events are like that…it’s just the middle of the summer ones and the ones where there is no other place to keep the cake cool until it/s time to cut it.
If you’re curious about what happens to a cake in direct heat and sunlight like that and how long it actually takes to collapse (it’s not long), I’ve linked a YouTube video below that shows that.
And this video isn’t filmed in a weird weather region either. This bakery is in Dallas, Texas which is about an hour and a half road trip from where I live. I mean another over 85 and in the direct sun is getting real scary.
CAKE TYPE, DESIGN & FLAVORS:
Is this a birthday cake? A wedding cake? What type of event?
You can also get more into the nitty gritty here and ask them what design they want. Many times, they’ve already sent you a picture of what they want though.
You’ll just want to ask them any questions you have about that design and colors and what flavors of cake/filling and icing they want. Do they want fondant? Buttercream? Ganache?
Make sure to ask them about any additional items like flowers, allergy information etc. Do they want gumpaste flowers? Fresh flowers? Silk flowers?
There are a few more details I like to get, especially for wedding cakes. They are things like: Do you want me to provide the flowers? Real or Silk? If the florist is providing them, do you want the florist to add them to the cake, or will the florist just leave them for me to add?
Will you be adding a cake topper to the cake? What is the size of that topper? Is the topper heavy? (You need to know this so you know if the top cake tier is going to be big enough. and if you need to add support for a heavy topper to sit on it. )
Is there a certain cake base display you want to use? This is important because they need to know the size of that bottom cake tier, so if they’re wanting to use their own base, then it’ll be an appropriate size.
Obviously you’ll put the cake on a sturdy cake base already, but some people like to use large wood slices, large wooden bases, or even large cake pedestals. You need to know this upfront and communicate to them why you need to know it.
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a question you’ll ask them, but more like the next step. (I guess you really could actually consider this a question though, because you’ve given them something to respond to.)
Once you feel confident you’ve gotten all the information you need, you can give them a proper quote.
Some people are okay with doing a rough sketch of the design at this point and some cakers say to wait until the quote is accepted before doing that. I say, do what you’re comfortable doing. Just don’t spend a ton of time on a fancy sketch before giving a quote. You could be wasting hours of your time.
So, give them the quote with confidence and then let them respond. Don’t feel guilty about what you quoted. Don’t go and lower it because they’re quiet, or maybe don’t respond to you right away.
When you give the quote, you also want to let them know about the deposit, how much it’ll be and when it’ll be due. Also that you do require a contract to be signed and what the refund policy is.
This can just be a short couple sentences like this: “The quote for this cake design is $____. I do require a deposit of 50%, which works out to $___ and that would be due before I’m able to put the order on my schedule. The remaining 50% would be due _.) You don’t have to use my amounts here, or exact wording…just go with what your business policies are.
If they come back and they’re hesitant on the price, you can always offer different options…if that is what you want to do.
Also not technically a question, but you do need to ‘ask’ them to sign it.
So, if the customer says yes to your quote, then great! You’re still not done yet though. You need to write up the contract and send it to them and re-explain that you’ll need them to sign it and get the deposit. It’s good to go over the contract with them as well.
Make sure they know that their cake order isn’t official and doesn’t get scheduled until the contract is signed and the deposit is paid. If someone keeps putting you off over and over, but keeps saying they want the cake, then give them a deadline. Just say you’ll need to have it signed and the deposit paid by ____ date in order for you to have enough time to prepare and get it on your calendar.
Do not squeeze yourself into a tight jam if someone will not commit until the last second, then you’re caught rushing around…unless you just like working under a time crunch…which I absolutely hate. I do know some people who actually like it, so whatever floats your boat. 🙂
A note about the contract: I do have a sample contract that I wrote up when taking orders and you’re welcome to use it. It’s free to download and it’s on the library page. If you’re already a subscriber, then you get the password in any of my emails. If you’re not a subscriber (it’s free by the way), then you can get the password information for the library page by signing up here.
Here’s my disclaimer though: I am not an attorney and I am not giving you legal advice by providing a sample of the contract I used. Use it at your own risk and if you are really concerned about what a contract needs to say, then have a lawyer look at it for you.
Ok, now that’s all done…the fun part begins! All the baking and decorating!
I do have a handy cake questionnaire that you can print out below where I’ve listed all the questions.
Just click the graphic below or the link under it and it’ll download automatically. You may find you don’t need all those questions, or you might want to add in your own questions, which is totally fine too.
You can either print this out and hand write on it, or you can type in the answer fields…those fields are editable.
Well I hope this post was helpful to you and that you get some use out of the sample contract and cake questionnaire!