It is a really good idea to have cake business policies. Not only do they help clarify all of the different aspects of your business but they also help protect it. Figuring yours out can actually seem like a lot of work at first but once they are done and in place, they will make your life easier as they limit potential problems. They should be on your website, you should have links to them on your social media profiles, and you should include them in your contract. When your policies are easy to find there will be little confusion or misunderstandings between you and your customers. Below are a few of the really important policies you should consider having.
It’s good to have some limitations and policies surrounding your quotes. I send all of my quotes typed up in a writer software and export them as PDF with those terms attached. Some ideas to think about having:
- Event Details – What details will you require before you can give a quote? Guest count, event date, venue location?
- Quote Details – How in depth are you going to go into their quote? A really detailed quote explaining all of their options will take a long time. Find a way to simplify this process so you aren’t spending hours on it.
- Expiration Date – Setting a time limit on how long the quote is good for is a good idea. This will prevent a customer from approaching you a year later with a quote that would cost more now due to various factors. It’s up to you to decide how long it should last.
- Non-Booking Explanation – It is a good idea to explain that a quote does NOT book or hold their order/date (I can’t tell you how many people have asked for a quote (weddings especially) and then they contact me a week or two prior to their event wanting to see how their order is coming along or to set up their tasting).
- Order Verification – I let my clients know in my quote terms that I have a strict booking policy and provide a quick outline of the details (you can see those policies listed below). A little explanation can go a long way to avoiding a lot of confusion later on.
- Payment Schedule – I include my payment schedule for orders which includes my retainer deposit and final payment details.
Sketches and Mockups
These are usually requests made more so from engaged couples as it can sometimes be common for wedding guides to advise that they need a sketch or a mockup of their cake. Sketches are quite common and you’ve probably done a few already. Mockups are a bit less common.
- Sketch Policies – If you have made a really detailed sketch, you know it can take a LONG time to draw a really nice sketch like that. Personally, I don’t do an in-depth sketch until they book. One reason is that if they don’t like your quote they can take your sketch and give it to another baker to make. The seconds is that you shouldn’t be working for free (especially if they take your sketch elsewhere). If you decide to do sketches for someone who hasn’t booked yet, consider a fee for your time. Also, consider scheduling an appointment to have them view it instead of giving it to them.
- Mockup Policies – A cake mock up is a request to make a cake that looks like the one a couple is requesting, so that they can see if it’s going to turn out how they want. You may want to limit this service to those who have booked their cake already. It is definitely a good idea to have a fee and some limitations on this service because it’s very time-consuming. It may also be a good idea to charge for this service as if it is a cake order, even if you use a dummy. You may want to also keep the size small. You can usually give a couple a decent mockup of the cake design in one tier by dividing their design into sections.
There are a few things that need to happen before you can complete a cake booking. I call this my pre-booking process. It begins after I’ve given them a requested quote and they express interest in placing their order.
- Wedding Cake Consultations – It is a good idea to require a couple to have an in-person consultation for all wedding cakes. Wedding cakes are large and detail oriented. It’s a huge investment for a couple to make. They should have every detail worked out to a T and it’s best to do this is in person. This allows you to be able to judge their responses, confirm details, ask questions and clarify things.
- Cake Tastings – Will you do a tasting? It’s actually very easy to do this, even if you are a home baker. You can combine this with your consultation. It can really help you seal the deal when the couple tastes how delicious your cakes are. Will charge for your consultation and tastings? Some do a small fee to ensure the customers show up and apply the charge to their balance when they book. Charging a fee is a good idea if you have a lot of no-shows.
- Party Cake Consultations – Party cake orders are usually less complex of an order than a wedding cake. They don’t usually require a huge consultation or a tasting. You can get a good amount of details over the phone or in a few emails. However, consider what your policies may be if a customer does want an in-depth consultation or to taste some flavors as you may get the occasional request for this.
It’s important to decide what sort of things need to happen before you will book a client’s order. My most important policy is a “First booked, first served” rule. The length of time in which a customer has been discussing an order doesn’t matter. Completing the booking does. My only exception to this rule is with wedding cake consultations where a tasting and consultation has been booked. I temporarily hold their date and allow for a 5 day grace period after the date of the tasting and consultation to make a decision. After that, the date opens up to anyone.
- Order Form and Contract – All of your orders should require a filled out order form and contract. There a ton of ways to do this so there is really no excuse not to have one. You can keep paper forms and use a file box or you can use a software or online service to manage your orders. Keeping them jotted down in a journal or calendar can have terrible consequences if it accidentally gets lost or deleted.
- Order Confirmation – It is a good idea to have your customers verify their order. Will you require in-person confirmation and contract signing or will use an online service like Sign Now? It’s easy to say that by signing your contract they agree to the details and terms of the order. However, that can come back to bite you in the butt. If the customer didn’t look them over they will likely get really angry when the details aren’t correct during pickup/delivery. Regardless of what your contract states, they can still end up making you feel terrible with negative reviews that badmouth your business. Requiring them to verify the details you’ve written in ensures there is no confusion.
- Retainer Deposit – Requiring a retainer deposits just means that you require a bit of the money for the total order up front in order to book an order and hold their date. It’s a good idea to do this, as it helps commit your customers to their orders. I’ve heard too many horror stories about customer no-shows so don’t let this be you. It’s a terrible thing to do so much work on a cake and then not have your customer show up. It’s your choice how much you’ll require but it’s a good idea to require something. You will also need to decide if it will be refundable or transferable to another date if they cancel their order. Most people require 50% of the order total as a non-refundable retainer deposit.
- Final Payments – Everyone does final payments in different ways. I’ve heard everything from day-of to several weeks prior to the event date. You have to decide what works best for you and your business.
- Changes and Rush Fees – Changing a piping style or easy to create décor element is one thing… but changing an entire design, adding or removing cake servings, or changing flavors is a whole different story, especially if you have already shopped, begun to work on their order, or even have it partly or completely finished. Will you allow for your clients to make changes? If so, how far out will you allow them? If you are going to allow for last minute changes, will you charge a rush fee?
- Cancellations – Life happens and sometimes an order will be canceled. It’s a good idea to consider what happens if an order gets canceled by the customer or if you need to end up canceling an order. Both may arise for any number of reasons (frivolous or serious). It’s good to think about and have contract clauses that cover details. Will you give a refund in certain situations but not others? What about if you cancel the order?
Pickup and Delivery
- Signature – For all of your orders you will want to have the customer view the cake and sign off somewhere on your contract that they agree that the cake looks correct to the best of their knowledge before the cake leaves your hands. Getting signatures for a wedding cake can be a bit tricky since the couple will usually not be present. It’s a good idea for them to designate a person to sign for their order. If this is a coordinator at their venue, have them double check that this is allowed first. Some venues like hotels do not allow their staff to sign for orders.
- Handling Instructions – These are sort of like policies that are specific to an order that you might want to consider giving to your clients so there is no confusion on anything going on with their cake. You can include a small statement in their signature agreement that they were given these instructions. The instructions can include traveling and handling instructions for pickup orders, a diagram of their cake sizes and cutting guides for each size, how to cut the cake, remove dowels, take tiers apart, and instructions on how to remove and handle figures, sugar flowers and other inedible items (sugar or not).
- Delivery – Delivery can be a bit tricky to work out, especially if you have different orders on the same day that need delivery and pickup. You need to consider how exactly you will go about doing deliveries. Will delivery include setup? Will you require that certain orders (like weddings or 3D cakes) be delivered? How will you make sure that all orders are delivered on time? How far will you deliver? Are certain areas closer to where you are located going include free or low-cost delivery? Will there be different delivery charges for different mile ranges or one flat “per mile’ rate? Will you charge one way or both ways?
- Pick Up – Some people choose to pick up their orders. Will you allow pickups or will you roll a delivery charge into your order quotes and have them be included? I find the best way to allow for pickups is to have a slot of time scheduled for them. Even if I have no other orders that day, I stick to the explanation that after that time is up I won’t be available for several hours. If your customers know you won’t be home it will help avoid a customer be several hours late.
For large and complicated orders (like weddings or 3D cakes) there may be times you don’t recommend a customer pick up. What if a customer insists? You may want to require a release form for those who wish to pick up their cakes against your advice to protect you from their negligence.
- Damages – A policy on damages is always very smart and protects you from blame due to a customer’s negligence. This is why the handling instructions are wise to include in all of your orders. Consider having an explanation that ALL damages that could occur to the cake are in no way your fault. That should include damages caused by them or their guests (regardless of being accidental or not). You can list a few common cake disasters that can happen so they have a good idea how fragile a cake can be.
- Refunds – Giving refunds are sometimes an unfortunate part of owning a business. Depending on the situation, it is sometimes the right thing to do. If there is a serious problem with the cake you need policies that explain how a refund will work.
- Acts of God – I have an Acts of Gods clause in my contract. It covers various emergencies that may arise while the cake is still in my possession. These emergencies cover any reason that the cake unable to be delivered. In this clause, I simply state that the customer will be owed a refund of the complete cake balance and nothing more. There will be no compensation for damages or emotional suffering.
- Cake Problems – If there is a serious problem that results in the customer being unable to serve the cake or prevents guests at their event from eating the cake, it’s good to be VERY clear on what steps to take next. Instructions should include:
- That they stop serving the cake and collect what has been served.
- Require that they do not throw ANY of the cake away.
- They contact you as soon as they notice a problem.
- That they return all of the cake.
- You need to hear the customer out completely and let them show you what they consider to be a problem. You then need to inspect the cake and make a judgment call. If the claims are right you should provide some sort of a refund or compensation.
Do you do events that you provide gift certificates for or do you sell them as part of your business? If so, it’s a good idea to have some limitations and policies in place regarding them.
- Expiration Dates – Will you put an expiration date on them?
- Exclusions – Will customers be able to use them for any products you sell? Or will you exclude some products from purchase with a gift certificate? What about if a customer wants to use them but you’re already unavailable for that date? It’s best to explain that you won’t take a paying customer over them. If a date is previously booked they will have to choose another open date.
- Cash Redemptions – What if your customer wants to exchange a gift certificate for cash? Is this something you will do? Most businesses do not allow this. You will also want to have a policy that states if they are redeemable for cash for cash or not.
As you can see there are a lot of things to consider for your cake business policies. Getting them in place can really work out a lot of kinks and prepare you for questions you would otherwise be unprepared for. All of these cake business policies are ones I have for my business that came about after different situations arose. They have continued to grow and change over time. Hopefully, this list will help you in deciding which policies you should have for your own business. You will want to review and revise your policies every few months to be sure they are still working for you. Don’t be afraid to try something else if a certain policy isn’t working for you anymore.
I’d love to hear what policies you already have in place for your business! Are yours similar to these? Do you have others I didn’t mention? What other policies do you think would be good that I didn’t include?