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I feel like I'm spending too much money.

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
I am a pastry chef for a very high class venue in Texas and I do all the dessert items for weddings and events here.

I am a newbie ( not even, more like, baby) at cake decorating except for torting and icing a cake.
My bosses recently wanted me to start making wedding cakes that the venue could be a one stop shop for everything needed. I did warn them that I was fairly new to decorating cakes but that I would learn and that we would get this ball rolling.

Needless to say it has been a rough road. Mostly because I take care of the desserts for the events, there is no time to practice my cake decorating skills and I have 0 pastry help, all I can get are people from the culinary side of the kitchen to help me do the redundant stuff like dipping things and melting chocolate (they can't even do THAT right!) So my cakes so far have not been up to par (acceptable, I would say, but not good.)

My question is that I get into pickles because a bride asked for a damask design on her cake. But the templates for stenciling costs 60 dollars. And that was ALOT for just 1 cake. So instead I did my own stencils and just did the best that I could for the sake of saving money. ERRGG! Big mistake. How do you deal with equipment and things that you need that you will rarley use. Should I have told her "no." when she requested a damask design?
post #2 of 54
Discuss it with your boss and see they want you to handle those situations.
A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands!
Glenda
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A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands!
Glenda
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post #3 of 54
I honestly don't think that this type of thing should be an issue at all.

If the venue wants to supply wedding cakes, then there needs to be parameters set for the production of those cakes.

If a damask cake is within the realm of what they want you to be able to supply, then the VENUE buys the proper equipment for you to use. The stencil is then their property.

You should have a budget for supplies necessary for wedding cakes that goes above and beyond pans and cake tips. And, if you need classes to gain or enhance skills, they should be paying for them directly OR reimbursing you for them OR upping your pay once the classes are completed OR not asking you to do anything that you don't already know how to do.

If the venue doesn't want to take on the expense of the proper materials for you, then you need to tell them what simple cakes you can do with what you have available to you--and not go beyond those styles of cakes until they give you a budget to increase your arsenal of tools.

You shouldn't be doing things that you don't know how to do, don't have time to figure out how to do, or haven't been given the opportunity to learn how to do.
Obviously, going beyond your comfort zone leads to stress on your part, possibly upset on the bride's part, and the potential for the venue to have to refund money/lose reputation/etc.

Learning on the job is fine, but it can't be at the expense of a customer. In the end, if the rigors of your current position don't really allow you to be the wedding cake DECORATOR, then the venue should hire a specialist who will either do that job or train you how to ultimately do it.

JMHO
Rae
I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
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I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
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post #4 of 54
If it won't get used again, the customer bears the cost of the item. However, remember that if the customer pays for it, the customer should also get the option of keeping the item.
post #5 of 54
The cost of specialized items like stencils should be charged back to the customer based on the expected utilization of said item over its lifetime.

Even if the customer is charged back 100%+ of the cost of the item, that does not mean they should be given the item...the cost of the item is balanced by lower labor costs due to the increased productivity the item allows.

This is definitely something you'll want to discuss with your management to make sure you are all on the same page. If you are paying for your supplies out of pocket and you are being treated as employee, the cost of your supplies should be reimbursed by the company, otherwise they run the risk of you being reclassified as a contractor.
post #6 of 54
I can't really see a reputable venue asking a bride to purchase their own damask stencil. That would go over like a lead balloon.......

They could roll the cost of it into the price of the cake or reception package and the bride would never know. Over time, the venue would slowly gather the necessary items to make a variety of cakes.
I'd guess that on some level that happens all of the time, but it sounds so.............shady when said out loud.

I still feel that to do this on a professional level, the venue should foot the bill for the materials/tools.

Rae
I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
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I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
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post #7 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlakesCakes

I can't really see a reputable venue asking a bride to purchase their own damask stencil. That would go over like a lead balloon.......

They could roll the cost of it into the price of the cake or reception package and the bride would never know.


That's exactly how it should be done. The bride is not charged a separate fee for specialty equipment any more than they are charged separate line items for other allocated overhead, ingredients, and labor.

If a bride requests a design that requires a $60 stencil, and there's little chance the stencil will be used again, then ~$65-75 would be added to the cost of that design. If the designer decides to try it without the stencil, then the cost for additional labor + rent would be added instead.

If the bride doesn't like the cost of that design, they can choose a simpler design that costs less and does not require specialty equipment. This is not shady at all...your prices should reflect all costs involved in making the product, unless you are running a charity instead of a business.
post #8 of 54
God, I just know I'll regret this later............

Yes, I know, I know, I know. That's what I said IS done.

It's practical, but in some ways unfair to the first person who requests that "specialty" item--particularly if they don't KNOW that they're the first.

It's a crap shoot as to whether someone else will come along and need it, but if they do, then THEORETICALLY, the subsequent customer(s) get the benefit of the extra that the first person paid for-- AND, the venue does get the ultimate benefit of now having the continued option to use the item.

Most brides wouldn't recognize a $60 upcharge on cake of any significant size, especially if it's part of a package plan.

If the bride has the option to "choose a simpler design that costs less and does not require specialty equipment", then the venue also has the option to (be honest) and tell her that they don't have the equipment to do that design and that it either can't/won't be done OR that there will be an upcharge not only for the time & labor to do the design, but also for the purchase of the specialty item. And if they do upcharge at all for it, it had should be done right.

I still maintain that a good business provides it's staff with the proper tools to do a proper job. It's not up to a customer, who has no idea of what tools are needed (or available to the decorator) to guess that the slight increase in the cost of the cake is due to the fact that the venue doesn't have the stencil.

Ah, yes, Jason, I do run a charity--and my way of handling this is to simply make the choice to offer the style OR to NOT offer it (because I don't want the expense or know that I will likely never use it again).

I don't go around bumping up my inventory of "cake toys" by tacking on a bit here for this and a bit here for that cutter, stencil, pan, etc.--and I don't feel that "businesses" should be doing that, either.

Spending money to make money is an old concept, but it works. In this scenario, had the decorator had the right tool, she would have saved herself time, labor, & heartache AND everyone might have been happy with the cake. She also would have been confident in offering the same design again.

So, quote away! Knock yourself out!

I'm out.
Rae
I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
Reply
I love you, but your emergency is not my crisis!

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.--Terry Pratchett (b.194
Reply
post #9 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlakesCakes

It's a crap shoot as to whether someone else will come along and need it, but if they do, then THEORETICALLY, the subsequent customer(s) get the benefit of the extra that the first person paid for-- AND, the venue does get the ultimate benefit of now having the continued option to use the item.


Absolutely correct...and this situation should happen more often than the opposite situation, since you would err on the side of conservatism when estimating if a specialty item will be used in the future.

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Quote:

If the bride has the option to "choose a simpler design that costs less and does not require specialty equipment", then the venue also has the option to (be honest) and tell her that they don't have the equipment to do that design and that it either can't/won't be done


It seems silly to tell someone you can't give them what they want if the only barrier is ordering a specialty item. If you feel you can't do the job right even with the specialty item (or there are space constraints in terms of storing the item), that's another story and I agree that you should decline.

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that there will be an upcharge not only for the time & labor to do the design, but also for the purchase of the specialty item.


Typically specialty items like stencils will reduce the time & labor cost vs. if the stencil was not used, this is the tradeoff I was referring to.

Quote:
Quote:

And if they do upcharge at all for it, it had should be done right.


One would think it should be done right even if there was no upcharge. icon_wink.gif

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It's not up to a customer, who has no idea of what tools are needed (or available to the decorator) to guess that the slight increase in the cost of the cake is due to the fact that the venue doesn't have the stencil.


The reason for the price difference is not really relevant to the customer, they don't care if it costs more due to more labor or more equipment, they just see that more complicated designs cost more, which is as it should be. The decorator controls the process, not the customer, and that's why I recommend not breaking out labor and equipment costs in quotes.
post #10 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by dantherex

I am a pastry chef for a very high class venue in Texas and I do all the dessert items for weddings and events here.

I am a newbie ( not even, more like, baby) at cake decorating except for torting and icing a cake.
My bosses recently wanted me to start making wedding cakes that the venue could be a one stop shop for everything needed. I did warn them that I was fairly new to decorating cakes but that I would learn and that we would get this ball rolling.

Needless to say it has been a rough road. Mostly because I take care of the desserts for the events, there is no time to practice my cake decorating skills and I have 0 pastry help, all I can get are people from the culinary side of the kitchen to help me do the redundant stuff like dipping things and melting chocolate (they can't even do THAT right!) So my cakes so far have not been up to par (acceptable, I would say, but not good.)

My question is that I get into pickles because a bride asked for a damask design on her cake. But the templates for stenciling costs 60 dollars. And that was ALOT for just 1 cake. So instead I did my own stencils and just did the best that I could for the sake of saving money. ERRGG! Big mistake. How do you deal with equipment and things that you need that you will rarley use. Should I have told her "no." when she requested a damask design?



Goodness.....Sounds like you have excellent basic skills for desserts, but cake decorating is not a quickly learned skill. Like everything you have learned, it takes PRACTICE and TRAINING. A "high class" venue that wants to be a "one stop shop", has a VERY high bar for client expectations. Wedding cake tools and supplies can be very different from other culinary/dessert supplies/tools.

I would suggest that you meet with the management and tell them that the learning curve is more pronounced than you anticipated and cannot be done adequately while covering all of your other duties. They need to pay for you to attend an intensive training course from a wedding cake professional (many, many options out there), and provide the time off from work (at their expense), to attend the classes and perfect your skills. They also need to commit to a certain amount of tools and supplies specific to wedding cakes. The $60 stencil you are asking about is only the tip of the iceberg.

With your current skill level, you will probably be able to master many of the skills needed for wedding cakes in a fairly short time. BUT--you will also be spending much more time in addition to your current position.

If you or they don't wish to do this, I would suggest that they are not ready to be a "one stop shop". If they want to keep the profit "in house" and not use a wedding cake sub-contractor, then they need to spend the money for training and equipment and your extra time.
post #11 of 54
Inventory as part of the overhead of a business can be daunting. If a customer wants a cake that requires special processes, designs, or investment in equipment, these elements will be included in the price of the cake. You cannot afford to absorb the cost and the price of the cake should reflect the ingredients, time to design and equipment needed to produce the end result.
If you are producing the cake as an employee, your employer should be making the investment in all the inventory that you need. If you are producing the cake as an outside source, then you are a contractor and really your inventory should be separated from your employers.
Making life sweet!

Lindas Just Desserts

Inspected and licensed commercial kitchen
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Making life sweet!

Lindas Just Desserts

Inspected and licensed commercial kitchen
Reply
post #12 of 54
Thread Starter 
Alright, thank you all for your advice. Basically you were confirming my first thoughts. Now my employer reimburses me 100% of everything I spend. The problem I foresaw was that things like a damask stencil were going to raise questions (for example : Why is this so expensive? Is this thing necessary? Is there another way?) Plus I had already quoted the bride a price without the stencil.

I did have a nice little chat after my boss brought up the fact that the bride did not mention anything about the cake (which is a bad thing, she complimented everything else.) and I don't blame her, it was mediocre, but I'm just glad I had something out there.

I think my temporary fix is that I only do cakes I can see myself doing with essential tools, at least until our cakes grow better reputation. I also demanded to my boss that if she insists on doing cakes, that I need help in the pastry department and that the help from the culinary department is no help, they are retarded at taking things off the stove at a certain temperature for some reason.

Thank you guys so much, I included a pic of the cake (I think it belongs in the cake disasters section XD )
LL
post #13 of 54
Good grief - cannot believe that YOU have to buy the tools of the trade that you need to produce a cake that your bosses are promoting as part of their package..... icon_confused.gif

The place you work for would write everything off against their tax.

You say you do the desserts - well any stencils bought can also be used on ome of those - so it would be worth your while to keep them safe and use occassionally .
Even laid over a cake and then icing sugar sprinkled over the stencil and stenciled cookies - just to name two.

Think i would be sitting down with my boss - discussing this whole Wedding Cake Projuect in detail and asking for XXX.XX ammount of dollars to go buy some very worthwhile handy tools that you can use again and again..for both your desserts and cakes.

That is how you build up a workable cake decorating supply.

Ridiculous that you have to buy anything - icon_rolleyes.gif
I shake my head at that

Bluehue.
post #14 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluehue

Good grief - cannot believe that YOU have to buy the tools of the trade that you need to produce a cake that your bosses are promoting as part of their package..... icon_confused.gif


OP is reimbursed for the tools they buy, this is a relatively common practice when working as an employee.
post #15 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluehue

Good grief - cannot believe that YOU have to buy the tools of the trade that you need to produce a cake that your bosses are promoting as part of their package..... icon_confused.gif


OP is reimbursed for the tools they buy, this is a relatively common practice when working as an employee.



Maybe where you come from Jason - but no way in hell would that be acceptable over here.....Honestly - its no way to run a business... totally not acceptable here in Australia.

If the tools of the trade aren't there when you need them then the boss/bosses assitant would give you the petty cash to go buy....but that would be a rare thing.
Although i do find it odd that the OP is in this situation - surely to goodness the bosses or whoever is running the show would have bought in supplies in readiness for such orders.
Stencils aren't that uncommon - Just like having a mirred of colours - cutters and piping tips.... i know we come from different worlds - but gee, no supplies when one had to present wedding cakes - bit rough really.

Bluehue
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