Every year around July and August, with Beth Fahey, owner of Chicago’s Creative Cakes and a speaker at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas, sits down with her co-owner and sister to have a meeting and establish what new ideas, trends and flavor profiles they want to bring in for the coming year. “Sometimes we get a decorating idea from just pulling out the DecoPac book and seeing what new items are available,” she says. “To be honest, we really just ask ourselves what we can do that has the biggest visual wow that doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg to do.”
In the past they’ve made the mistake of doing beautiful but labor-intensive and detailed decorating work on their cupcakes, she says. People loved them, but the sisters came to the conclusion afterward that given how much time and effort went into making them, they saw little to no profit from the sales. “You have to find things that are cute as far as their pictures go, and then just do some different colors or sprinkles to jazz it up and that really seems to work, because then we’re not spending tons of labor on it.
“It’s kind of like, you know they’re super-cute and they’re all over Pinterest, but honestly, you have to think about what your profit margin is going to be on these things at the end of the day. It’s ok to do those things for custom customers and then charge accordingly, but for stuff that’s going out in the case it’s more about a flavor profile.” For example, a cupcake with crushed peppermint candy on top is more a “flavor-wow” than a strong visual-wow, she says.
“A thing that we’ve been seeing lately,” she says, “particularly with showers, is that people want the really high-end cupcake, with the fondant covering with quilting and all of that stuff, or they have a different MAC cosmetic on each cupcake — we can’t even charge enough for those things. This is how Pinterest is influencing the customer, but what the customer doesn’t understand is that each of these cupcakes is literally $12 by the time you factor in what all you should charge for, and even then, you’re lucky if you’re making a profit off of it.”
The conflict is recurrent enough that Fahey is actually going to speak about overcoming the obstacle at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition in October. “(The seminar will be about) how Pinterest is affecting consumer wants, and then the disillusionment when they find out how much something costs. It’s difficult to manage as a store owner because you don’t want to be constantly disappointing your customers, but at the same time, you have to stay in business. And at the end of the day, it is a business that you are running, you do need to consider these things and not always be bending over backwards for something that’s going to end up costing you money in the end.”