disappointed woman on phone

Cake Business 911! I keep getting last minute cake cancellations from clients. They order cakes from me and then when I try to confirm a pick up date and time, they always cancel at the last minute what do I do?

I put a lot of time and effort into the order. Sometimes the client never picks up the order at all. Cake and time are wasted–I’m frustrated!

Last Minute Cake Cancellations are Common

This situation happens to a lot of bakers unfortunately, especially new ones who are operating in that gray area of cake hobby and cake business.

Although there are many seasoned bakers who are still operating in this space, last minute cake cancellations usually happen to those not operating as a full-fledged cake business.

These bakers generally have no policies or rules in place, yet are taking orders like a business, and collecting money. Since there is no formal business agreement, this creates the loophole for a client to cancel.

(Note: there is absolutely nothing wrong starting here, however it’s important to grow and develop if you really want to succeed as a cake business owner.)

At some point in time you will run into problems such as the one you have described if you do not have the documents mentioned above in place for your cake business.

Ultimately, never prepare for a cake, buy supplies, or even turn on your oven for an order that has not been confirmed with a contract and payment.

Protect Yourself from Last Minute Cake Cancellations

With a few changes to the way your manage your cake hobby/business, this situation can easily be avoided in the future.

First you have to protect yourself by taking a few steps to change the way you are currently operating. These changes will save you a lot of hassle and headaches.

  • Formally set up your business. This is stating the obvious, however it is time to set up your cake business (based on the laws/regulations for your local area). You are clearly making sales on a regular basis, go ahead and make things official.
    • Put a ring on it! You will need to check the laws, rules, and regulations in your area. If you are in the United States, you can often do this with a “DBA – Doing Business As”, and operate as a cottage food business, then grow into a larger retail establishment. If you act like a business, clients will respect you like a business.
    • Setting up a cake business has different requirements for each local area so you will need to research on your own how to do that, but in general the steps will be the same.
  • Implement a business contract. This document is an agreement which outlines in detail what you are selling and what the buyer is purchasing.
    • Both parties are then agreeing to date of delivery, and the terms and conditions outlined in order to complete the transaction. For the contract to be valid, both parties need to agree. Your contract should also state,
      • the order specifications
      • the pick up time
      • flavors, design, and decorations
      • agreed upon price
      • information detailing when the payment is due, and cancellation policy.

Prior to implementing your contract, have a lawyer review it for you. All terms should be met at least 10-14 days before the cake order needs to be made.

Prevent Last Minute Cake Cancellations

  • Add policies and procedures. This is to inform the customer how your business operates, and explains to them how things work when they place an order.
    • It is supplemental to your contract, but it is not the contract. Keep things simple and add on as a section to you contract.
    • On your contracts, you can state in the text that payment means acceptance and adherence to the policies and procedures.
    • Also mention this information in your frequently asked questions. Have them initial that they also received and read a copy of your policies and procedures/FAQs. As always, have a lawyer review this too.
  • No money, no cake! Your clients feel as if they can cancel on you at any time because they can. There is no investment, so they cancel. It’s very frustrating, however, they have not signed a contract with you, nor have put any money down to reserve their order.
  • They are not losing anything in this transaction, as they have to obligations or legal commitments to you. You are losing money, time, and patience because you have to invest all of those things to produce a product. Implement the items mentioned above and watch this problem disappear.
  • Facebook and Text Messages are not a contract. A string of texts and Facebook messages are not a substitute for an order or contract. That is just conversation facilitating engagement.
  • Once details have been confirmed, follow up via email with a contract. Inform the client that the contract must be returned with payment for their order to be confirmed on your calendar.
  • In general, it’s best to move conversation to more formal channels such as an appointment, phone call, or your business email. The point is to operate as a cake business and get the client to place an order with a signed contract, which is easier to enforce.

By implementing the changes outlined above, you will see this problem go away completely. Clients will even appreciate your professionalism which creates trust that you will deliver their cake as promised.

Have clients canceled on you at the last minute? How did you resolve it? Tell us in the comments below.

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