New Cake Vibe…

8 Mar

We’re talking cake, sampling cake, baking cake and generally indulging in all things cake.  That goes from what’s inside to what’s outside.  So, after baking our cakes from scratch with butter, sugar, flour (unbleached), eggs and all that natural stuff, I’m becoming less inclined to cover the outside with anything other than Italian Meringue Buttercream.  Now, I know that people like the look of the smooth, rolled fondant.  I like that look too… But between the rising price of fondant, the overly sweet taste and the “too long” ingredient list, we are trying to get away from that type of decorating.

Most of you have already heard or read about our new cake focus, and for that, I thank you.  But it seems as if some potential customers still expect our bakery to churn out elaborate cakes like Cinderella, Let Them Eat Cake, Rockwell’s or even the Cake Boss’s place.  You are wondering where I’m going with this.  Well, we had an open house 2 weeks ago at the bakery.  The focus was on, what else, cake.  Our skeleton crew of staff and volunteers made and passed out samples of our chocolate cake with caramel buttercream and our vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  I admit that there wasn’t a buffet table full of treats, but we tried our darndest to tray pass samples to everyone.  Plus we had lots of baked goods in stock – from croissants to tarts, from marshmallows to shortbread – for purchase and for Groupon redeemers.

Do I sound defensive?  You’re still wondering where the meat of this post is.  Well, here goes.  Someone who attended our super-busy open house, at the peak of the rush, wrote the following comment on OC Weekly’s Stick a Fork in It blog about our event and something very similar on Yelp (with a low review).  I saw the blog post first and fumed for a while then the Yelp review was brought to my attention and I have to say something.  So here’s the person’s post –

I am having a birthday dinner and saw Blackmarket Bakery being advertised in conjunction with another business that I frequent, and that’s how I found out about Blackmarket Bakery and the open house. I need a birthday cake.

Long story short, the staff members in the back were content to stay in the back and deflect questions. The cashier is doing her job. And the only person available to place an order with or find out what I’m looking for was the owner. In the end, the owner states they dont do creative cakes anymore, it’s the tiered cakes now. There were no samples on hand as advertised, I don’t know if all the freebie people ate it. And the owner had no time to take an order because the OC weekly writer had just arrived and she is more important because it’s marketing. I stood there with my sample for awhile, ignored, I dont know how I was supposed to eat it and it was gooey, and nobody wanted to take a cake order, so I asked the cashier would it be better to place an order for a cake at a later time? The cashier thought that was a good idea, and quickly went to do something behind the register, without asking for my contact information so we could get this done. I set my cake sample down and left.

Cakes is a competitive market, everyone is making cakes – creative cakes. So when you get someone in your store ready to order, you take the order, that’s what the promotion is for. Have more people on the floor to handle questions being asked, or more importantly, to complete the orders and accept payment for them. You’re going to have every jane and joe in there looking for a freebie, but I think the goal is to bring in business and take cake orders; jane and joe complaining that the coffee pot is out of free coffee isn’t bring in money. My suggestion is to hire temporary people for these kinds of promotions that are sales oriented and people friendly, and that are ready to take cake orders; people that act like they don’t want to talk to you isn’t good.”

I just have to respond.  One, no one was hiding in the back or ignoring this person – we were just hustling to get product and samples out.  Two, if you have a problem with a business, you could easily speak to the owner (me) at a calmer moment.  Three, this person’s evaluation of us was based on probably the single most busy couple of hours in our 6 years of business – it is not usually like that.  And (most importantly) four, the attitude of this person, between the pettiness of complaining about us serving free coffee to every “jane and joe” and the need to have a sit-down formal cake consulting, is the embodiment of the main reason we are no longer doing custom cakes.  Getting away from artificial food coloring and fondant is the other.

There is a ton more that I could blather on about, but the bottom line is this – customers who care about flavor and quality are the ones that we are working to please.  Those that need elaborate designs and can’t understand the challenges of operating a small business are obviously those that we can’t make happy, no matter what we do.  In the end, I believe that this person would never have been a satisfied customer of ours anyway, even if we had pulled out all the stops.  Is that being negative?  Or pragmatic?

Or is our sassy attitude too sassy and pervasive to the detriment of the business itself?

From this:


To this:



10 Responses to “New Cake Vibe…”

  1. Dan Wooldridge March 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Bravo. Blackmarket is terrific, and willing to take wonderful bakery/cake business to keep customers in the loop while bravely experiementing with change. Keep up the great work, and ignore the brickbats (likely your less successful competitors).

  2. Elizabeth March 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Great post Rachel et al. It is so hard to please everyone, and you are trying to do what is right for your business and your business model.

    People throw around phrases like “just hire someone” as though it’s no big deal the bring in more people, actually 1) it costs money to hire someone, 2) it’s tough to find good people, and 3)maybe you don’t need to hire someone–you had a scheduling conflict, as noted. But of course the reviewer did not think of that. S/he felt they were being ignored, that the OC Weekly writer was more important, etc.

    I know for a fact it is NEVER your goal to ignore a customer, you are trying to do a demanding job and meet the myriad needs of customers and employees.

    Think about it the next time you feel like writing a shoddy review: do you actually think the company is trying to ignore you? Do you think they intend to harm you in any way? Do most small business owners think “whatever, we don’t need customers.” Common sense would = NO.

    So rather than roasting them anonymously, I’d try dropping them a line, see what they say. You’d be surprised how much they want to make it up to you!

  3. Cammie March 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    The elaborate fondant cakes didn’t taste good IMO (the frosting/fondant part) so good riddance to that and hello to Italian buttercream.

    The Open House was a zoo! The retail store is way too small to handle such a crowd. I was there and anyone who was looking for special attention chose the wrong day to do it. There just wasn’t enough staff to customers and it was packed like sardines. I couldn’t even get a sample and just left and had lunch from one of the food trucks, sitting happily on the grass outside away from the elbowing chaos.

    If you do another open house, please consider taking it outside if at all possible. In the meantime, I will enjoy my Blackmarket goodies from Farmers Markets and cafes. Keep up the yummy baking.

    • blackmarketbakery March 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      Thanks for the constructive criticism in relation to the open house Cammie. I appreciate your feedback. The event coincided with the last weekend of the Groupon offer, by design, but we obviously weren’t expecting as many people as we had. We’ll take your feedback into account before our April event! Cake on…

  4. Chownoir March 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    You can’t please everyone all the time. And if someone is that self absorbed and clueless, you’re better off without them as a customer. Unfortunately they will be pretty vocal and you will have to combat that somehow.

    But often businesses are afraid to “fire” a customer. I actually respect businesses more if they’re upfront about what they can and can’t handle. Sometimes I’m just not a right fit for a vendor and vice versa. Good Luck!

  5. Renee March 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Rachel, that was not a customer. That was a spoiled child flexing their yelp muscle because they need to be the center of attention. I love these folks that never see a bottom line, yet they know everything about where, when and why they should get what they want. He/she should put a fork in “it” and go there.

    You made a decision to embrace a cake style that works for you and frankly I think it’s a good one. I know the long unrewarded hours theme cakes take and then in the end they don’t even taste that good.

    Remember people like this will run you and your business to the ground.Don’t let them dictate how you should do things. There are real customers out there looking for just the kind of service you and your team provide.I/we would prefer your delicious cake over any other.

  6. Lauren March 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    Gotta just let it roll off (note: I hate when people tell me this). But when you have so many people who love you and are totally TOTALLY with you on getting the crap out of cake, that’s All that’s important. And I can’t wait to taste these new cakes!

  7. Leonard March 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    I think you are on the leading edge of where the “real” cake business will be going. We are being duped by TV to believe that a cake should look better than it tastes. I don’t like the taste of fondant and end up scraping it off. So what’s the point? If you want a creative cake that tastes like linoleum covered sawdust, fine. If you want a tasty cake, go to Blackmarket.

  8. Bridget Reilly March 10, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    The would needs more sassy treat bakers that produce tastier and healthier (not sure about healthier but maybe less processed?) options! Keep up the great work!

  9. Michelle Nelson (Adam's mom) March 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Rachel, we certainly loved our Day of the Dead Cake. That said, we discovered you at the Bat’s Day Marketplace and I found your business to be so incredibly unique. From the skeleton themed gingerbread people, to the UH-mazing brownies, to the cool packaging, it was like finding that shiny new something and I couldn’t wait to share with others. I immediately looked up your location that evening. Everything Adam has made in your classes has been phenomenal, and you offer products and classes which are unrivaled. You have a knack for the niche. Niche being unique, trend-setting new, and so tasty. We wish you continued success. ps …please keep offering those classes! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: