The holidays are a great time to beef up your profits for the year. Giving your guests the option of ordering multiple serving sizes of their favorite sweets, as well as special holiday desserts, builds customer loyalty in a big way.
While the majority of people will eat their holiday dinners in a private home there is an increasing number of those people who don’t want to go to the trouble of making their own desserts. Perhaps they are intimidated by pie crust, dislike baking, or just don’t have time. Whatever the reason these people are more than willing to pay for dessert. Many of them already buy inferior quality pies and other desserts from the supermarket and would be willing to pay a little more for something that is custom made by their favorite restaurant or cafe.
Keep the Special Holiday Desserts at a Minimum
You do not want to add the potential for waste when you are considering what to offer. Look at your current in house desserts and work from there by choosing one or two of those and then adding one or two special holiday items. For example, if you have a best-selling pecan pie there is no reason not to sell it as a whole pie for the holidays. By adding a pumpkin pie and perhaps a spice cake you have three items that you can sell by the slice in the dining room or offer by special order.
Don’t offer more than three or four items that can be special ordered or you will lose money. It is more cost effective to make 50 pumpkin pies than 10 pumpkin, 20 pecan pies, 5 apple pies, and 15 chocolate cakes.
Have a Cut Off Date for Ordering
Unless you want to be spending the night before the holiday in the kitchen baking you need to have a cut off date for ordering. Thanksgiving orders should be all recorded by a week or so before — you can take rush orders, at a higher cost per dessert, until three days before the holiday. Charge enough for the rush orders that it makes it worth your time.
If you are going to offer special order desserts throughout the season, for holiday parties and such, then specify how much advance warning you need. You may find that you stay pretty busy with special orders throughout November and December.
Stagger Pick Up Days
Most holiday desserts are fine if they are stored for no more than three days in the refrigerator. When you schedule pick-up times be sure to stagger them over a three day period so you aren’t overwhelmed in one mad rush. You’ll be able to divide up the work over several days which will ultimately make life a lot more pleasant. If possible schedule the same varieties to all be made at the same time.
For example, beginning a week before the holiday:
Day 1 – Make pie crust and store it in the refrigerator.
Day 2 – Make all the cake layers.
Day 3 – Assemble and frost the cake and schedule pickups beginning in the afternoon.
Day 4 – Make the pecan pies and schedule pick ups beginning in the afternoon
Day 5 – Make all of the pumpkin pies and schedule pickups beginning in the afternoon.
Day 6 – Finish up any orders and rush orders.
Let Your Customers Know as Early as Possible
Be sure to get the word out! Start as soon as possible letting your customers know that they can purchase your amazing desserts for their holiday dinners and parties. Add a notice to your menu, have servers mention it when they are taking orders, and make a brochure listing the desserts and prices easily available. Be sure that the last day to order is prominently displayed so that there are no disappointments.
One way to generate interest is to offer small, sample slices of the desserts to every diner. Of course, when they taste how good it is they’ll be lining up to get their orders in.
Don’t price too high or too low. Check out the prices of similar products at your competitors businesses and then figure out your cost. It’s fine to charge a little more or a little less, depending on your own cost, but do try to keep it in line with what others are doing. If you price too low people will think your product is inferior and if you price too high they will think it’s overpriced.
It’s a good idea to have special pricing for the customer who buys three or more desserts. You don’t have to take much off but buy two get one half price sounds great and may increase your sales quite a lot.
Keep Careful Records
Keep a good record of how many of each item sold and the actual profit you made on them. You’ll be able to look back on it and plan even better next year. Look over the calendar and consider selling desserts for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day. You might find that you are able to increase profits without too much extra work.
That’s always a good thing!
Image: Marye Audet