Top Tips for Running a Profitable Cake Stall

As far as fundraisers go, cake stalls are about as traditional as you can get. While some people are getting scared off the ubiquitous money maker due to increasing concerns and legislation about safe food handling, a well run cake stall is a guaranteed money spinner.

What Food Should You Sell?

  • You need to take your customers into account when deciding what foods to focus on. For example, families and older people prefer whole cakes; morning people want savoury muffins, bacon and egg rolls, banana bread and coffee; kids like individual things like honey joys and chocolate crackles; and everyone loves cupcakes and muffins.
  • The time of day should also be considered: savoury baked goods (in particular mini quiche and savoury muffins) are always popular, particularly on early morning stalls (and elections) or if you are selling over the lunch break as an alternative to a sausage sizzle.
  • Old classics are still around for a reason: honey joys, chocolate crackles, cupcakes and hedgehog slice are kid-friendly. Not only can kids help make them, but they are always quick to sell on cake stalls. They are also very economical to make and therefore are profitable to sell.
  • Stay up with trends and consider items like raw slices and bliss balls – a paper cone filled with mini bliss balls would be an easy snack to eat while walking around a fete, and appeal to people who are looking for healthier options. Don’t forget to clearly label anything with nuts.
  • Ask people who donate food not to make anything that requires a fork or spoon to be eaten. On a cake stall, everything should be able to be eaten with fingers, preferably without the need for a serviette.
  • Likewise, make sure people avoid fresh cream or anything that will spoil without refrigeration or melt in the sun.
  • Although grandparents might think they’re cute, cupcakes and biscuits decorated by your toddler might not sell so well… there’s nothing quite as suspicious as a pile of wobbly cupcakes with chunks missing and little fingerprints all over them.

Your volunteers and families:

  • Without donated goodies your cake stall is doomed, so the people donating cakes are your biggest asset. Treat them with respect, make sure you thank them adequately and communicate clearly exactly what you need.
  • Tell your families to think outside the (cake)box: not everything has to be a cake. ‘Treats’ such as gingerbread men, bags of popcorn and Rocky Road are guaranteed successes.
  • Ask people not to cut slice and cakes in advance. Not only will they stay fresher if they are kept whole until just before sale, if one person is responsible for cutting, then you can ensure some uniformity (and generosity).
  • If people are going to send their biscuits and cakes in non-recyclable containers ensure they are they are named. Better still, buy cardboard cake boxes and slice boxes online – they will only add a small cost to your stall and make everyone’s life a lot easier.
  • Keep an eye on the clock and about an hour prior to closing your stall consider marking down the remaining goods for quick sale. Make signs in advance such as ‘fill a box for $10’ or similar to ensure you don’t wind up with lots of leftover food. (Unless that was your plan all along).

 How to set up your display:

  • Never overload your tables. Keep some stock back and make it easy for people to see what is available. Too much choice can freak some people out. If people are looking for something specific, you can always mention you have other cakes ‘out the back’.
  • Beauty sells, so invest in the layout and display of your cake stall with matching tablecloths, elegant cake stands, large glass jars for the biscuits and cupcake towers.
  • Have serviettes, paper bags and empty boxes available for customers who want to take their food away.
  • People like to buy whole cakes so make sure that you do not cut up everything that is donated.
  • Print and laminate signs with pricing that is consistent and easy to read. It’s easier to make one sign, than explain that ‘cupcakes are $2’ to 100 different people. Similarly, when you are trying to sell leftover goodies, signs that are visible from a distance such as ‘fill a box for $10’ will help attract customers.
  • Only price with whole numbers, such as biscuits for $1 and cupcakes for $2. The fewer different prices you have, the easier it is for everyone (especially those doing the adding up in their head).

Worth considering:

  • Who are you raising money for? If it’s a school or charity fundraiser, keep a glass jar for people’s change they might donate to your cause. If it is for a specific project (such as installing a new nature playground or buying computers for the library), then place some posters up which explain what you are doing and how much you wish to raise. People might be willing to contribute extra.
  • Don’t forget your float and make sure you have plenty of change. The first customer will buy a $2 muffin and only have a $50 note. It’s almost guaranteed.
  • beautifully decorated cupcake will always sell better than a plain one, even if the plain one tastes 10 times better. Generous frosting, sprinkles, lollies and fancy muffin cases will make it easier to sell.
  • Some items you might need on the day: cutting knives, paper plates or bags for serving, serviettes, paper and a black marker to make signs, stickers for prices, cake and cupcake stands, tongs for handling the food, food handling gloves, rubbish bags, paper towel (for spills), change and money container, extra cake boxes. It’s worth asking your school P&C to invest $50 in a large plastic tub with all of these things in it, so you can just pull it out each time you have a cake stall.
  • It’s common these days to ask bakers to list the ingredients on the box to accommodate people with allergies. It’s essential you know if there are nuts in one of your donated gifts. Consider a special Gluten Free section, or if someone makes a cake that is GF, make sure you identify it clearly.
  • Advertise your cake stall in the local paper or with signs the week prior, particularly for standalone cake stalls associated with government elections. For elections, it’s sometimes worth joining forces with other groups to make a mini fete with a number of stalls, such as face painting, second-hand books, sausage sizzle or raffle.
  • Many local councils may require – at a minimum – notice that you are running a cake stall; others will require some proof that you are complying with food safety guidelines and regulations. Don’t see this as a major impediment – it can sometimes mean just a phone-call or email, and once a relationship is established, it can just be added to your running sheet of things to do.

Author: Shannon Meyerkort

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