Tuesday, 19 October 2010

"…Come taste and try before you buy…." "Sampling" - SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES

Selling direct to the public might be a playful game for contestants in BBC TV’s The Apprentice but it is a serious business for young entrepreneurs in the real world.

Last weekend there were a set of market stalls set outside London’s Royal Festival Hall as part of the three day Cheese and Wine Festival.

The first stand that caught my eye was a cake stall – the connection with cheese being cheesecakes - .

The business Sweet Tooth Factory is a relatively new enterprise set up by baker and artisan cake maker Kaelie Akaraskul who originally studied furniture design but has turned her hobby into a business.

From a home based start-up, the business is growing. The next stages of searching for premises and expansion are underway.
The business is doing well. The products are selling like hot cakes (even if the cheesecakes are cold !)

It got me thinking about that selling expression “Selling like hot cakes”. Traditional songs like "hot crossed buns" for those special buns for Good Friday suggest a long heritage to such sales pitches, but according to the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson

"Hot cakes cooked in bear grease or pork lard were popular from earliest times in America. First made of cornmeal, the griddle cakes or pancakes were of course best when served piping hot and were often sold at church benefits, fairs, and other functions. So popular were they that by the beginning of the 19th century 'to sell like hot cakes' was a familiar expression for anything that sold very quickly effortlessly, and in quantity."

I doubt bear grease and pork lard are used much in cake making today but as the photo shows most of Kaelie’s products had sold out on the Saturday evening. Despite the selctions she had prepared for the Sunday, Kaelie reckoned that she had to get back baking through the night for the third and last day of the festival.
Running such a business is hard work after a whole day on her feet working the stall- what super drive, energy and enthusiasm.

Another stall doing brisk business at the festival was Lovely Bubbly. Director Mike Amann has a business in Champagnes. He imports from the smaller houses and his stall was part education part sale. For £12 you could sample four different champagnes and then have a glass of your favourite from the selection.

Mike’s passion and knowledge of wines began early. His career took him into the Civil Engineering world but his passion for wine never left him and is now his business. Product was flying off the shelves by Saturday evening the sampling had stopped and he was just focusing on orders.

Along with other food stalls of cheeses , sausages and breads there was a marquee where demonstrations and lectures were being conducted on subjects as wide as wines to cheese making. All seats were taken andpeople were standing at the back five rows deep.

*The selling “Cries of London” have not changed so much after 330 years and even before.
Hark! How the cries in every street
Make the lanes and allies ring:
With their goods and ware, both nice and rare,
All in a pleasant lofty strain;
Come buy my gudgeons fine and new.
Old cloaths to change for earthen ware,
Come taste and try before you buy.
Here's dainty poplin pears.
Diddle diddle diddle dumplins, ho!
With walnuts nice and brown
Let none despise the merry, merry cries
Of famous London town.
The Cries of London, c. 1680


  1. Thanks for the story Hugh; a great piece to use with my EFL students. I've got a session on metaphors and idioms so I'll pull my finger out and spark their interest in the concept of selling like hot cakes. On the sales front, "Passion" is another thread running through this blog - both Mike and Kaelie made a career change to embrace their passions.
    Btw which Champagne got your vote?

  2. The rose got my vote

    Beautiful smoked salmon colour and joyful taste.

    I forgot to take a note of the name

    Maybe Mike can comment and reeducate me