Archive for July, 2007

Mr. Food and No Fuss Meals

Mr. Food is taking his show on the road and he’s looking for people to buy his franchise. Mr. Food enters the meal assembly business with No Fuss Meals, his own version of the meal assembly business. The franchise already has locations in Florida and is now branching out.

Three years after the corporate Mr. Food no-fuss Meals store opened in Coral Springs, Florida, the popular meal assembly retail concept has expanded throughout the state and is continuing national expansion with numerous store locations slated to open this year.

In addition to the Coral Springs store, Mr. Food no-fuss Meals franchise locations are open in Boca Raton and Wellington. Other Florida store locations scheduled to open in 2007 include Plantation/Davie, Palm Beach Gardens, Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale, Melbourne and Jacksonville. Additionally, stores in Asheville, North Carolina, and other select national markets will open this year.

Although not Suzanne Sommers, Mr. Food still has some celebrity status:

Mr. Food no-fuss Meals is the only meal assembly franchise to be backed by the brand awareness of a celebrity – nationally syndicated television show host, popular food personality and author, Mr. Food (Art Ginsburg)

Other franchises are certainly trying to work deals with other vendors to raise their brand awareness. By publishing multiple books and having his own show, what can we expect? That’s hard to say, but could we see a TV show dedicated to making meal assembly meals at home? (We’ve already seen the cookbooks on this idea). Will we see food from the syndicated show make its way to the store itself? Having a substantial media empire behind you can certainly give you opportunity to try new things.

Own Suzanne’s Kitchen!

Althought it never quite got off the ground, there was a lot of talk about Suzanne’s Kitchen. Sommers was the really the first celeb to put her name and buying power behind this industry. When I first heard about her entry into the market I really expected it was going to “shake things up a bit”. But alas, the best laid plans and all that.

But now the store in Lexington, Kentucky is up for sale. There were plans to reopen the store, but it would seems that will not come to pass.

It looks like they were prepared to do some pretty heft business. It looks like a walk in freezer and refrigerator at the ready in the back of the store.

No, I’m not trying to help Suzanne sell the store. I think “Chrissy” has put a few coins together and will scrape by without my intervention. I was more interested in the interior shots you can see in this ad.

And also, this was just one of about a dozen meal assembly stores listed for sale on various websites…

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Chef Dane makes it’s debut in Arizona, with more stores to come.

There is a lot of press about Chef Dane opening additional stores across the country. Their offering is a more “gourmet” and upscale menu that features a few more exotic ingredients that the kids may wrinkle their noses at. However, the market is still literally bursting with all the stores on the scene. Can a store with a more gourmet flair survive in these times? The owners of the new Chef Dane in Arizona think so, even with dozens of other stores in the area.

With more than 40 stores providing a similar concept across the Valley, partial owner Jack Feiter said he bought into the franchise for its unique gourmet spin on the meal-prep concept.

At Chef Dane’s customers can come in and prepare meals such as Atlantic salmon with black bean pineapple salsa themselves. Or, they call their order in and have it made by a store attendant for easy pick up later.

For customers who want to make the meal preparation a social, interactive experience, stainless steel “prep stations” form an island in the middle of the store. Recipe placards sit atop the stations and customers follow the directions using the meal ingredients that are laid out at each station.

For example, at the “chocolate bread pudding with amaretto sauce” station, a bin of eggs, chocolate chips, coffee and other ingredients sit in refrigerated tubs. Customers don plastic gloves, whip up the recipe in a mixing bowl, scoop the batter and sauce in disposable containers, and take the product home to bake later.

Recipes can be altered to suit each customer’s taste. Feiter said some patrons opt to leave out overpowering spices, garlic or pepper. Other customers consult him to make recipes vegetarian or diet-friendly.

Chef Dane also has an agressive expansion plan for the area. A 5 year plan to have outlets across the state.

The company’s Arizona franchise manager, Joe Cunningham, said the goal is to open 14 Chef Dane’s outlets across the state within the next two years, and possibly 30 over the next five years. The chain is also in the process of creating a central Arizona franchise office in Scottsdale.

Maybe gourmet is good. Maybe upscale will upsell. Maybe “fresh, never frozen” will prevail. Singles and maybe “empty nesters” might be more attracted to this particular menu. With a multitude of similar stores already in the area a new store will certainly have to set itself apart and do it quickly to survive.

It will certainly be interesting to see what kind of landscape there is for the meal assembly business within the next two years, let alone five.

And as a final thought… There is something really familiar about those walls…

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Too much of a good thing!

Al Tomkins in his article: “Meal-Assembly Business Booming” has a few interesting comments about the meal assembly business and several links to some older articles. But one thing I found funny was:

Nearly 300 companies — all with quirky monikers playing off the words “dinner,” “supper” or “thyme”

But besides agreeing with me on some rather unusual names, the articles give a few interesting impressive and this little nugget. I find this stat very disturbing:

Nationwide, meal-assembly stores are expected to open at a rate of more than one per day, and revenue is expected to more than double to $270 million this year, according to the trade group. The industry is expected to pull in $1.1 billion by 2010.

How can the meal assembly business possibly manage to sustain itself with that level of growth? One new store a month was showing the potential for disaster, how will this industry survive with this nonsensical rate of growth?

But despite all that, one thing keeps being lost with the pre-assembled, call ahead, grab and go mentality: Customers get “two guilt-free hours out with girlfriends, yet it’s very productive for your family.

Wasn’t this the goal for this industry all along? A way for people to make meals for themselves, enjoy a social atmosphere and enjoy time away from the kids?

Starved for time and a home-cooked meal – Publix offers help

Publix Super Markets, the area’s largest grocer, is diving into the food prep and assembly business.

We have already read that Publix is right in the fray of opening meal prep centers within their stores. We could definately see an upsurge in this kind of combination, however as this article points out, there are some consumers who are still skeptical.

The Lakeland-based chain will open its first Make-Ahead Meal outlet in the Jacksonville area this fall. The store is an extension of Publix Apron’s program, which includes recipes, simple meals and cooking schools, spokesman Dwaine Stevens said. Another pilot store is slated for the Tampa Bay area.

But, she said, she isn’t sure that she would patronize a meal-assembly outlet, whether at Publix or at a private firm. “I don’t like to buy bulk food because it would stay in the freezer too long,” she said in a telephone interview.

Petrosky also said she thinks $200 for 12 meals is a bit costly. “Maybe if it was $100 or we had the ability to get fewer meals, I could consider it,” she said.

The $200 for 12 meals is right in line with almost all other vendors, but, if grocery stores are going to stick with just 12 meals and not allow consumers to grab 6 or even 3, that could certainly limit their viability.

There is certainly no lack of potential customers. A recent study still shows many people still have trouble finding the time to make the meals, let alone clean up from their efforts.

A recent quick poll at asked panelists what things discouraged them most from cooking. Of those who responded, 58 percent said they didn’t like to clean up and 49 percent said they didn’t have time.

The poll also found more consumers preferred a supermarket deli than restaurants and fast-food.

“Ready-to-eat meals are becoming increasingly popular with time-constrained shoppers,” said trends analyst and author Phil Lempert in an article in Progressive Grocer.

The article also offers a couple of interesting statistics:

Food for Thought

70% of parents get stressed about dinner

47% don’t know what to make

23% don’t have time to cook

62 Average number of prepared food items offered at grocery stores

1,500+ Meal prep operations in the United States as of June 9

Read the full article here:

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