Archive for August, 2007

Interesting relationship between things – Origins of the AAMAO?

This doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but it’s kind of interesting to note the relationships between certain things. I previously made a post about the America Association of Meal Assembly Owners, but that doesn’t actually come up as a site and you can see some remnants of it on Yahoo. Well, I went back and revisited that topic and put that name and site back into Yahoo. There was something about a site I found this morning that got me thinking – again this is usually where the trouble start much like the computer fiasco of days past.

If you look at you will notice at the very bottom a link to the site And as the site says you can buy a package on how to set up your own meal assembly business.

Well, doesn’t actually answer, but, if you go to you see the big banner right at the top for So it seems that DoItDinners not only wants to run their own meal assembly site they want to sell you one too.

What does this have to do with AAMAO? I’m glad you asked. If you find the cached Yahoo page you will find this (note the web address):

Welcome to Do it Dinners!
Select RESERVATIONS and choose a day and time you’d like to attend. … Don’t have time to attend a session? … Read our FAQ or See Pricing … – 9k

So it appears that DoItDinners wants/wanted to start a meal assembly association and laid out some of the groundwork. They have a store they can base their figures on, they are more than happy to sell you the materials you need to start your own and to top it all off, they want to start an association to collect dues and sell you even more things you need for your budding business.

Sounds vaguely familiar to another group out there doesn’t it???

I could be totally wrong, but it certainly makes for a good story… :)

Like said, I find the links between certain things to be interesting…

It’s all about calling ahead so you can pick it up.

It seems that call ahead food service is becoming more and more popular each year. Making the meals is now taking too long. People just want to call in their order and pick it up on the way home…

More recently, curbside takeout, which has become a fast-growing trend at many casual-dining chains, is attracting the attention of other retailers eager to get in on the action, including Whole Foods Market, Publix Super Markets, HoneyBaked Ham; and a growing easy-meal-assembly segment, all competing for the food dollar of time-pressed families.

“We still see substantial growth opportunities in the takeout segment,” said Darren Tristano, e.v.p./Technomic Information Services. “Consumers now have more sophisticated tastes, but even less time to cook. Takeout operators that give them convenience without compromising quality will be able to capture substantial incremental sales.”

Suppliers can also play a key role in developing menu items with eat-at-home appeal, and packaging that retains food freshness in transit, Tristano noted.

Among the key takeaways of the new takeout report is the finding that the proportion of consumers who order takeout “on the go” from their car or elsewhere on their cell phone is growing rapidly. Nearly three out of 10 consumers (29 percent) who ordered takeout did so from their cell phone, nearly double the rate of on-the-go ordering from just two years ago.

Further, a greater percentage of consumers than ever before are using takeout as home meal replacements, opting to order food during transit and consuming it in the comfort of their homes.

A month’s worth of meals for college students?

Do you have a lot of people setting this up? It sort of took off last year, but then dropped off. The idea of parents or students making a month’s worth of meals to start the year off with. It certainly has merit. The hope is the kids will at least have something better than ramen noodles and mac and cheese to eat – at least for a little while.

The college kids probably won’t come in and make the meals themselves on a regular basis – doesn’t have the right “cool” factor, but it could certainly be a big help to a lot of them. When the swing on by to get the laundry done they go out there and make some meals. :)

Actually since everyone is going with call ahead meal prep anyway, it should be no problem to just swing by and pick the meals up. Or maybe even mom and dad call ahead, pay for the meals and just have their child go pick the meals up. Hmm…

Public Enemy #1!

I’m not sure what I did to get on the naughty list, but the site has been under siege with bogus comments all day. About every 20 minutes another spam comment gets posted by some ‘bot’. WordPress seems to be catching them, but in case one happens to slip through I apologize in advance.

Should I take this as a sign that we’ve been become popular enough to spam? Or did someone enter the site address at one of those sites that’s on the wrong side of the tracks? :)

Or is this some plot to thwart my formation of the most powerful meal assembly association in the world??? :)

On side note I have been waging my own battle. After making one small update to Windows, I crashed the whole thing. Won’t boot, goes to a blue screen. Of course, I have experience in these matters and figured I would have things back up and running in no time. Well, that’s what I said last night anyway.

Using one of my other machines as a support vehicle, I spent the day installing and reinstalling and reinstalling again, trying to get this machine back up and running. It really wasn’t that big of a blunder so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t salvage the machine. I really thought I’d broken something and was getting ready to go in with paddles and screwdriver blazing!

Then it hit me. The thunderbolt. The light bulb. The epiphany.

I have two video cards in this system, which has been working fine for months. Well, just because it works with Windows running, doesn’t mean you can install it that way. So after wasting an entire day and hacking away at everything but the real problem, I removed the second video card and fixed the machine. It took me almost 24 hours to accomplish 40 minutes worth of work… Oh well, at least Windows is fast again!

But make no mistake, tomorrow, that card is going back in!

Damnable computers…

Community Support

I have always assumed a franchise offered just such a communtiy of like-minded owners. At the very least I thought they would all have open discussion forums available only to store owners. Yes?

The other probelm with the EMPA, which was really beyond their control, was that so many of the members hadn’t even opened stores. Many peple joined just as part of their research phase. This made discussions and sessions (at the conference I attended) very one-sided. And as someone who had been open for over a year (and through my first summer) and was struggling through the day-to-day realities, endless chatter about measuring cups was not enough to draw me to the forums.

You would be surprised at how little support there is available, at least I was. There was no discussion forum, or support group, again, at least nothing useful. The best you could do was to ask a question in email and hope you got an answer. Most of the time it was a “we’ll look into it” or “that’s on the list”. Usually, that’s about as far as anyone looked into the matter.

A true discussion forum would have so easy and so beneficial, but it never happened. The forum software used on this site is FREE. The blog software on this site is FREE. I can’t understand why a heavily financed company couldn’t get something so simple set up. I have no budget whatsoever and I got everything up and running within a day (less than a couple of hours actually).

There is a site for every other topic out there – photography, writing, you name it, all run by people who have no budget, just an interest in their “hobby” and a want to talk to like minded people. Imagine what it would be like to have a place to ask questions to see if you can solve a problem by people in the same business as you. Too bad HQ couldn’t spend the 10 minutes it takes to set up this kind of software.

Truthfully, I think there would be such a level of fear or saying anything negative in general or negative about the corporate office specifically, that even if such a forum did exist, it would be riddled with nonsensical propaganda and would be worthless. Endless topics of “Customers love this recipe” and “Customers are so happy with this trinket” would serve no one. You really can’t say what’s on your mind if you’re worried about HQ reading every post.

Additionally, there was no central way to find the email address of the other stores. You basically had to look them up on the web and then send an email. Of course, most people just assumed you were trying to steal an idea so the level of support offered was pretty low. Well, we felt that way with just about every email we got… Why give up something to another store when you can’t really prove it’s them? It’s really sad to have that level of mistrust with people who are supposed to be part of the same “family” you are. But considering so many people act like they have a store but really don’t or they just want to ask an “innocent question” because they are in the research phase (but have the full intent of using it in their own business) it’s hard to trust anyone.

Or if you say the wrong thing, it will get back to HQ and now you have a whole new set of problems. “So and so said this”, “So and so isn’t very helpful”, “So and so isn’t very nice to their customers”, “I tried to ask about your business and So and so just blew me off!”

Moreover, the “copy cat” mentality of this industry (and others as well) makes it really hard to want to offer help since your idea is just “helping the competition”. As you mention, you go to a conference and everyone there is a competitor. Even if you’re part of the same franchise there is the thought that they will steal your idea and then you’ve just lost your uniqueness factor. And if you don’t toss out every great idea you have, well, you’re just not part of the team. You’re being difficult and you don’t want to help anyone. No, I really don’t want to help you steal my customers.

It’s happened several times; I’ve created a promotional idea and sent it out to our store’s customers in a newsletter (promo code, contest offer, or some other special). Within a week, half the other stores in the area are doing the exact same thing. Not just close, but the same thing. Now you have to be careful about what you put in newsletters because your idea is going to be taken. Honestly you feel like spies are everywhere.

I really thought there would be a huge support system for store owners. The reality is you pretty much have to fend for yourself. You can ask for help and you can try to work with other stores, but there is no guarantee you will get anywhere. More than likely new stores will be asking you for help and advice. You really will get tied down with “endless chatter about measuring cups” and other topics you past months ago.

So where is all this going? Basically, I had assumed that an association for this industry would be instrumental in providing an environment for owners to discuss “the day-to-day realities” with other owners. It seems what I have found is that associations are more concerned with selling products rather than trying to make sure owners stay in business.

And as a side note, my hopes for AAMAA have already been dashed. All variations of that domain name are taken (and what good is an association without a catchy domain name), so I will have to come up with a whole new moniker for my World Dominating Association. :)

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