Archive for September, 2007

Anybody need a Dell??

As I mentioned I’m a big fan of the Dell computers. If you happen to need a new computer for business or personal you might want to have a look at this offer I just started getting. This is a pretty hefty machine for $750.

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A couple of good points about using a meal assembly service

There is a lot more to this article, but it did have a pretty decent summary of some of the advantages of using a meal prep store. There might be some ideas which could persuade customers.

It’s a value proposition. It does cost more than preparing your own meals at home. You might spend $17 to $25 per family meal (and check you local paper for “get acquainted” specials too).
But the benefits can be worth the cost, and if you get right down to it, it’s not that much more expensive than the fast food or take-out pizza alternative you usually settle for. And it’s way cheaper than that dinner for four, drinks and gratuity included, at Applebee’s.

What do you gain?
  • Time. Pure and simple. No grocery shopping, meal prep time or kitchen cleanups afterwards. And less stress too.
  • Variety. Tired of the same old grilled pork chops and roast chicken thighs? Bet the kids are anyway. These meals offer a chance to experience new flavors — real cooking — and something new for the repertoire. You might even become a better cook, as you get to see how different ingredients go together.
  • Complete family meals. There’s growing evidence that families eating meals together are more functional. Research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds “the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.” In fact, this organization has declared Sept. 24 ” Family Day — a day to eat dinner with your children.”
  • Some cost savings. OK, at $3.50 per meal per individual, on average — yeah, you can do it cheaper. But the cost of maintaining a kitchen stocked well enough to make these meals probably exceeds what you think. There’s that $6 bottle of sesame oil and the soy sauce and the honey and the garlic — all of which you’d have to keep on hand to do this kind of cooking.

You can read the whole article here:

Building a reliable menu

When I first got involved in this business in 2004, I thought the idea of a “rotating” menu was a big selling point. Unlike a restaurant where the menu is always the same month after month, the MA idea presented all new variety and could expose customers to all sorts of meals they would more than likely never have the chance to try. Instead of just serving the same thing over and over again, customers would really be able to expand the meals they offered their families and they wouldn’t get tired of the offerings.

I’m starting to change that opinion. I’m starting to see quite a bit of validity and stability in offering a more stable or “signature” menu. The idea of having old favorites that customers can get anytime they want could create customer loyalty and brand recognition.

For example, a menu of 12 items that are always available and a “rotating” menu might work out quite a bit better than always changing the menu around. If customers can’t find 6 or 12 meals they like they can always grab a few they know and like. I know there are flank steak and chicken recipes which have been a huge hit with customers and instead of bringing them back every now and again, maybe a more formal menu would be a better option.

Dream Dinners does their “Best of the Best” where they bring back their favorites for a month and almost all the stores bring back high demand meals every few months. It might be better just to leave those as permanent items for customers to choose. It could easily cause the effect of associating a store name with a food type and instead of having to wait for certain items to come back and perhaps losing interest in the idea, customers could pick up meals they like anytime.

I still like the idea of a menu that changes, but from the standpoint of building name recognition and creating meals customers really want, having a menu that is always available may be a key to more return visits.

Orlando Dream Dinners Blog

I’m not going to comment on every MA blog that comes along, but I did like some of things I read on the Orlando DD Blog. The blog is just underway so there aren’t too many entries, but their Community Corner was an interesting touch. Perhaps it’s free publicity or maybe just a small little network, but the idea of listing other related services on their blog is a pretty good idea.

It speaks to the “networking” idea we’ve been talking about. Okay, they aren’t other MA stores, but it’s not a bad (cheap) way to get your name out there and build some relationships with other stores.

If you scroll to the bottom there is even a little counter showing how many days until Christmas. I figured Thanksgiving would be a good one to put in there too, but hey, it’s not my site.

Just a couple of interesting ideas.

http://orlandodreamdinners.blogspot.com/

New Franchise Idea: Fewer Rules, More Difference

It looks like franchises may be starting to take a closer look and listen to what local owners have to say about how the stores are run. Although not a free for all, some franchises realize the benefit of allowing owners to make stores and the products “feel more homey”.

Freedom to Alter Menus, Prices May Help Chains Compete Better Locally

Franchises are sticklers for the cookie-cutter approach. Rules and processes are set down for owners buying into a uniform system. The decor has to be set just so; the products have to be prepared a certain way; and all signage needs to be consistent.

But a crop of franchisers are taking a very different approach: They are giving their franchisees some freedom to run their own operations, much like an independent small business — from personalizing store names and menus to fiddling with prices.

Part of the strategy is to give franchisees the flexibility to compete against independent businesses. But many franchisers also see it as a way to attract franchisees, who have a growing number of businesses to pick from. More than 900 new concepts have begun franchising since 2003, according to the International Franchise Association, based in Washington, D.C. There are nearly 800,000 franchised businesses in more than 80 different industries nationwide.

But on the downside there are some who feel this way:

“There are usually strict franchise agreements so that you can maintain the integrity of the brand,” says Gary Findley, chief executive of Findley Group, a Waco, Texas, franchise developer. “That’s what you’re trying to do, and if you give people a lot of latitude out there, you lose the branding and, in my opinion, you lose value.”

So I don’t think you’re going to see Dream Dinners or Super Suppers turn over the reigns, but this may be a signal that other franchises who want a more local flair will trust in their owners to make the right decisions and give customers want they want.

You can read the full article here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119006343277930179.html

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