Archive for October, 2007

But Halloween isn’t over yet…

Despite what stores would like to have us believe by taking down the Halloween decorations and replacing them with Christmas decorations of every variation you can think of, Halloween is not yet over. Being the big fan that I am of said “holiday” I am dangerously excited about this weekend. :) Many of the little people in the neighborhood will hopefully be out tonight using the weekend to trick-or-treat rather than the traditional weekday which limit the time. Plus it gives them a touch more daylight before we change the clock tomorrow… So several stores and organizations are using this weekend to give the little kids a safe place to trick or treat.

And in that spirit I will of course need to select the traditional Halloween symbol – the pumpkin and set its gruesome face ablaze. With that in mind I have come across a couple of entertaining websites with plenty of ideas for pumpkin carving. has fun selection of patterns you can use and best of all they’re free. From traditional templates to some offbeat patterns they should have something the kids will like. has a great selection of more intricate and complex pumpkin templates but they only charge a nominal fee for their designs. I do believe I will be trying some of these tonight. From movie characters, video game icons, scary patterns and amusing faces, they have a wide selection available.

I know there are dozens of other places out there, but if you haven’t decided on that most special of Halloween symbols yet, this might be a good place to start.

It’s off to the pumpkin patch today then to the laboratory tonight to give my creation life!! :)

Yeah, I’m a little excited… Sorry… :)

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Has anyone been? What’s it like?

I’ve seen this comment more times than I can count. This is just a customer waiting to happen, but for some reason they just aren’t compelled to cross the threshold and come on in. They know about the idea, process and concept and it appeals to them, but they’re held back by something.

There are literally hundreds of blogs out there that have a post that starts off with “I heard about “Insert Company Here” and I like the idea. Has any been? What’s it like?

And in most cases you get a slew of responses with people eager to tell which store they’ve been to, what the experience was like, which meal they liked, what the kids thought of it and how much it cost.

So how do we as owners get that customer to come into the store or make a call for the pickup service? They’re interested, they want to try it, but there is something that just won’t make it happen. How can we find out what that is and overcome their hesitation?

Do they need a coupon for a free meal?
Do they get a free meal if they write a review about the experience?
Do they need a friend to come with them?

I just keep seeing this phrase a lot (as well as, “I get their emails, but I haven’t gone in yet”) so I wonder what we can do to make this person a customer. What do they need to make them sold on the idea?

Assembling meals outside your kitchen

Anyone ready to try the idea of packing the meals in dry ice and shipping them to customers? :) Actually, the comments for this article are worth reading. Many people still don’t have the most positive of images of this idea…

Making a mess in the kitchen is a fact of life if you eat at home. If cooking isn’t your favorite thing to do, then cleaning up afterward may serve as an even bigger punishment. Kitchen counters cluttered with pots and pans can create stress and make fast food tempting.

Dream Dinners is one of these types of stores where you prepare 12 meals in two hours. Let’s Dish is like Dream Dinners but it has an option where you can pay extra for the store to make your dinners and you just pick them up and take them home. Many of these meal assembly stores are locally owned, so check your regional retail listings to learn about them in your area.

While researching the assembly line stores, I also learned about services that will mail you dinners frozen in dry ice. Dine Wise is a meal delivery service that offers weight loss, diabetic, low carb, low sodium, and gluten free mailed meals. And, Chefs Diet is one that promises its clients that they will lose weight eating their food. A Google search for “prepared meals by mail” will yield pages of results of companies offering home delivery.

Read the whole article and the comments here:

More Moms Staying (and Eating) at Home

Now here’s something I hadn’t considered before – the decline in restaurant sales is due to an increase in Moms staying home. There is a lot of information which might be affecting the sales to restaurants and meal assembly stores. And once you read the article this site has its own interpretations which might be directly affecting the restaurant business. Specifically MA stores like Dream Dinners, Super Supper and Meal Makers are listed as having an impact.

And the article does support the idea that consumers want convenience and they want packaged meals not just packaged food.

So is there still room for MAs in the working mom and now stay at home mom lifestyle? There might be some life still left in this idea depending on the area, but it does seem that pricing and convenience will be the key factors in keeping the customers coming in. Offering to make the meals a thousand different ways is probably not going to be as much of a hook as many think.

And if you look at this article closely, the group that is increasing their cooking time is the men. That also makes you wonder if the marketing and target group may need to be changed. Men have clearly been left for dead as far as MA goes. Very little if any advertising is targeted toward them. You never know, they may be the next group who supports the meal prep industry.

Restaurants Feel the Heat as Number of Women in the Work Force Flattens

For the first time since June Cleaver donned pearls and aprons in the 1950s, the percentage of women choosing to work outside the home has been flat to down for several years running. Not coincidentally, the number of meals purchased at restaurants per person has stopped growing too, for the longest sustained stretch in the 23 years NPD Group has tracked the number.

For restaurants, it means an end to a demographic gold mine that fed decades of growth. For supermarkets, it means a reversal of a trend that fueled decades of decline and may even help savvier operators gain an edge in their long-losing battle against Wal-Mart. And for package-food companies, the trends offer a chance to gain ground on restaurants for the first time in decades.

‘Package meals’
But neither the labor nor restaurant trends are driving women back to cooking from scratch, he said. “The growth in the restaurant industry is in takeout meals,” he said. “This is not about package food anymore. It’s about package meals.”

The only segment of the population cooking more is men, who now prepare 18% of meals, according to NPD, even if they remain largely invisible to food marketers, Mr. Balzer said. “It’s young men in the new households being formed.”

Convenience, not price
An analysis Mr. Glass did last year showed Whole Foods Market is now the largest takeout casual diner in the country. “It does more takeout sales than Applebee’s, Brinker or Darden, ” he said, “and with far fewer stores.”

Its success isn’t about saving money, Mr. Balzer said, since not much at Whole Foods is cheap. “It’s convenience,” he said. “People want something they can bring home and reheat, not something that if it goes cold they’ll never want again.”

Casual-dining chains are more likely to be hurt by supermarket competition and women staying at home than fast feeders, he said, perhaps accounting for some of the relative fortunes of the two segments of late.

Mr. Glass also sees signs that package-food companies are seizing on the emerging trends to claw back some of the market they’ve lost to restaurants in decades past. He pointed to a recent TV ad for Campbell’s soup that clearly positions the product as part of an alternative to restaurant meals.

“Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier,” she said, “if we could have restaurant-quality food at home, in the office, wherever we want it, at a fraction of the cost?”

There is a lot to the article so you can read it in its entirety here:
Read the follow up article with some additional comments here:

An interesting schedule.

I found this to be an interesting schedule for a meal assembly store. In essence they have multiple sessions per day, each one set for 30 minutes. They limit the number of people per session to 4 or 6 depending on time of day. This gives customers the quick in I’m sure they’re looking for by having multiple times per day. And by keeping the sessions small you prevent crowding. If someone comes in late, no big deal, they work with the next group, still plenty of room.

The store basically offers 6 sessions a day, but they’re only open from 10am-12pm and then from 5pm-7pm. I’m not sure if the labor is worth it, but it does give the customer plenty of flexibility of when they’d like to come in. It also makes it look like sessions fill up a lot faster which makes people want to get in there more.

I wonder if this would be a good thing to try for November and the Thanksgiving offerings. I’m sure the take out folks will have plenty of order to fill, I just wonder if this schedule would entice people to make their own?

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