Archive for November, 2007

Ending on a high note.

It’s the end of the month, with one holiday over and another right around the corner. The first pay period is completed and time is just racing by. I’m almost fearful of this time of year because of the mad dash until the end of the year. It’s a crazy shopping spree of buying Christmas gifts, the constant lookout for things on sale or things “will do” under the tree.

Then it’s the end of the year and in that same sigh of relief for all the chaos being over is that “Oh no, now what?” as the whole year lays ahead, empty and vast. There seems to be so much to do and so little time; and then so much time and so little to do. It’s almost seems like make or break time. Obviously there is a lot of debt to deal with while still trying to keep Christmas fun so that’s a bit of a worry.

It’s just of funny, it just seems like I’m right on the cusp and with tomorrow really being December and that being the last month of the year, the ride is about to get wild. Should I be excited the year is coming to an end and it’s time to start anew or should I be scared there’s still so much left to get done?


Truthfulness Over Perfection Valued In Marketing

A few thing some franchises need to pay attention to. In this digital age news travels fast. Good news gets spread far and wide, bad news does too, just faster. Not being honest with customers, covering up incidents and trying to deflect blame onto someone else doesn’t go over well with consumers. Owners and customers want the truth. They will put up with a lot provided issues are actually acknowledged and attempts are made to address them.

Clearly when that doesn’t work out and franchises don’t work with owners so that both benefit by the relationship you get articles likes the ones I listed recently. And as I’ve seen many times now, once one person speaks up, the flood gates open and the very future of the company may be in jeopardy. Companies need to make sure they listen to their customers and address their issues. Franchises need to listen to their owners and address issues.

Which part of the process do you think we’re in? As mentioned, I think we’re right on the cusp of that gate opening and the frustration of those owners spilling out…

Alan Scott, Dow Jones & Co. SVP and chief marketing officer, said it’s a cool time to be a marketing guy, as consumer expectations of businesses have changed with the rise in blogs and social media.

In the movie version of “Clear and Present Danger,” Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan character advises the President to acknowledge a friendship with someone who has become embroiled in scandal. Being forthright about the friendship would defuse potential controversy arising from someone finding out the President had been less than truthful.

The President takes Ryan’s advice, truthfulness trumping what would have been a failed grab at perfection. Thirteen years later, Alan Scott had similar advice as he discussed Factiva with WebProNews, and the need for companies to be aware of how they are being discussed all over the Internet.

Plenty of places for discussion exist. Scott said Factiva Insight tracks thousands of news and topical websites, and millions of blogs and message boards. They can do this thanks to the scale they have built in to the service.

Lots of forward-thinking companies have embraced the need to keep aware of conversations, before they turn into full-fledged public relations nightmares. Scott invoked Sony and its DRM missteps as the now-classic example of how not to manage one’s corporate image in this highly interconnected world.
Truthfulness Over Perfection Valued In Marketing

Sony displayed an old school way of thinking, dismissing unprofessional blogs and social media as lacking the ability to have an impact. They found out, by painful example, this was not the case.

“What’s rewarded is authenticity,” Scott said. He noted the marketplace as a whole tends to be tolerant of problems a company may have. Truthfulness and candor have become the hotly-valued commodity over perfection.

Factiva’s approach to building sophisticated profiles of brands, products, executives, and corporate initiatives feeds its ability to understand when a ‘bursting phrase’ may represent an issue for a company.

Using Sony again as an example, Scott illustrated that even though the company may not have been looking specifically for digital rights management conversations, the text mining Factiva can do as an automated service would have keyed the company’s PR team into understanding the strength of feeling building up around DRM.

Sony could have avoided some of the unhelpful responses they initially gave as the controversy grew. The scandal over their DRM rootkits on CDs remains a prime example of why any business, whether a Factiva client or not, needs to understand people want transparency from the businesses they deal with regularly.

Imperfection can be fixed. Trustworthiness is harder to patch.

Read the article here:

Do Franchises Know What They’re Doing?

I don’t know if you would call it a trend but there does seem to be a lot more vocalization about franchises and how they treat owners these days. Now are these comments from just a small group of disgruntled owners or are they simply the ones who wish to speak up?

Are people losing faith in franchises or are people now beginning to realize it takes a lot more effort than they realized to be part of one?

There are some interesting comments and some similar trends. Owners feel they are doing the brunt of the work, spending far too much of their own money on advertising and aren’t getting the support they need from the corporate office. Even when a store hits #1 they claim they need to break out of the mold and upgrade their product to be a success.

Are franchises forgetting about the owners? Are they taking them for granted? Are franchises striking while the iron is hot and expanding too fast? Or is it a case of owners having expectations that are too high and they just don’t understand what it means to do big business? Do they not really understand what the franchise is there for and what their role is? Are the owners naïve and they aren’t ready for the hard business tactics?

It certainly seems owners are expecting more from franchises than just a menu and a way to order products. Owners want a more fair and balanced relationship where both sides win and make money. And obviously owners are feeling their areas are being oversold and their markets are dwindling as more stores under the same brand open all around them.

It seems we have several examples of owners buying into the franchise idea but then get a severe case of buyer’s remorse. The problems of the meal assembly industry seem to be shared by plenty of other industries as well. Are we poised to see some changes in the industry as owners and franchises try to work out their differences or is this the start of a downward trend for franchises? We’ve seen plenty of missteps from franchises and their quest for expansion and market penetration. Are we going to see people turning away from the idea of franchises altogether?

I can only speak for myself but these stories only re-enforce my opinion of new franchises and to a certain extent franchising in general.

  • They are too eager to expand with no real strategy
  • They lack marketing vision
  • They lack respect for their owners
  • They lack a plan for building name and brand recognition
  • There is very little support for each franchisee
  • Mistakes are blamed on owners
  • True financial investment from the owner is not stated accurately

I sympathize with these owners and quite honestly, I don’t think they’re in the minority. Time will tell, but I think we will be hearing a lot more stories like these as we go on – especially from this industry.

Just a wee bit of news

Hopefully you enjoy the site and its yuletide spirit. I might be changing things a bit early since we aren’t even in December yet, but since the stores have had the Christmas decorations out since before Halloween perhaps I’m a bit late to the party. But anyway, I will show off some seasonal finery to get things in the spirit.

As you can see, the Recent Comments column has been added back in. I was having a hard time following the comments so hopefully this helps you all as well. That isn’t actually part of the theme and it needs to be added manually. I was a bit slow in getting it done since adjustments are being made to the backend of the site and those needed to be finished first. But I think we have all of it under control now.

Thanksgiving was excellent. I had a wonderful time with the family. Lots of cooking, watching Thanksgiving and Christmas movies (oh that Charlie Brown) and lots of other little things.

The new job is outstanding. I’m having a great time learning new things and putting my Internet skills to use. I can still barely find my way around the building, but I’m having a ball. I forgot about that crazy rush hour traffic though. I certainly didn’t miss that.

Christmas is so close it’s scary!

Competitive Research on the Meal Assembly Business’

This information was gathered from “Oyster” who posted this to Franchise Pundit. It’s a pretty interesting look at the different stores, how they see themselves, how they see the market and how they answer inquiries about their franchises. Some of the information still has a marketing spin to it, but there is still quite a bit to learn by this information.

You can join the discussion by clicking here:

Competitive Research on the Meal Assembly Business’

I posed as a person who was potentially pursuing a Meal Assembly Business. The goal was to capture (with extensive questions) some of the Company’s Marketing Strategies, Yearly Outlook & Competition.

Super Supers (216 Store Locations) 14 locations have closed
Corporate Office- Dallas, TX
Susan Estes
West coast Regional Franchise/Marketing
214.293.8900 (cell)

Susan was very friendly, open, and was not bothered about some tough questions that I asked. She never asked my name only where I was interested having a Super Suppers
•   Product is great because all meals are formed from the Food Culinary Instite
•   Franchisee has Regional menu choices and can choose up to four different menu is each month from there library of recipes to fit what they like.
•   Researched additional revenue on the Walk In’s, Pick Up, Sides/Desserts and Curbside service. In addition to the research they found that 20% of the Nation knows about the Meal assembly
•   What the Customer wants they get (14 stores closed with this model) giving what the customer wants at all costs- discounting the product
•   Franchisee’s are responsible for any marketing done on a local level
•   6% Royalties
•   2% National Marketing: all of the monies plus Corporate Office 10% goes for Brand Awareness- Leader In the Industry
•   Super Supers do Monthly Promotions on Website- McCormick’s Spices, Oprah, Bob Greene, Disney.
•   Public Relations three major parts of the Country- CNN, Good Morning America & New York Times
•   Advertising with Name brand companies to help build brand awareness- Print Ads
•   When asked where they see themselves in the Industry- #1
•   Judy Byrd will be host a T.V show on Meal Assembly and Cooking Class in the Fall
•   Corporate Staff is limited, however, contracted services rendered.
•   Website will host call of Action: Cook Book. Promotes Expertise Gift Certificates available.
•   Ranked #1 Meal Assembly category & #4 in Top New Franchise for 2007 (goal achieved)
Super Supers was to be on Oprah in the spring and will be featured (per Susan Estes) in the fall. Followed by website promoting Oprah viewing.

Dream Dinners 270 Store Locations 210 open for business
Corporate Office in Snohomish, WA
Karalee Jacobs

I called four different times of the day and no ‘live person’ Karalee did ask my name.
•   Limited conversation until magic wand is filled out. Very restrictive. Answers were curt. Encouraged to read the website if I had questions
•   Look & Feel (High End)
•   Highest Quality of Marketing Materials
•   Tools like Sneak Peeks & Parties
•   Recently on Donny Douche
•   Innovators of the Industries
•   Professional Supportive Staff
•   2% National Marketing
•   6 % Royalties
•   Featured on the Food Network two times
•   Encourages Owners to Band Together

Dinner by Design 58 Store Locations (2 closures)
Corporate Office in Chicago, IL
Bruce Kim
Vice President of Sales & Development

Bruce was very aggressive on the phone. Wanted my name and how long I lived in my area. He asked me 10 direct questions about my family before I even got a chance to ask him about Dinner by Design.
•   They believe they are #3 in the Meal Assembly Business
•   Dinner by Design is International. Will have store open in Canada at the end of August. A Store will be opened in Australia by the end of October.
•   Food- Mark Morgan is the Chief- features recipes are on the website. See BIO. Extensive testing and all food are donated to the Women’s Shelter monthly.
•   Master Franchising- 30 stores to open in Canada by the end of 2007
•   Dinner By Design is NOT a faith based Company
•   Non-Restrictive to purchase a franchise. Turn around time is 2 months.
•   National Seminars to promote corporate business.

My Girlfriend’s Kitchen 41 Store Locations (no Closures)
Corporate Office in Utah
Franchise Dept.
Franchise Dept.

Answering service very informative. When you selected a number, a live person answered. (Five mins)
•   Branding- Want all stores to Feel like FUN! Researched and found that 60% of the customers did not come back because they were not having fun making the meals. It became a chore.
-What the customer views as Fun:
Making Meals,
Picking twelve premade meals or whatever quantity needed.
Catering to Business for Luncheons
•   With out an application that you need to fill out on-line, the information was limited. They will proceed with conversation about Marketing when they see the application.
•   When asked where they see themselves in the industry- Number #5

Dinners Ready 48 Store Locations (turn around is high but not a concern)
Corporate Office in Seattle, WA ‘The Better Choice’
Scott Farellea
Founder of Dinners Ready

When I called, I was transferred to the Scott Farellea who is the Founder of Dinners Ready.
•   5% Regional Marketing Fund:
-supports three employees to help market the stores for each Region
•   Franchisees are responsible for grassroots marketing. PTA, Churches, Different Conventions
•   Dinners Ready concentrates Regionally, however they do have stores in nine different states they want all efforts to target core Regions of the United States
•   Master Franchieeing- Georgia/Florida will split Royalties
•   Old Style vs. New Style- 50% of revenues increased when added To Go, Pre Made Meals, Walk In’s
•   The Meal Assembly is what it is….Personal….Customers….Employees….
•   Slow Growth is better and last longer then fast and furious that wont last long
•   5% Royalties
•   Not concerned on National Level- feel that it may or may or may not happen
Here is an example of the Print ad they do:
Dinners Ready <> All WA state Dinners Ready locations. see website for locations
Contact: Leslie Gilchrist
Save $10 off an order of $125 or more & $15 off an order of $200 or more. Visit the website linked to this offer, pick your meals; use promo code DCRP-022BG for the $10 off offer & code DCRP-023BG for the $15 off offer. Offer valid at all WA locations. Join us at one of our Dinners Ready Locations… we provide busy families with a wide variety of made-from-scratch, nutritious and delicious family-sized dinners ready to serve with a minimum of preparation time.
Expiration date: 05/31/2008


Dream Dinners <>
See website for phone numbers & locations
Contact: Christy Bone
Boeing Special ~ Enjoy a ‘Free’ 3 serving dinner when assembling 36 servings or more. ‘Free’ 6 serving dinner with purchase of 72+ servings at any of your local Dream Dinners locations nationwide. Some areas may not have a Dream Dinners location. Boeing badge or Discount Program card required. Visit the website linked to this offer to register & select your dinners. Then go to your Dream Dinners location to assemble, freeze & enjoy later. Offer not to be used in combination with any other offers.
Expiration date: 03/01/2008This offer is available at the following
locations: Currently, we have over 200 stores nationwide and we are opening new stores every month. See flier for more information. Click here for coupon/flier <uploads/200751514402525.pdf>

Let’s Dish 33 Store Locations
Called nine times- No Answer
Website features:
Dish N Dash
Business Events

Entree Vous 29 Store Locations
Corporate Office in Lexington, Kentucky ‘How to Get Dinner Done’
Harriet Duprea Bradley
Founder/Chief of Entrée Vous

•   Recipes from Founder/Chief. Featured on Website
•   A & W Leadership 20+ years
•   Working with Bob Greene on creating freezer meals to cross promote Bob Greene Diet and On-Line website
•   Will continue conversation when I fill out application

Entree’s Made Easy 22 Store Locations
Corporate Office in Arizonian ‘Taste the Difference’
Nancy Longworth
Franchise Dept.

•   Concentrates on Regional Marketing. Motto- One Region at a time
•   Every sauce and spice is Homemade and may be purchased in the Stores
•   Will continue conversation when application is approved
•   Pre- Approval process from Lender so turn around time is less then 30 days

Lets Eat 16 Store Locations mostly in Florida
Corporate Office in S. Florida
Bette Thom
Franchise Dept.

•   Not licensed in all states
•   Featured in Southern Living July 31, 07
•   Once financials are disclosed they will further the communication process
•   Mr. Food has T.V spots to promote Growth and Marketing

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