Archive for February, 2008

On The Topic of a Coalition

I’ve been mulling over this coalition for a couple days now and honestly I see more questions than answers and more red flags than green lights to success.

The biggest red flag is that this venture seems to be driven by the same people who brought us the Easy Meal Prep Association (and the offshoot IAMPB) which comes across as a major conflict of interest.

The second major red flag is the participation of “What’s Cooking Software” that produces software for meal assembly kitchens. Again, this is a huge conflict of interest.

Putting those two concerns aside (which on their own is enough to reject this proposal) there are still so many issues and concerns. I’m not going to go into all of them, but here are a couple.

This coalition is supposed to magically create new avenues of advertising, marketing and financial success. Considering the dozens of owners who are consistently offering up their ideas already, how does this coalition offer something new and better?

It sounds like this is a method to increase the customers coming through the door. How is this group going to somehow increase a customer base in a particular area? If a franchise goes out of business how are they to miraculously gain new customers because they change the name on the door to some brand no one has ever heard of? You aren’t going to somehow change the fickle nature of customers just because you change your name.

How is this different than paying royalty fees? The fees may be lower (maybe), but what is the membership policy? Can you cancel at any time? Is there a legal war chest? Is this made of volunteers? What if there aren’t enough people to fund it, will you refund the money? There are membership dues, marketing fees, branding costs, store costs, software costs, not to mention the cost of converting a Super Suppers or a Dream Dinners into this new look and feel. You are still asking owners to put money to a group/entity. Is this a one time fee/charge? What happens if you start running low on cash, are you going to hit the members up for money? Will there be late fees and penalties? Will you charge more to stay a member? Charge more for the products? The IAMPB struggles due to lack of money and members, how is this different? What has been learned from their past efforts?

Regardless of the money factor, you are basically looking for/waiting for members to show up who aren’t able to succeed on their own to join your group. If they aren’t able to make it in their area through their own means how is this group going to help? Stores need customers, how is that going to somehow change by being part of this entity? And from the way several of the comments read you expect most owners to come in as someone who is heading to bankruptcy, needs to break their agreement or has been abandoned by a Zor. After that process, you expect to tack on a few thousand more dollars to their pain? I don’t think you will get many takers on that.

This idea seems to have a goal of making money from vendors and owners. I can’t agree with that model. Obviously I am all for the bringing together those of like mind, but allowing the vendors to organize this is like the fox guarding the hen house. And how long do you think the meal assembly industry is going to be around? Sure, people need to eat, dinner always needs to be served, but how long do you think you can make a business out of it?

Exchanging in the free (read no charge) flow of ideas is the only way this is going to work. Allowing ideas to be seen by everyone no matter which franchise or independent store they belong to helps us all. Restricting access and charging for information doesn’t work as shown by the multiple “Association” sites out there. Solid debates, questioning ideas, coming up with new strategies and new plans, and sharing what hasn’t worked are the only ways to move forward. You are not going to get everyone’s participation by locking your information away behind closed doors.

I’m sorry to say but investing in the idea of a meal assembly coalition seems as foolish as investing in a meal assembly franchise itself. You are spending money on an idea that has proven itself to be ineffective.

As always, I’m open to any suggestions or comments on how this site could be improved. If you want discussion forum topics on marketing or recipe sharing or even if you want to write blog posts, just let me know and it can be created.

Ditching the Dream Dinners and Walking to the Wine Bar


We used to be truly in the know on trends, but it isn’t easy to keep up. They seem to come and go faster than ever.

In the case of the meal-assembly trend, it seems it got hot and then cold all without really getting our full attention. According to The New York Times, shops like Dream Dinners and Super Suppers are pretty much on their way out. The paper says 264 meal preparation stores closed during 2007, even as “The number of stores mushroomed from four in 2002 to 1,400 in 2007, almost exclusively by catering to women who wanted to provide home-cooked meals for their families, according to the Easy Meal Preparation Association.” (There really is an association for almost anything, it seems.) And the revenue predictions, once grand, have turned grim.

So why isn’t meal assembly on the upswing in American society? This article would suggest our culture is just too sophisticated, wealthy and progressive to keep supporting it. What’s so great about a freezer full of ready-to-go dinners when one can either go out for a quick dinner, stop at a takeaway place on the way home (it’s already hot and ready to eat) or just fire up something quick and easy that’s already on the pantry shelf?

Americans are busy and hungry and we love to be fickle. If tilapia just doesn’t sound right on Tuesday night, we’ll ditch that plan and go to something more alluring. And the Dream Dinner just sits there, ice-cold and lonely, for another night, and another and another.

Click below to read the full article…

Ditching the Dream Dinners and Walking to the Wine Bar – Cork and Knife

Words From The Franchise King

The second person that came up to me after my seminar told me that he and his wife purchased a meal prep franchise, and just had opened their store a few months ago. This person also told me that ” In the time I have owned this franchise, I know of one franchise that closed it’s doors.” This person then shared that they wanted to try to sell their store. {After 4 months in business!}This could be a problem…. This person also said that “I wish my wife and I had met with you, first.” The meal prep industry is in trouble, and I shared my concerns with this non-well-thought-out model, before.

Do I detect a pattern?

Then this one…”I just was downsized, and I was contacted by a lady that does a similar thing that you do, Joel. She presented a couple of opportunities, and they were just ok. I called some franchise owners, but I really need to make some money quickly.” The first thing  I asked this person was this: “Was the person that you worked with to help you find a franchise, local?” This person said it was all done via phone, and he never met her. That is the first problem. This lady has no skin in the game. She lives out of state, has no idea of how the NEO market works, what franchises are needed, what type of franchises are not needed, and most importantly, never even met this person face to face! I told this person rather strongly that I would have never even invited him to my office, for an in-person consultation. He needed income immediately, and that is just not realistic during the start-up phase of a new business.

These situations illustrate to me how difficult it really is to find opportunities that are not:

A. Fads
B. The Wrong Fit
C. Just Plain Wrong

Read the full article here:

Cena Boasts Way To Beat The Meal Assembly Odds

Cena seems to have discovered the winning formula for making meal assembly work:

Franchisees need to attract about 100 regular customers that spend an average of $150 a month for a franchise to be profitable, Badinger says, adding, “It generally takes about nine months to get the Cena name out there and develop a customer base.”

Badinger says Cena should outperform the industry.

She says that Cena stores have profit centers that in some cases bring in as much revenue as the meals themselves, making the franchises unique in the industry. Those profit centers include full wine shops, bakery products, side dishes, and facility rentals.

Cena even sells its own signature coffee, an all-organic, free-trade blend roasted here by 4 Seasons Coffee Co., of Spokane. The coffee is fresh roasted to order for each Cena outlet.

Badinger says Cena prides itself on its selection of “a little better wines at very competitive prices,” and franchisees are encouraged to help customers pair wines with meals.

Cena outlets also can serve wine in the stores, so customers can sample wine as they put meals together.

Cena facilities can be rented for private parties, Badinger says. Corporations sometimes use a facility as a new twist on an office party, or as a team-building exercise.

“When you’re done, you have something to take home,” Badinger says.

She says franchisees also are encouraged to hold special events such as local wine tastings.

The events, she adds, aren’t very profitable, but introduce potential customers to the Cena concept.

“Our forte is getting people in the door,” she says. “Cena is a fun place to be. You can have a glass of wine and get some work done.”

Of course! Why didn’t we think of that!!!

Read the full article here:

And if you’re really feeling adventurous you might want to have a look at this one from; the comments are certainly interesting…

Cena Meal Prep Franchise by the Numbers:

Cena, a growing meal prep (”Meal Assembly Kitchen”) franchise opportunity was founded by foreign language teacher Tammy Badinger, who opened her first unit in 2005 and began offering franchises within less than a year. Unlike many others in the industry, Badinger is pretty proud of her numbers. We’ve extracted the Cena franchise and industry numbers from a recent article (Meal-prep chain serves up success) in the Spokane Journal, transposed them for no good reason, and display them here for your review and comments (please leave below):

Full article available here:

Shareholder Class Action Filed Against Panera Bread Co.


The following statement was issued today by the law firm of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP:

Notice is hereby given that a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, St. Louis Division, on behalf of all purchasers of securities of Panera Bread Co. (NASDAQ:PNRA) (“Panera” or the “Company”) between November 1, 2005 and July 26, 2006, inclusive (the “Class Period”).

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this notice or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please contact Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP (Darren J. Check, Esq. or Richard A. Maniskas, Esq.) toll free at 1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706, or via e-mail at

The Complaint charges Panera and certain of its officers and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Panera owns and franchises bakery-cafes under the Panera Bread and Saint Louis Bread Co. names.

The Complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, defendants failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s financial well-being, business relationships, and prospects. Specifically, defendants failed to disclose or indicate the following: (1) that the Company was experiencing fierce competition from similar dining establishments, such that the Company would not be able to maintain growth and earnings trends and projections, (2) that the Company’s strategy of rapidly expanding locations was causing a decline in sales per restaurant and a lower return on capital because business was being drawn away from existing stores, (3) that the Company’s business was trending negatively because of both slow growth and rising expenses, and (4) that, as a result of the foregoing, the Company’s statements about its financial well-being and future business prospects were lacking in any reasonable basis when made.

Click below to read the rest of the article:

Shareholder Class Action Filed Against Panera Bread Co. by the Law Firm of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP :: Restaurant News Resource

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