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.

Other Articles of Interest:

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9 Responses to “On The Topic of a Coalition”

  • Lisa:

    The about page says this:

    Our goal with this site is to provide support and information to those who are currently in the meal assembly industry and to those who might be thinking of taking the plunge some time in the future.

    We welcome comments and feedback and hope you will participate in our discussion forums to give others the benefit of your experiences.

    And here you say:

    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.

    So you have gone from a site that provides support and information to one that provides hospice and grief managment support? I am sorry I missed the transition. I think we are getting the Kitchen Coalition up just in time because there are many of us who still believe in the industry. Just because many have tried and failed (and we would argue this has mostly to do with the zors recommending a flawed model that even independents copied not knowing it was faulty) does not mean there is no merit in the concept, it just needs to be refined. The originators of ANY concept are seldom the ones that make it work, it is the ones that stand back and get in on the second life–look a beta and VHS, analog and digital, HD and blu-ray, and read The World is Flat to understand now how far behind the US really is in the technology revolution… Someone will make this industry work, and we are willing to try, if you would like to roll over and die, then we wish you the very best, but I think this site has outlived it’s usefulness to owners, it is only a place to go to grieve. With all due respect, I have long admired your posts and gotten lots of great information here in my frequent visits, thanks for the past, I am moving to the future! Lisa

  • Oh My Goodness, you’re hearing what you want to hear. What I am saying is that I do not agree with giving money others to talk about a meal assembly franchise and how to run it. The IAMPB has tried this and by their own admission it has yielded less than what they hoped for. They have low membership and basically no funding. My questions were targeted at how you plan to overcome that?

    This site provides information, discussion forums and access to other owners and we do it all for free. I spend several hours a day researching topics related to this industry, reading other forums and quotes and writing my own topics of discussion. If that’s turning my back on the meal assembly industry then I have no idea what you’re talking about. People here are discussion marketing ideas, side items, strategies and a host of other things. Again, how is that turning my back on the industry?

    And since you obviously misunderstood so here is it one more time:

    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.

    I am saying investing (as in giving money) is foolish just like it would be to invest in starting a meal assembly store today.

    I have no intention of rolling over to die, this site will remain as long as users want it to (I don’t see it has outlived it’s usefulness at all) and I will keep writing about this industry as long as I can. And I am continually asking what I can do to improve and how I can help. But I’m not going to charge anyone for its use; and that’s the difference! You’re welcome for all the free advice and great information.

    If the site has outlived its usefulness then I will simply take it down and move on to something else, but it’s not like anyone will lose anything financially if that happens. I can’t say the same thing about your venture.

    And just to note, you didn’t address a single issue I brought up.

  • Lisa:

    You also said:
    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?

    If you believe in the industry why should people not invest in it, even today. I still tell people that ask me that they should open a store if they have a passion for the business, but they should not buy a franchise. I offer all the help they could want (for free), a temporary job if they want to learn the ropes, and all the support I can give. If oyu believe in the industry why do you not think people should invest in it and that we can make a business out of it forever. You say you are positive, but you doubt there is any way to succeed.

    Most of your questions are impossible to answer as they are based on false assumptions. We are not the same people that started EMPA or IAMPB, the fact that EMPA has agreed to work with us, and we have been talking with the IAMPB folks to make a positive relationship also, does not mean we are in bed together, so to speak. There is no money changing hands. Yes, we have sponsorship of What’s Cooking. They are helping us to develop brands and finance websites for stores that need them, we acknowledge their participation in this venture, but no store that joins the Coalition is in anyway obligated to purchase What’s Cooking software. There is nothing wrong with us accepting sponsorship money–and we did disclose it, I don’t understand why this means the Coalition can’t do good things–if there are any folks that need MA to survive it would be them, so we are all working together for our common good. If this is a problem for any potential member and you can’t get passed it, so be it, we understand, I understand that some people are vegetarian, too, but I don’t swing that way–to each his own.

    Your second point is that we posited some kind of magical solution to generate new marketing avenues, and way to bring people through the door, that’s not true. What we believe is that the industry never worked to begin with, but we believe there are ways to make it work. We also believe that the primary reason it doesn’t work id because the Zors sold a broken model to all their zees which was then copied by hopeful independents, and now everyone is going broke. We believe that there are ways to fix all those broken stores, one at a time, using the skills of the owners and the needs of the communities and great technology. There is no magic bullet, but there are answers and it will take work.

  • Lisa:

    Oops, I accidentally posted before I was done–we all make mistakes! The key is admitting them and moving on!

    So that brings me to money. People will pay an annual membership fee to belong to the coalition, it is now set at $500. If people choose to purchase a website from WC, that is a different fee which has been set at $500 a month, with a possible decrease after time depending on the site needs and design requirements, etc. That is benefit of membership that we have negotiated and not a part of membership. The coalition will not run out of money because we will only do what we can afford to do, we will be run like a business because we are, in fact, a business. People do share a lot of things here, but there are a LOT of great ideas that can be systematized and provided to stores that need them. Someone in another thread mentioned a friend referral card, I have one of those, a whole program, and I could make that available to the Coalition to sell for a nominal fee. I would pay for someone to develop a newsletter for me, and I would love to pay for recipes. I don’t expect people to provide all their best work for free–they worked on it for heaven’s sake, and they deserve to get paid for it. The coalition can take a small cut for brokering those services, and possibly for custom tailoring them for different stores. All business owners need supportive services and they differ for everyone, and franchisors provide many of them. I love my business and thought I could run it if I had someone to give me recipes, well, SS has not done a very good job of that in my book and I would love to pay soemone else for them–and I would love it if that person I bought it from was also vested so I know it’s a good recipe and has been tested and loved by others–I don’t feel like I know that with the EMPA recipes.

    Finally, you write as if EVERYONE in the industry is going bankrupt and that just isn’t true. Many are struggling and struggling because they have their hands tied by their Zors. I would like to offer my customers the entrees they want, but SS says I am not allowed, DD zees would like to have a better pricing structure and possibly offer assembly and other services, but their zor says that is not allowed. We all want better prices but we don’t have enough stores to leverage it–of course no one wants to talk to IAMPB–they aren’t big enough, when we have the numbers we need, they will come to us, and we will have the data to get the best prices anyway! We are not all failing, we have what we need to make our stores successful, we just need the ability to do it. If we gain the membership, we will also gain the leverage to change the mind of the zors, just like any strong IFA, but this will be a multi-franchise association.

    And last, this site is great for the free flow of ideas, but not all ideas should be open to everyone. There are a lot of things we may not want our customers to know–likw how badly you think we are all doing… Unfortunately when you google MA, this is one of the first sites you get, and then of course no customer is going to come to your store, why should they, it seems like we think we will all be history in six months! You can’t get hooked to a dying concept! KC will give the industry a POSITIVE FACE and let people know that the industry is alive and healthy and home kitchen replacement IS THEIR FUTURE.

    You can dwell on the negative or risk $500 on something that has the potential to be great. And in one year, if it’s not great, we wouldn’t expect another $500. It is less than I pay my Chamber, less than my monthly magazine ads, less than I just paid for spring break camp for my kids, less than three months’ worth of daily Starbuck’s runs. But you are right, if we can’t convince enough people to take a chance, we lose, we all lose, and I guess we can pray for another solution. If you are not rolling over to die, what is your solution? Thanks for the questions, I think every single one helps to solidify our argument for joining the Coalition. Truly, Lisa

  • DinnerZen:

    It’s late and my feet hurt and I really just came here to get the recipe for meatloaf someone posted a while back and saw all these posts. Folks have been busy!

    One of the nagging concerns/questions I have is the challenge of trying to bring together zees from different zors. I could see saying- hey let’s start with super suppers folks, figure it out, make some headway with that franchisor, take those lessons and then apply them to other groups of franchisees. Use that as a model for how to approach other franchisors.

    You could argue that time is of the essence, but it seems like the issues with each franchisor are very different and will take considerable time and attention. Generate early wins with one group, promote, then leave outside/others clamoring for access to the great things you have to offer.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not sure it’s a one approach fits all model.

    With IAMPB, we are learning that we bit off a lot, spread ourselves too thin. Lost sight of the fact that people want tangible, practical value. Altruism doesn’t get you very far down the road. We get that now and in rather short time have focused our respective energies on tangible, practical value.

    As for sponsorships, IAMPB accepts sponsors/vendor members. We don’t promote one over the other, but if someone comes looking, they see who is there for all too see. Pay for play. There are a lot of different vendors out there for different items- from software to aprons.

    I’m certain Lisa et al aren’t short sighted enough to put all their eggs in one vendor basket, but took advantage of the one who came easiest and earliest. Can’t blame you for that! And, I’m certain were others to step up they could get play (for pay) as well, but such a seemingly strong alliance out of the gate makes that a little tough for other vendors to overcome.

    I would echo the sentiment/concern about the general public having such ready access to this site. On the one hand, I think that easy access is what makes it so appealing to folks. On the other, when you google DinnerZen (space in between) some of these posts come up. Stupid me for using un-anonymous identifier I suppose. Even if there were one layer of something (security is the wrong word) I’d love that, but then I suppose that’s the beauty of the internet, so I should just shut up. I love that a customer came on and provided such thoughtful posts for all to read the other day, but it’s a little un-nerving.

    I think all the issues raised are valid, and Lisa your counterpoints have validity as well. There have been a lot of pros and cons presented and it would be fair to say that anyone entering into a relationship (or not) with the KC would do so having been fully informed. Probably more so than other zee-zor relationship was informed!

  • jim coosteel:

    Wow, I just saw the site since my last visit and i have to say everyones been very busy.

    So here i go. It turns out the blue mau mau site had some validity to the posting about a conspiracy. Ill give kc and the sunshine band the benefit of the doubt here, but if you look at past posting it sure seems there is a group effort to trash the concept and then shabamm..

    Not to beat you down lisa but…you say you can get people out of their agreements. Do you really expect the Zors to just roll over?

    You say you will have a war chest for legal issues. It better be a big chest. So far their is an argument that you have incited breech of contract. You and others have probably signed a non compete non disclosure document and yet the gang has revealed very damaging information. Damaging not only for the Zors but everyone else. If you where trying to sell your store and anyone gets ahold of this site…Then you go on to say recipes are not protected..Like Mr. Webster said, are you getting good counsel on what you are posting? That aside is what you are saying ethical? How is it better than what the Zors are doing in your mind?

    Lastly i have to go with tuckebox on this one. You and your gang are the majority of the negitive postings..baiting others to grieve then complain that this site has become useless? go back and read your postings.

    Tuckerbox, thanks for trying.

    If You could get everyone to join IAMPB and somehow rebrand into one voice then you may have something. I think the thing that has hurt us most is we have not had one overwelming voice to establish a brand/concept. We have not convienced the customers to change thier habits long term and are trying to provide everything to everybody.

    Fear of failure is paralyzing. get mad. use that to say im going to change my attituted today and go out and get new customers!

    My last posting was to say ma store owner. Not master.

  • Lisa:

    DZ wrote:

    One of the nagging concerns/questions I have is the challenge of trying to bring together zees from different zors. I could see saying- hey let’s start with super suppers folks, figure it out, make some headway with that franchisor, take those lessons and then apply them to other groups of franchisees.

    We are not in this to take on the Zors, and we are not inciting people to leave their zors–I repeat, we are not plannning a mutiny. There is a possibility a mutiny may occur, but our goal at this point is to break down the competitive silos that have hurt us more than helped, and start working together for our common good, which may be different for the good of our zors… I feel that what I am doing is very ethical which is why I am not afraid to do it in the open. I do not feel the need to hide behind attorneys and their advice. We are in this to save our skins, and hopefully save a few more people with is, and in the even that what we do might hurt our Zors, we do not want to leave the other zees in the dust.

    Our posts are only negative when viewed through the lens of a Zor. We would only be doing this if we believe in the industry and it’s owners, that’s the most positive message on this board, even Tuckerbox is wondering how long it can last. We would not embark on what will be a long hard journey if we did not believe we would end up in a good place.

    And DZ, you NEED to get some KLOGS! klogs.com is the answer to everything, whether we all succeed or fail, your feet should not have to hurt! Lisa

  • Lisa, considering you feel my site has outlived its usefulness I think it is in poor taste and highly inappropriate that you continue to use it to spread the propaganda of your coalition. If you want to wax poetic on the virtues of your new idea then do so on your own website (if you ever get it finished) and stop wasting my bandwidth for your shameless promotion.

    If you wish to contribute to the discussions then that is fine, but if you plan to use my forums and blog comments to expound about how you can help people if they join your group then those posts will be edited or deleted. This coalition is not something I support and I don’t want my site used to perpetuate it.

    I also find it ironic that you have the same mentality that has driven so many MA stores into the ground. You find something that’s popular, get the mentality that “I can do it better” and then cannibalize the users for your own gain.

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