Meal Prep Dominos

As predicted the meal assembly franchisors are now facing the same problems that have been plaguing the local store owners. The once mighty franchisors that sold territories like hotcakes are now struggling just to stay afloat. Seems nobody’s buying what they’re selling any more (in more ways than one). And in many cases their lifeboat has sprung a leak.

Super Suppers, the once debatable Queen of the meal assembly industry has started to suffer staggering loses. They previously had reports of over 200 stores open across the country. Several recent articles I’ve seen put that number at the 150 mark while insiders tell us the number is actually closer to 120 and falling. Depending on the numbers you believe, it looks like Super Supper has shuttered nearly 100 stores which translates into a whopping 50% failure rate. This also means they have lost a substantial amount of monthly revenue.

As they continue their downward spiral they have brought in a new CEO, but just like Dream Dinners they’re not sure they want to tell anyone about it yet. In another similarity it looks like he too will be a Rent-A-CEO and won’t actually be tied directly to the company, so even if the company hits the skids and crashes into the iceberg his golden parachute will be fully intact. Once again, savior or scapegoat? Are they planning to stick it out or run like hell? Should the silence from Super Suppers be taken as a stiff upper lip or acceptance of their fate?

In an attempt to have her company live on, or more to the point grab a final fist full of coins for her incapacitated company, Marica Hales sold her fledgling My Girlfriends Kitchen to a Dinner A’Fare after trying multiple times to find a buyer. Apparently they weren’t put off by the broken website which wouldn’t take orders. The fine folks at Dinner A’Fare then showed their spectacular ineptitude as they spent the next few weeks taking the site down, putting up the wrong web addresses, taking the site down and then completely locking themselves out of the previous MGFK customer information. This follows the several months of the MGFK site being riddled with issues which were promised to be fixed. Finally the site resumed operations, but how the current owners are fairing is anyone’s guess.

But don’t worry Marcia has taken her franchise managements skills over to The Franchise Performance Group where I’m sure she’ll be a top notch resource for those looking to learn how to run a franchise. Clearly she is a role model in the meal assembly world. And of course she still operates her FranSupply company where you can continue to line her pockets by having her help with all your purchasing needs.

By their own admission and press releases Make & Take Gourmet has been setting the standard for meal assembly franchise owners with happy owners everywhere, a proven system of success and a hundred more stores to come. But even they have hit upon hard times and will be forced to close one of their main corporate run stores. (Just like getting a new CEO this seems to be the first step in bailing out of the business). But it’s a strategic move to be sure and has nothing to do with the lawsuits pending against them. It should also have nothing to do with situations like the New Hartford owner who is ditching the Make & Take name and going it alone. He’s simply a loose cannon, a renegade if you will with these radical ideas of breaking away from the herd. Even though they only have a hand full of stores, they will hit their 100 store in no time. They wrote a press release it must be true.

The World Domination Tour of Dinner by Design seems to be coming to an end and the final show will have them going out of business. According to the latest news, Dinner by Design has failed to capture the Midwest as their marketing plan suggested and they are now taking their toys and going home. The media blitz was interesting to read but ultimately amounted to nothing. I’m not sure they will even be called a flash in the pan. The owners will be allowed to use the name and branding, but in another month or so the corporate office will be no more. So to answer the question, their innovations weren’t enough to save the industry, or at least not save the company itself.

Despite the lawsuits and owners struggling to make a living, the corporate office of Dream Dinners will be taking the day off and celebrating the birthday of their fearless leader. Individual store owners need not RSVP. But even during their jubilation Dream Dinners too is losing stores and is far from the 200+ stores they once claimed. Even with their tricky way of listing stores as “temporarily closed” even after the store has been closed for over a year, it appears Dream Dinners is closer to 160 stores and falling. Just from that they seem to be doing better than Super Suppers, but are these numbers even accurate? And if they are accurate can they be sustained? There are reports of owner after owner not paying their royalty fees and using that money to purchase attorney services so they can shut down their stores. We still aren’t sure what the 87 initiatives are or if there even was such a thing, but Emeril has ditched Dream Dinners for a new suitor and Martha doesn’t seem to hold the same punch she used to.

And yes, Stephanie’s Blog still sucks.

If you’ve been reading along we have seen some meal prep articles come out which actually give a realistic and honest portrayal of this industry. And how did they accomplish that? Well first off, they stopped listening to industry experts and therefore got accurate information. Have they seen that folks like Bert and Andy really have no idea what they’re talking about and what they say today won’t be the same story they tell tomorrow? Hopefully, we will see more of this media enlightenment in the future.

Smaller meal assembly stores can’t escape higher food costs and even the store run by the What’s Cooking Software founder is going to have to close its doors. Seems things are tough all over despite having your finger on the pulse of consumers and knowing that the pendulum will swing the other way.

Speaking of meal assembly software companies, don’t ask EATS anything about MealMakers. They’ll throw dirty diapers at you.

And regrettably the IAMPB has also brought their meal assembly interests to an end.

As we soldier on for the final quarter of the year, things have certainly taken an interesting series of turns. A few franchisors have already disappeared with several more poised to close up shop before the end of the year. The survival of the fittest is now in full swing. There was some hope for a back to school rush, which doesn’t sound like it happened, with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner. The dominos are starting to tumble and they are claiming many stores. It’s even been postulated that the meal assembly industry has put American families into debt by $100-200 million dollars so far with several more million to potentially be added.

What’s next? What to do to survive to the end of the year and beyond?

Other Articles of Interest:

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14 Responses to “Meal Prep Dominos”

  • guest:

    Tuckerbox you have hit a home run again…great job couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Excellent post Tuckerbox!

    By this article I found, Dan Cosgroove, quotes Dream Dinners as having 250 stores with 67 in buildout. This article has no date but he is interviewing Tracy Smith. This would mean there is over a 50% loss.

    The research I have done (endless counting) The most Dream Dinners stores were (1.23.07) 207.

    Today, If you were to go on the website and count all the stores (which I did) 191 but 36 are closed. That still shows a huge comany loss. Where is the Integrity?

    Did the 67 stores ever finish build out? guess we will never know that answer…

  • swvendor:

    The article appears on the November 2007 entry for their blog:

    That tells you the interview was not later than that, but you don’t know how much earlier. Chances are no more than a monthy or so. There is a podcaset if anyone has the time or interest.

  • guest:

    On that same subject of projections vs actuals. This article appears online: Patricia Schaefer-
    Super Suppers 100th store opens- Bethpage NY-the store opened in 2006 is now closed.
    In the same article this quote:
    “Super Suppers franchise sales representative Trevor Hance attended the Bethpage store grand opening, and updated me on their impressive and amazing franchise expansion: “As we speak, there are an additional 100 Super Suppers stores in the works, and we are expecting to have a total of about 400 stores operating by the end of 2006.” This gives credence to the claims that the food assembly concept is one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry in the United States, with Super Suppers looking like and claiming to be the leader of the pack. ”
    If you go to their website there are 15 stores listed as closed-several “stores/territories” in AK listed as for sale.
    If you look at the Sept Calendars there are 74 stores that have no calendars up for the month of Sept.-what that means is anyone’s quess…
    If you go to their website there is by my count 131 stores currently listed as opened.
    What happened to the rest of the 216 stores listed as opened in 2007.
    These are the stores we can track as of today, what about the stores that closed that we can’t trac?
    What IS the actual numbers of stores SS has ‘lost” over the last 6 years?

  • atc:

    Friday, November 30, 2007
    Lending lockdown: Funding difficult for would-be business owners

    This is an article about a DD that was opened in March of 2007. When you go to their website it comes up with an error message we you try to look at their session calendar-does this mean that the store is closed or are they just experiencing difficulties with their website?

  • This store is now closed.

  • guest:

    Rosa closed a few months ago.

  • guest:

    Wait, a story about a woman from last December closed a few months ago? When did she open?

    That is so so sad…

  • atc:

    That is so sad…My opinion for what it’s worth,
    I’m with guest, I’ve been researching store closures for all the franchises and independents for some time trying to get a handle on it and it seems like trying to nail jello to the wall.
    A failure rate of 50% is abhorrent…
    In my opinion that is the real story in all of this. The failure rate of stores is the real story, the churning of failed stores, people who represent one thing to sell a product when the reality of a situation is not discussed. The failure of “proven model/concept” that suddenly no one can figure out why it has been a failure. Franchisors are “perplexed”, they don’t understand why its not working, it’s the economy..whatever…I guess we should be at least grateful that they’re admitting there’s a problem, although my bet is not a one of the franchisors will fess up to it being their problem and not the franchisees that they continue to brow-beat into submission and encourage co-dependent behavior. The term wife-beater syndrome is a very appropo-explanation-thank you “huh” for putting a name to the insanity.
    It’s funny that a few months ago it was a shake-out, then an adjustment a realistic attrition event that was happening, why it happens with any “new” concept all the “experts” knew and expected it. Funny they didn’t see fit to share that with anyone.
    How sad is it that the people who are supporting the insanity financially via royalties and such are the ones who are the victims and continue to be the victims?

  • atc:

    From the article it looks like March of 2007

  • imamakownertoo:

    On the subject of empty calendars-I know some Super Suppers have been having issues with their new EATS websites, could the empty calendars be due to that?
    Ofcourse the quickest way to tick off a customer is not to have a timely calendar posted.
    If confuses them, and heaven knows we don’t need them any more confused then necessary.
    One would think that a functional calendar feature would be fundamental a priority for your software company/Home Office

  • Lisa:

    You are right ima, some SS owners like me are too tech deficient to figure out how to use the EATS system. But, most of our stores have or are going all GNG making a calendar pretty useless, especially when it’s hard to use. So, now, for most of our businesses a functional calendar is meaningless, but a better ordering system would be a plus, one not likely to happen, but a girl can dream! Lisa

  • guest:


    Was any support provided when you went to the EATS system??

  • Lisa:

    Of course support was provided, the same amazing support we have always received as franchisees–not sure what you mean, Lisa

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