Archive for August, 2008

David Bellso ditches meal prep marketing ties

It’s looks like Make & Take Gourmet has suffered another loss. In conjunction with closing one of the corporate stores it appears they have shuttered their meal prep marketing branch as well. It’s been several days now and the mealprepmarketing.com site just doesn’t answer. Could be a server glitch, could be admin oversight, could be renegade garden gnomes. But it’s an interesting coincidence that shortly after the announcement of lawsuits against them, they close one of the main stores, close down their marketing arm and then claim ignorance as to why the meal prep business isn’t working for them.

Seems we have another meal assembly expert coming apart at the seams. I guess they’re just victims of this “shakeout” that’s going on.

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?

Food costs will only increase from here

Not exactly good news as we see a touch of relief in the price of gas…

NEW YORK — As prices for crude oil and other commodities ease, consumers have gotten a small dose of relief at the gas pump. But don’t expect less pain at the grocery counter.

Food inflation is here to stay — and will probably get worse for some things.

“As long as we’re in this world of expensive oil and commodities, the prices that you’re seeing now in the grocery shelves are not going away,” said Ephraim Leibtag, an economist with the U.S. Agriculture Department who tracks retail food prices.

The Money Squeeze: Food costs will only increase from here

Redbook’s Dream Dinners Family Vacation Sweepstakes

Looks like Dream Dinners has set up another contest with Redbook. Looks like you can win a family vacation or a cookbook. Not really a whole lot of middle ground on that one. There also seems to be some mention of a plate. This might be a golden opportunity to hand out some melamine tumblers and fish bags.

Family Vacation Sweepstakes

Win a Family Vacation from Dream Dinners

Dream Dinners oval dish

Rockville mom gets lessons from Emeril Lagasse

Looks like Emeril is making the meal prep rounds.

With a few simple cooking tricks and a lot of laughs, a Rockville family recently got some tips on how to spice up its suppers from famous chef Emeril Lagasse.


On the series, which debuted July 14 on Discovery Communications’ Planet Green channel, Lagasse takes cooking-challenged people to Whole Foods markets to help them learn about and hand-pick the best organic and locally grown foods. After shopping with each person, Lagasse helps them prepare dishes that demonstrate the “convenience and ease of using fresh ingredients in everyday meals,” according to a Discovery Communications press release.

Rockville mom gets lessons from Emeril Lagasse

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