Meal Assembly or Dinner Boutique?

An interesting article to be sure. Rather inaccurate in many respects and loaded with bizarre assumptions and information that has already proven to be false. I wonder what kind of research Jody did in order to prepare for this article? It seems like this is a rehash of the articles written three years ago rearing its ugly head.

QSR seems to be on a meal assembly revival tour, spouting the same rhetoric from years earlier hoping that, what was old will be new again. While there are a couple of glimpses into how some of the businesses run, including that Super Suppers is letting local stores pick and choose what is on the menu, there is very little that holds up to some quick fact checking.

The concept started its “make-and-take” ascent in 2002. Caterer Stephanie Allen and a friend had already been meeting together regularly and assembling ingredients for multiple meals and told their friends about it. After 9/11, people wanted to get back to the dinner table, they wanted home-cooked meals, and they wanted to save money, Allen says. “People came out of the woodwork asking for my help.”

Meal Prep Industry Offers Do It Yourself Dinners

“and by June she opened her first store Dream Dinners. The concept now has 209 franchised units in 37 states with headquarters in Snohomish, Washington.”

Well that isn’t correct, as stated by the headman himself, Dream Dinners has 180 stores and the ones that closed were all part of the plan. At their peak DD may have hit 209 stores, but they are from that number now. Of course 180 is subject to change, who knows how many more have closed since that statement was made.

“today the meal-prep industry is a $370-million business, expected to increase to $410 million by the end of 2009, according to The Easy Meal Prep Co”. These stats also come from the same guy who said the industry would be a multi-billion dollar venture by the end of 2010. Quite a change there Bert, you dropped your estimate by more than half, but yet as the industry has nearly lost half it’s stores you still somehow say it will increase in revenue for the upcoming year. Fanciful statistics and wishful thinking to be sure.

“Though meal-assembly concepts account for less than two-tenths of a percent of dinners, innovation abounds and could be contagious to consumers when more of them catch wind of it.” When they catch wind of it? This idea has been around for 5 years, peaked to maximum capacity in 2006 and is now fading out of existence, just when exactly will they get “wind of it”? And shouldn’t the corp. office be spending the large sacks of cash to get customers up to speed rather than leaving it to the local owners to spend money out of their own pockets in addition to the marketing fund they pay into?

“All the dishes developed for Super Suppers are tested by chefs at the Culinary School of Fort Worth, which was also founded by Judie Byrd.

While other quick meal-prep franchises might require franchisees to offer the same revolving monthly recipes, experience has taught Byrd to allow more flexibility. “We have about 400 entrées in the library. Every month, franchisees choose which they want,” she says. Byrd, however, recommends Super Supper operators include four national best-sellers as well as four to six new recipes. “After that, they can fill in with what sells best in their areas.” Interesting to note that those who are paying to learn the culinary arts are helping to build up Judy’s recipe repertoire and help determine if the recipes are worthy of being used in the store. Also seems to strengthen the idea that Entrée Vous was bought just for the recipes.

One thing that is interesting to note is that the idea of customers preparing the meals seems to be a dwindling idea with only Dream Dinners still holding on to the idea. I’m just waiting for the first store to put a drive thru window up and sell food that way.

Other Articles of Interest:

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One Response to “Meal Assembly or Dinner Boutique?”

  • It doesn’t look like Jody did any more research for this article than copying the article that Forbes wrote on Dream Dinners back in May.

    “Dream Dinners, now with 208 locations in 37 states throughout the U.S. (and another 29 under construction), is the largest of these chains. But with food prices soaring, angry franchisees snapping and its financials sagging, the company–and much of the meal-assembly industry–is feeling like it’s on the chopping block.”

    And we all know that at least 40 of these stores have closed.

    Forbes was also given the figure of nearly 1,300 open stores which is now much closer to just 1,000.

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