Where will the meal assembly industry be in 2009? (Part 3)

A few people made money in the meal assembly racket. My Girlfriend’s Kitchen was sold off to A Dinner A’Fare and Entrée Vous has apparently been sold to Super Suppers. Of course the bet is how long Dinner A’Fare will last with their collateral in tow. They spent the first couple of months just trying to keep the website up and running and pointing it to the right company. From several comments I’ve seen, business isn’t exactly booming. Additionally, there are some unusual reports on the relationship between Super Suppers and the culinary school Judie founded. Things sound like they might be a little strained at this point.

You would think a merger would be cause for big news, but the news of what Super Suppers is up to is meager at best. It appears the company is keeping a low profile. The profile is so low that you may even wonder if they’re still in business. But then again, these are the same companies that take 3-6 months to even announce they have changed CEOs. These companies like to keep things to themselves and not let anyone know what they’re up to; cuts down on the accountability this way.

But others keep trudging on, hoping that maybe one day the pendulum will swing back. Franchises aren’t selling, royalty money isn’t coming in, so by all accounts it could be said that most of the other franchises are just a ticking timebomb, waiting for their time to expire.

In some markets, in some small towns, meal assembly still gets some press. But after 5 years you would hope it would be more encouraging than what we have. The articles are still the same; people still don’t know what the meal assembly concept is all about and ask if it’s something they should do. The non-stop bombardment of advertising from the corporate offices has certainly done its job. I bet 80% of those who say they will sign up never actually go for a session or to pick up meals. They’re inertia keeps meal assembly firmly at a distance. Owners have been struggling for years to educate people about the idea and considering they don’t seem to be any more enlightened about the idea now than they were 5 years ago when the concept was new, it would seem their efforts and millions of dollars have been in vain.

But that was the past, what about the future? How will and industry that shriveled when times got tough survive in an economy that becomes stagnant? Meal assembly doesn’t thrive in competition and even in the best of financial situations it was a hard sell. People didn’t see the cost or convenience benefit. Many consumers are using layaway just to make it through Christmas, how will meal prep kitchens justify their existence as the recession continues and perhaps even creeps into a depression?

With literally millions of people losing their jobs and millions more on the block, meal assembly faces a hopeless situation. There are simply no customers. With foreclosures on the rise and people getting months behind on their mortgage, just how is it that meal assembly fits into any plan?

Banks aren’t lending money, credit card companies are going out of business, the technology industry has hit the skids and the auto industry is on the verge of total collapse. Even if the auto industry gets bailed out, how many jobs will actually be saved? And don’t forget all the auxiliary jobs that extend from banking, technology and the autoworkers as well as all the other businesses that will crumble in the upcoming year. Will there be car fires and looting in the streets? No, it won’t be that bad, but I see just about every luxury being jettisoned as people cut back on everything. McDonald’s will be considered a luxury item so the idea of meal assembly won’t even be on anyone’s mind. Billion dollar corporations have seen a 70% drop in revenue and they are a household name.

Should we wait for the government to come swooping in and save us all? Regardless of your political affiliation even if the government were able to work out some miracle plan and get things moving again, how much debt are they going to rack up as they do it? And it’s not like it will take 30 or 90 days and everything will be right as rain. Company restructuring will take years to correct. Unemployment may keep growing beyond a year from now.

So what’s in store for 2009?

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