Archive for the ‘Dinner By Design’ Category

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?

Meal idea fails to whet appetites

Ber careful now, this one has some sting to it.

Rarely has a new retail business idea been embraced by entrepreneurs so quickly, only to fail so spectacularly, as did the “meal assembly” concept.

Never heard of it? That seems to be the problem

Of course you have to marvel at some of the included comments, just take this little gem from Dave Bellso of the famed Make & Take Gourmet who had an all but foolproof plan for raking in the cash. And don’t forget, he is the one who owns the marketing arm of his little meal assembly empire.

“For some reason, the whole concept is just not doing very well,” said Dave Bellso, whose wife owns the Make & Take Gourmet chain, based in Syracuse. The two-year-old company had a store at The Crossing shopping center in Clifton Park, but closed it after a year for lack of business.

But of course they never admit something is wrong, it’s always the customer is simply not informed of the glorious rapture that awaits at the end of the meal assembly rainbow.

“Not enough people know about it,” said Teresa Shurtz, vice president of operations at Super Suppers, based in Fort Worth, Texas. Now in 42 states, the chain began about five years ago and has about 150 stores.

Although we still see that Super Supper is claiming more store than there really are. But even at 150 they are nearly 100 off the 270 mark of their former claims.

Seems a few writers in the media are starting to see the light.

Meal idea fails to whet appetites

Meal prep franchises aim to tempt customers’ tastebuds and wallets

The meal assembly industry is growing in the Toledo area.

Both Super Suppers and Dinner by Design have opened franchises in the past year and both say business has been good.

The franchises, offering in-house food assembly and take-out, are part of a meal assembly industry that is one of the fastest-growing segments of the $1 trillion retail food industry.

The new firms, in Perrysburg and Holland, follow just a few years after similar businesses, Dream Dinners and Let’s Dish in the metro Toledo, closed. Those, say the owners of the current businesses, weren’t open every day and had no pre-made foods.

“Meal prep fulfills a need that many people have,” said Bert Vermuelen, founder of the association. “It provides a home cooked meal and the luxury of a family dinner [for people] that don’t have the time, the energy, or the interest to do it the traditional way.”

Store clientele, mainly professional, includes stay-at-home parents, the elderly, and others. They also market themselves to health club members, clients with dietary needs, and young single populations.

Super Suppers and Dinner by Design are happy, reporting 50 to 100 customers a week. Word of mouth typically drives business, they said.

Click below to read more

Meal prep franchises aim to tempt customers’ tastebuds and wallets

Dinner by Design and Morton’s(R) Nature’s Seasons(R) Blend Together for Consumer Promotion


   CHICAGO, March 3 /PRNewswire/ — Dinner by Design, a leader in the meal
assembly industry, today announced a national promotion with Morton’s(R)
Nature’s Seasons(R) Seasoning Mix for the month of March.

    Dinner by Design’s March menu features Nature’s Seasons Tilapia, a
delicious foil pouched fish entree which cooks on a bed of rice. “This
handmade entree is a tested and tasty dinner option that cooks in less than
30 minutes and has less than 5 grams of fat and 260 calories per serving,”
said Mark Morgan, RD, director and food and nutrition at Dinner by Design.

    As part of the promotion, customers at all participating Dinner by
Design locations nationwide will receive free packets of Nature’s Seasons
with any purchase.

    This unique MSG-free blend of onion, garlic, salt, pepper and other
natural spices brings out the flavor of fresher, lighter foods without
overpowering them. In addition to being a great compliment to fish,
Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Mix can be used on chicken, vegetables, pasta,
salads and even in dips and salsa and as a topping on freshly baked bread
and rolls.

    “We’re proud to bring two industry-leading Chicago companies together
for an innovative effort that benefits busy people and provides an easy and
delicious dinner solution,” said John Matthews, president and CEO of Dinner
by Design.

    This news follows the company’s February 13 announcement, unveiling new
convenience services including easy pick up, “Dinner Tonight” entrees and
delivery services.

    Dinner by Design is the convenient, cost effective and easy way to
bring families back to the dinner table with healthy, handmade dinners.
Dinner by Design was recognized as having the “Best Food” among all meal
assembly companies in an independent comparison study. Dinner by Design has
nearly 60 kitchens opened, and agreements for another 40 locations in the
U.S. and Canada.

    For more information, visit

Dinner by Design and Morton’s(R) Nature’s Seasons(R) Blend Together for Consumer Promotion

Is Super Suppers for Stupid Suckers? And Other Meal Prep Franchise ???s

Sean Kelly is my hero!!!

I wonder if “factfinder” is going to question Sean’s relationship with his spouse and children… :)

Do franchisees of Super Suppers feel like Stupid Suckers? Has Dream Dinners become the Nightmare on Elm Street? Will My Girlfriend soon be getting back her Kitchen? Has time run out for Supper Thyme USA ? Will Pass Your Plate soon be passing THE plate?

Can the “Meal Prep”,or “Meal Assembly Kitchen”, or “Make It & Take It” franchise concept fail before we’ve decided what to call it? Meal Prep franchise companies such as Entree Vous! , Entrees Made Easy , Mr. Food , Supper Thyme USA hope not. They’re launching creative strategies including premade food to go, health and diet meal preparation, and other ideas.

But it’s a bad sign for a food concept when even a woman named Cathy Chew, the Supper Thyme USA franchisee trying to sell her Council Bluffs, IA location, can’t make it work. Another bad sign is that, despite the myriad clever names, no seems to be able to craft a succinct explanation of what these places do.

I hope I’m wrong, but the meal prep franchise concept always hit me as a solution in search of a problem and my preduction is that you’re going to start seeing this supposedly “hot concept” turn colder than a Swanson’s TV dinner.

Read the full article here:

NYT on the Meal Prep Franchise: Hot Concept Gone Cold?

A common new business pitfall is the entrepreneurial tendency to become enamored so with a “solution” that one forgets to make sure it’s preceded by an actual need and a need great enough to support multiple competitors who are also enamored with said solution.

Case in point: “Meal prep” or “meal assembly” kitchen franchises. This is where, to my hazy understanding, ex-yuppie soccer moms with more money than time can go and slurp Merlot with other ex-yuppie soccer moms while assembling meals to bring home, freeze, and serve later to their families as if they had actually used those recipes they downloaded to their PDAs from

These recent darlings of hot franchise lists and their advertising sales reps have clever names like Super Suppers , Dream Dinners , My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, Pass Your Plate, Entree Vous! , Entrees Made Easy , Mr. Food , and Supper Thyme USA .

But are women who are NOT inclined to cook really looking for a way TO cook? It’s the same kind of question the Curves and 30 minute fitness franchise buyers wished they’d asked: Are couch potatoes really going to stop being couch potatoes, even if it only takes 30 minutes and they don’t have to shower?

My suspicion that the meal prep franchise concept is a solution in search of a problem seems supported by the current New York Times article It’s on to Plan B as a Hot Trend Cools Off. Here are some excerpts:

The concept boomed, as the number of stores mushroomed from four in 2002 to 1,400 in 2007, almost exclusively by catering to women who wanted to provide home-cooked meals for their families, according to the Easy Meal Preparation Association.


The loyalty of these wives and mothers landed meal assembly companies on various lists of top franchises and hot new businesses throughout 2005 and 2006.

But growth in the industry has slowed sharply, long before reaching expectations. Industry revenue, which two years ago was forecast to reach $1 billion annually by 2010, is now projected around $650 million by then, said Bert Vermeulen, an industry consultant and founder of the easy meal association.

Some 264 meal preparation stores closed during 2007, Mr. Vermeulen said, more than three times as many as in the previous year. He forecasts fewer than 50 openings in the United States this year, compared with 562 in 2006.

It turns out that lots of people are simply not motivated to plan so many meals in advance. The desire for last-minute convenience remains powerful in America, often trumping the more ephemeral rewards of home cooking.


Super Suppers, which is based in Fort Worth, once forecast it would have 600 stores by the end of 2006; it now has about 200. Dream Dinners, based in Snohomish, Wash., originated the concept. It has 236 stores, not quite meeting expectations. No single competitor of Super Suppers and Dream Dinners has more than 70 stores.

The majority of owners bring in less than $25,000 a month, or $300,000 a year, in revenue, according to Mr. Vermeulen’s data. He figures that is about $5,000 a month short of what they need to stay out of financial trouble.

Book It N Cook It, an independent store in the Tampa, Fla., suburb of Lutz, never exceeded $4,000 in monthly revenue in its eight-month life, said Terry Warner, its former owner. Monthly expenses averaged about $7,500. Mrs. Warner and her husband closed the store in November after losing about $250,000.

The Warners, retired insurance adjusters who spent two years studying the industry before jumping in, say they underestimated the public’s aversion to meal planning.

“People here have a grab-and-go mentality,” Mrs. Warner said of Florida, where free time can be spent outdoors year-round. “The last thing anyone wants to do here is plan dinner.” She said that the burger joint next door to her shop seemed to be doing great.

Read the article here:

Meal Prep Franchise Dream Dinners Appoints New CEO

Here is the press release announcing the appointment of Darin Leonard as meal prep franchise Dream Dinners CEO.

The Meal Prep (Or Meal Assembly Kitchen) segment of franchising has come under increasing scrutiny, with commenters on alleging that stores are closing in large numbers, but the troubles are being kept quiet by the franchisors and groups such as the Easy Meal Prep Association.

It’s curious that the press release writer seems to hint at industry troubles, and noticeably avoids mentioning the number of open Dream Dinners locations (which the Easy Meal Prep prep group lists at 233, Entrepreneur magazine lists at 199, a Recent TIME magazine story quotes 278 and the Dream Dinners website doesn’t list.)

[Emphasis added by FranchisePick.Com]

Dream Dinners Announces New CEO

SNOHOMISH, Wash., Feb. 12 /PRNewswire/ — Dream Dinners, the leaders and innovators of the meal-assembly industry, are starting 2008 with some bold moves. Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna, co-founders of Dream Dinners and the originators of the meal-assembly industry, announced this week the placement of Darin Leonard as CEO to lead the evolution of the brand and the industry.

Darin is excited to be jumping aboard at such a pivotal time in this industry. “This industry has some unique challenges ahead of it, but Dream Dinners is poised well and clearly at a competitive advantage to continue to lead the industry. Stephanie and Tina have done a spectacular job of setting up a Franchisor support system that focuses on the customer,” Leonard said.

Dream Dinners, a privately held company based in Snohomish, Washington and recognized as the creators of the meal-assembly Industry, continues to lead the industry in store count and double digit growth since inception in March of 2002. While Darin steps into his position as CEO, the founders will continue to play active roles in the business relating to their unique talents. Tina Kuna will serve as CFO for the business, while Stephanie Allen as President will concentrate on strategic development.

Darin is amazed at the early success of Dream Dinners and recognizes both the challenges and the opportunities in taking this industry from a niche market to mainstream . “Nobody in this industry is positioned as well as we are to take it to the next level,” said Leonard. The plans and strategy necessary to re-define the industry requires new thinking and he is passionate about the possibilities in front of Dream Dinners.

Darin Leonard BIO

As Managing Partner of OneAccord, an international revenue consulting firm, Darin has driven major revenue growth plans, systems and processes for mid-market Fortune 500 companies in the food manufacturing and retail industries. He began consulting with Dream Dinners in 2007 on systems and strategy before joining full time.

Prior to his work with One Accord, Darin built leadership success within the Maytag Corporation, where he spent twelve years at various leadership positions in all three of Maytag’s divisions (retail, builder and national accounts). Darin left Maytag to launch an innovative retail concept in the Northwest called the Maytag Stores, where he served as CEO for almost three years.

Dream Dinners has doubled its revenue every year since 2002, is ranked 5th fastest-growing on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 and its co-founders were named 2006 Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Pacific Northwest Consumer Product category. For more information, visit

Read the article here:

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