Archive for the ‘Supper Thyme’ Category

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:

You have to adapt

I venture to say this is a pretty typical story these days…

And a couple of separate comments:

Thanks for the keen insight into the obvious Bert!

(And hopefully no one thinks I’m picking on Dream Dinners), but I’m amused by the Dream Dinners store which has been “temporarily closed” for the past six months…

Switchin’ Kitchens used to have a lot of company in southern Mecklenburg.

But since opening in 2006 in the Fountains retail center on Ardrey Kell Road, owner Rachel Basile has seen other meal preparation places fall by the wayside.

Does that make her nervous about the future of her business?

“A little bit,” said Basile — who then quickly points out that she’s adapting to her customers’ needs, too.

For example, Basile works with Judy Fischer, a registered dietitian in Matthews, in planning the monthly slate of meals that customers come in to Basile’s store to prepare. Fischer analyzes the menu — and suggests substitutions when needed — then puts her seal of approval on meals that meet various designations, like waist watchers, gluten-free/casein-free, diabetic-friendly, and so on.

Basile also encourages customers — or potential ones — to call or come in to discuss what meals she sells match their particular dietary needs.

“I’m growing. There’s a reason for that,” Basile said of her business.

“What frustrates me are people who say, `Oh, I’ve always wanted to try a place like this,’ ” Basile said, laughing good-naturedly. “What are you waiting for?”

The meal prep industry has boomed in the U.S. — from one outlet in 2002 to 1,353 in 2007, according to Bert Vermeulen, founder of Easy Meal Prep Association, a Cheyenne, Wyo., group that supports the industry.

But Vermeulen said the business is experiencing a slowdown.

Some customers find that the hallmark of meal prep places — convenience — isn’t always so.

It takes some pre-planning, for example, to take your pre-made frozen meal out of the freezer and into the refrigerator for defrosting, a step many busy people simply forget to do, Vermeulen said.

He said some places are retooling in 2008 to have more “take and bake” offerings — fresh, unfrozen, uncooked meals, already prepared, that customers can buy and quickly heat for dinner that night, just like some supermarkets already feature.

Business owners are also burning out on the number of hours the meal-prep industry requires, Vermeulen said.

“They don’t (make) enough money for the owner to hire someone to run it for them,” he said. “So the owners are working a lot of hours and not earning much themselves. … They’ve ended up with a full-time job on a part-time income.”

The economy, competition and rigors of the meal-prep business have apparently taken their toll locally:

• Super Suppers, in Carmel Village, closed in August, with the owners announcing they wanted to move on to other ventures.

• The Supper Thyme franchise at Matthews Street Station closed, with no further information on the store window or on the franchise Web site.

• For at least six months, Dream Dinners on Johnston Road, the first meal-prep business to enter the Charlotte market in June 2005, has been “temporarily closed,” according to the franchise Web site. A person answering the guest relations phone line last week said that was still the case.

The business isn’t completely dying off in southern Mecklenburg.

The Web site for Mr. Food, a meal assembly chain, announces that stores will open soon in Ballantyne and Matthews.

Read the full story here:

Getting a jump on the holiday cooking

It looks like Dream Dinners and Supper Thyme get some press to help kick start the holiday meal assembly plans. Hopefully they can get some more of these out there to get people motivated to make meals for the holidays.

Busy parents get ready to kick into overdrive as Thanksgiving and Christmas increase workloads. On a bad day, fast food and sugar-laden snacks replace balanced, sit-down family meals.

But just-opened Dream Dinners can help fill freezers with enough healthy dishes for a month of crazy schedules.

Read the full article here:

Cooking, Henry Ford-style

Cooking, Henry Ford-style

From Financial Times

“Like most Americans, I was brought up thinking of food as fuel: something that should be prepared and consumed as quickly as possible – an unfortunate distraction from the hard work of living.

Now I demand much more of my meals – but I have even less time to cook them. As a single parent, part-time commuter and full-time wage slave, my dinner options on the average workday are limited: we can have leftovers or we can have cereal. Every weekend, I cook up a big pot of something that keeps well (curry, or tuna-noodle casserole) and we eat that as long as we can stand it. By Friday, Cheerios and red wine sounds more appealing.”

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As meal prep booms, a shakeout looms

As meal prep booms, a shakeout looms

“People are starving each other out,” says an Oldsmar entrepreneur. Nationwide, average store revenues leave little after rent and expenses.

An older article that actually seems to get it right.

The Meal Blogger


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