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Jun 22, 2006 04:23 PM

Meal assembly franchises

  • r

Are the frozen casseroles that customers assemble at these places better than what they could buy cheaper at Costco?

If not, what exactly are the customers getting for their money?

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  1. I saw a show on one of these franchises that opened in Texas somewhere. The company dictates everything you do right down to the items/brand you use in their recipes (none of your own allowed). They're aiming for a McD's level consistency.

    For some people the _perceived_ quality is better than Costco and that's what is all about.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Larry

      While you may have to use the items/brand they provide you with while you're there, you're still taking home knowledge you can use generically.

      I have a friend who isn't much of a cook, but now that she has a family, she doesn't want them to live on fast food and pre-made items. She did a session at a meal assembly place near her (Austin TX), and now she makes almost all of those recipies herself at home. Sure, she used their ingredients there, but now she's been able to tailor the recipes to her taste and products she prefers.

      Nothing negative about that.

    2. I have a friend in Fremont who uses one of these and she really likes it. She served us a meal that she made from there when we visited a while back and it was quite tasty.

      1. I've always assumed they're basically a middleman for Sysco. Am I wrong?

        1. Here's the article that appeared this week in the Monterey Herald
          about a new one in Pacific Grove, CA.

          Link Title: FAST FOOD, FAMILY STYLE - Monterey Herald
          Link URL:

          1. Let me first say that I don't shop at Costco and have never tried these dinner assembly services, but...

            I have been fascinated by their concept and recent boom. I think I've read/heard about 5 of them in the last month...Designer Dinners, Chef Dane, Super Suppers, and more.

            Santa Cruz actually has one called Fresh Prep Kitchens that I checked out just for foodie knowledge, not really to try it for myself. Started about 3 yrs. ago. While it likely costs more than Costco prepackaged foods, I think the advantanges are:

            1. Control over ingredients. If you don't like mushrooms in your lasagna (even if it's listed in the recipe), you can omit them. You also know that no weird chemicals or preservatives are added.

            2. The food is "fresher." You see the fresh ingredients that go into the dishes and you cook it fresh before eating. Whether this results in improved quality/taste, I'm not sure.

            3. Fresh Prep Kitchens uses all organic produce from local farms! I think that's pretty cool and not standard.

            4. Allows parents (mostly moms use this) who don't really have the time or desire to meal plan and cook to feel better about what they're feeding their families and to do light cooking.

            I personally would never use this service since I love to cook and come up w/ my own recipes, but I can understand their popularity and niche. I just can't imagine storing all those ingredients in my freezer! I hope that someone who tries this concept will report back.