MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: Dave Bellso is Perplexed by Meal Prep


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

Dave Bellso, interviewed for the article, sounds perplexed:

“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.

“When the industry first started, the research from the early stores showed it was a destination,” he said. “As the industry grew, that changed.”

This is a man who owns an advertising agency that claims to be the leader in meal prep marketing. His analysis is that the research showed that the early stores were destinations, but “as the industry grew,” the stores were no longer destinations?

In other words: “People are no longer coming to our stores and we don’t know why.”

Strangely, the Bellsos sound more certain when they’re selling franchises. In fact, the Take & Bake Gourmet website Dave Bellso’s agency built states “Our taste-tested recipes are so delicious they’ll keep coming back for more.”

It states: “Meal assembly kitchens are one of the hottest trends in the food industry.”

“We are excited to share this exciting, proven concept with you…”

“As seasoned marketing professionals we know how to “brand” and promote the business.”

“We have the pulse on consumer buying trends so that we can grow and change our business model to keep up with those trends faster than our competitors.”

“Our taste-tested recipes are so delicious they’ll keep coming back for more.”

“We will be able to assist you in developing effective, results-oriented marketing plans.”

“There is no limit to how many stores you can own. It all depends upon your desire for growth… It is actually advantageous to own more than one store in a market.”

It will be interesting to see what story the Bellsos will be telling tomorrow. It seems to change from day to day.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.

Related note: Bob Niedt of Syracuse.com wrote: ” Speaking of Towne Center, Make & Take Gourmet did a fast exit. The meal-preparation store announced its closing at the top of the week and by midweek, it was gone.”

Towne Center was one of the two Bellso-owned corporate stores.

6 thoughts on “MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: Dave Bellso is Perplexed by Meal Prep

  • August 21, 2008 at 9:36 am
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    “Those in the business muse as to why the idea failed in so many places. Some wonder if the corporate franchise fees were too high. Or perhaps the high cost of buying and preparing food day after day made it too expensive. Maybe customers cut back due to the economy. Or maybe the concept was just not attractive enough.
    “Not enough people know about it,” said Teresa Shurtz, vice president of operations at Super Suppers, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
    Others continue to be mystified by all the failed stores.”

    Has Bellso perplexedness or the mystified musings of other “experts” in the industry as to why the Meal Prep concept has failed has lead to the cessation of selling new franchises or churning failed locationst for a concept they nw acknowledge is not working?

    I continue to marvel at franchisors ability to ignore or try to explain away why the industry is collapsing. Now at least they do admit that the concept is a failure.

    Aren’t the quotes from spokespeople within the industry finally enough to make potential investors what an unwarranted risk this industry is?

  • August 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm
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    I noticed that the Bellso’s Designworks agency’s mealprepmarketing.com has been taken down. Anyone notice when that went away?

    Think maybe it occurred to them that helping independents compete with their own franchisees might not be a smart PR move?

    Or were the failure of their own stores putting a crimp on their expert meal prep marketing personas?

    I wonder if they thought to register mealprepliquidation.com or makbankruptcy.com. That could provide quite a market for them.

  • August 21, 2008 at 3:09 pm
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    As a Southern Belle I feel it my duty indeed my sacred duty to share.
    As I per-used my Meal Prep blog haunts- I came across a post that Meals Made Easy ( the store operation arm of the What’s Cooking? software) is closing.
    The below post is from according to the post the owner of both What’s Cooking software & Meals Made Easy.
    http://www.mealassemblywatch.com/Forum/?topic=274.msg2152;topicseen#new
    “Hello to all.

    My wife, Lynda, owns Meals Made Easy in Fort Collins, Colorado.
    I own a software company called What’s Cooking Software that is used by a few meal preps and other “non-meal prep” restaurants.
    I was made aware of this blog site by other friends in the industry. I have read some of the posts and understand the frustration that is out there.
    Clearly, these are tough times but there also seems to be a bit of “self-fullfilling” thinking that everything is going in the tank. It certainly will (for you) if you believe it.
    Right now, broader economic conditions are dominating. I talk to many restaurant owners outside of meal prep and conditions are not good because the consumer (which drives 2/3 of our economy) has turned off the spigot. The question is: how long will this last because the consumer has been known to turn it back on quickly. You also have an election year…
    The hot concept of “meal assembly” may be over, but innovations for the next market phase are well under way. The trick is to be capitalized enough or “fending off your debtors” long enough to make it there when the pendulum swings. And, it will swing.
    I am the type of person that will share anything with anybody. In my opinion, there is no need to hide identities, etc. because if you really want to succeed, you have to put yourself in “harms way.” Harnessing the fear is the key.
    I live with a “meal prepper” so I get some pretty good inside scoops on a daily basis about what is working and what is not. Nothing is easy in this market. You have to grind it out, pure and simple and get out there to reach new markets. Be innovative and listen to the customer–even when they are not spending.
    I sincerely hope that this subject (thread) will be useful to those that want to go to the next level in this very young industry.
    Please, ask me any question. Any question. If your question is focused on improving your business then I am game to answer them–because we need successful businesses to lead us out of this “doom and gloom.”
    Of course, I own What’s Cooking Software so you may feel there is a “hidden agenda”. But, software is just a tool to support the means of a business purpose. Successful business models create software and not the other way around. I got started when Lynda needed a report to tell her how much food she needed to order based on the online orders. There was a real need and I filled it–because the alternative was the “hellish” spreadsheet dance. At that time, stores like Let’s Dish in Baltimore were already cranking out some pretty big numbers, just doing assembly.
    In my opinion, this blog site will only “do good” if it helps people improve their business models.
    Good luck to all.
    Jim”

    Since that post “Jim” has been MIA in answering questions posed by posters.
    What makes this all interesting is that Bellso’s company Make & Take Gourmet is listed as one of their clients.
    Just how intertwined are these players in this weird game?
    It all seems to me like marrying yer first cousin.
    If the rumor about Meals Made Easy is indeed true-The question comes to mind that if this store- run by one of the “experts” can’t make it, what does that say for the rest of the industry?
    CB

  • August 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm
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    I just re-read this post- Is this guy a politician if he’s not in my opinion he should be or the very least a motivational speaker!
    This is entirely too good, you can’t make this stuff up!
    In my opinion it’s pretty safe to say the “hot concept” has become a “hot potato” and is pretty much ova.

    Jim writes:
    “The hot concept of “meal assembly” may be over, but innovations for the next market phase are well under way.
    “The trick is to be capitalized enough or “fending off your debtors” long enough to make it there when the pendulum swings. And, it will swing.”
    I am the type of person that will share anything with anybody. In my opinion, there is no need to hide identities, etc. because if you really want to succeed, you have to put yourself in “harms way.” Harnessing the fear is the key.”

    The “fending off your debtors” long enough”- line is so inspirational it actually brought a tear to my eye.
    I think one of the key words in that above quote is “trick”.
    “Harnessing the fear-I guess is part of the “trick” while “fending off your debtors” long enough to get the thrill of the “pendulum swing”
    Maybe over?
    What innovations?
    What a hoot!

    CB

  • August 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm
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    Yes. Jim is a cloud merchant extraordinaire. It’s interesting to watch a master work.

    “The hot concept of ‘meal assembly’ may be over…”
    Meal Assembly was never a hot concept. It was an illusion of a hot concept. It was a gold rush with no gold. It was only “hot” for selling franchises.

    “…but innovations for the next market phase are well under way”
    This is his nicest try. Let’s act like we had this all planned out all along. Don’t worry, citizens! Nothing to worry about. The next market phase is underway!
    If, by “market phase,” Jim means the obscurity of the Mood Ring and the hot lather shaving cream dispenser, I agree.

    “The trick is to be capitalized enough…”
    That IS the trick. The trick is to be capitalized enough to walk away from this whole thing with whatever remains of your capital…

    “…or “fending off your debtors” long enough to make it…”
    Software vendors not included, of course…

    “…make it there when the pendulum swings.And, it will swing.”
    Jim, that’s not a pendulum. That’s a guillotine.

  • August 22, 2008 at 7:41 am
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