Industry pioneer prepares brand to resume franchising as sales surge amid coronavirus pandemic
New “ghost kitchen” concept to be tested
Tina Kuna, who is credited with creating the meal kit concept nearly 20 years ago, has been appointed CEO at Dream Dinners. She launched Dream Dinners with co-founder Stephanie Allen in 2002. Since then, Kuna has held senior leadership roles, serving as CFO until the Dream Dinners board asked her to take the CEO job earlier this year.
The brand’s meal sessions, during which customers make a month’s worth of family meals in about an hour, set the stage for today’s meal kit industry. The current concept includes both meal kit assembly sessions where available, as well as “Made For You” kits prepared by Dream Dinners staff for pick up or delivery. Read more about how Dream Dinners works here or watch here.
The brand began franchising in 2003, but it paused franchise sales last year. Today, there are 70 Dream Dinners kitchens in 22 states. Dream Dinners is the only meal kit concept that targets the growing number of millennial families.
“Dream Dinners was built around the idea that dinner – the hour families spend together – is vitally important,” Kuna said. “Our goal then was the same as it is today: make our customers’ lives at home less stressful.”
The coronavirus pandemic led to a surge in sales that is continuing. Unlike restaurants, Dream Dinners locations are considered essential businesses and have been allowed to stay open, making kits for pickup and delivery. Year-over-year same-store sales are up more than six percent; sales in June were more than nine percent higher than last year.
A number of locations have broken sales records this year.
“Dream Dinners and our franchisees are very fortunate that we have been able to thrive during such a difficult period,” Kuna said. “The pandemic also has prompted us to look at our business model and challenge how we serve our customers during this crisis and beyond.”
Kuna’s strategy is to reignite growth and re-launch franchising early next year. She said Dream Dinners will likely focus more on its “Made For You” meal kit service. It plans to test the “ghost kitchen” concept, building a location in San Diego that will prepare meal kits only for pickup and delivery.
“Family life is not getting any easier, and Dream Dinners helps to lower the stress level by being a dinner solution.” Kuna added that most other meal kits consist of a box of groceries that the customer assembles, following a recipe. One meal alone can take an hour to prepare. “Our meals take less time to make, cost less and most importantly, kids like the food.”
Founded in 2002, Dream Dinners’ mission is to make gathering around the family table a cornerstone of daily life. Dream Dinners guests choose from seasonal, rotating monthly menus and prepare their dinners in-store without the hassle of planning, shopping, and chopping. Dream Dinners lays out the ingredients in an easy-to-follow format so guests can assemble a month’s worth of meals in about an hour. Meals prepared by Dream Dinners’ staff also may be ordered and picked up or delivered. A meal kit industry pioneer and leader, Dream Dinners brings “Homemade, Made Easy” to local communities through its 70 retail locations across the U.S. Learn more at www.DreamDinners.com.