Twenty-one years ago, Stephanie Allen started getting together with a friend once a month to make a dozen dinners in one day. She would stick them in the freezer to pull out on those nights when family, work and other obligations all seemed to conspire against a home-cooked meal.
Little did she know that her efficient way of getting dinner on the table would spark a $1.2 billion industry thatâ€™s considered one of the fastest-growing franchise opportunities in the United States.
â€œI had no idea that other people had such trouble making dinner,â€ said Allen, who ran a catering business for 12 years. â€œAll my other friends wanted to join me. I kept putting them off.â€
Eventually, Allen gave in, and she and a business partner, Tina Kuna, started the Dream Dinners meal-assembly business in 2002. The company had revenue of almost $60 million last year, and it has sparked more than a dozen imitators, including Super Suppers, Entree Vous, MealMakers and My Girlfriendâ€™s Kitchen.