OPINIONEmerging Brands

Remembering the restaurant boom that fooled investors 20 years ago

Restaurant Rewind: Meal assembly concepts were going to be big. But their implosion was what made the loudest noise.

This episode of Restaurant Rewind is brought to you by Tock.

Even casual listeners can hear plenty of wheezing these days from ghost kitchen and virtual concept specialists. The quick about-face in that sector calls to mind a boom that looked at the start of this century like it would reset competition for families’ dinner business—only to collapse in short order, helped along by the Great Recession.

If you’re not familiar with meal assembly and prep concepts, you either weren’t in the business back then, or you’ve repressed the memory. Join me for this episode of the Restaurant Rewind podcast as we look back at a true flash in the hotel pan: the dozens of ventures that bet parents would welcome the chance to put together a week’s worth of meals in a social setting.

We’ll take a look at the factors that (briefly) made meal assembly concepts a wave to ride, and why it crashed in short order, leaving behind a few brands that managed to recast themselves.

Download this and every episode of the weekly trip back in time from wherever you usually get your podcasts.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Reaction to Wendy's dynamic pricing test reveals its risks

The Bottom Line: The burger chain mentioned last week that it would test the pricing strategy sometime next year. Consumers frustrated with prices reacted swiftly.


Why the Burgerim settlement exposes flaws in franchise oversight

The Bottom Line: The federal government allowed the chain’s founder to avoid major penalties by simply paying $1,000. What’s the point of regulation in the first place?


Why the Smashed Jack sparked record-smashing demand at Jack in the Box

Behind the Menu: The chain’s newest menu addition aims to break the mold on what a fast-food burger can be, and customers are buying in.


More from our partners