Dinners with family have been our company’s focus for 15 years now; however, entertaining was a focus for our company’s founder for many years before 2002, during Stephanie Allen’s pre-Dream Dinners life as a caterer. Even today, Stephanie is the “the hostess with the mostest.” She invites groups to enjoy at her home and before people know it, there is a spread of food that could feed an army.
The mystery is that you never see her leave the gathering. She spends so little time in the kitchen and so much time with her guests, you have to ask yourself where she hides the elves. Surely, she has a merry band of chefs working with her behind the scenes. No, she doesn’t. She’s Stephanie. She’s learned through the years that it’s absolutely possible to focus on her guests because she’s taken the time before her gathering to prep and pre-cook what she can.
She once wrote that guests can pick up on a host’s mood quickly. If a host is stressed, the guests can’t really relax. Stephanie exudes a sense of relaxation that can only be emulated by pages in a lifestyle mag, where everyone is smiling and every plate and glass is filled: Cheers! Always laughing and with an ear to listen to the many stories, Stephanie quietly goes about the final touches. She is eating with her guests, laughing around a fire pit and cracking crabs at the beach because she’s taken steps ahead of time to make sure she’s not stressing and is focused on her guests.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday, a movement that has been inspiring people to support small businesses across the country for the last three years. Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this nationally recognized day is dedicated to giving back to the people and places that have given their communities so much. In honor of Small Business Saturday, we’d like to share a little bit of our history and recognize the hardworking franchise owners in your communities.
Dream Dinners evolved from the homegrown practice of co-founder Stephanie Allen, a working mother who had been making fix-and-freeze meals for her family. Stephanie enlisted the help of long-time friend Tina Kuna and, together, they hosted the first series of meal assembly sessions in March 2002. Three months later, they opened the first Dream Dinners store and by early 2003, they had received national media attention as well as thousands of unsolicited franchise inquiries from potential owners across the country. By the end of 2003, Stephanie and Tina had signed 35 new franchises. Now, Dream Dinners has assembly stores representing all regions of the country.
Here, Tina and Stephanie share a few memorable moments from the very beginning:
“The first few months before we had our own location, we would haul all of our food into a catering kitchen that we rented by the evening. There was no refrigeration and we would set up stations around the kitchen on long counters. At the end of the evening, we would have to wash each dish by hand (no dishwasher) and then haul all the food back to a warehouse where we had stored a few freezers. We’d crawl into bed at about 2 a.m., then get back up at 6 a.m. and start the day all over again.”