Owner Spotlight: Nicole Marefka & Sally Grant (Sunrise, FL)

Did you know that most Dream Dinners stores are locally owned and operated?

Our franchisees are the heart and soul of Dream Dinners, and we love to see how they give back to their local communities. In our Owner Spotlight blog series, we’ll highlight a different franchisee each month from one of our stores around the country. 

How long have you been a Dream Dinners store owner?

Nicole & Sally: We have owned our location since 2004. However, we did not open until October 2005. We were store number 50.

How did you learn about Dream Dinners? Were you a guest before becoming an owner?

Nicole & Sally: While in the waiting room of a Dr.’s appointment, Sally read an article in Working Mother Magazine about this meal prep business started by two mothers in Seattle. She knew that, as a foodie, it would be ideal to get a service like that when she was unable to cook. During those times, we both had corporate jobs and were home about 7 pm, which meant that no matter how much she loved cooking, Sally was usually too tired to begin something. We checked the Dream Dinners website to see if we could be guests at a nearby location; however, they only had the original store. One day, Sally saw that they were offering franchises, so she asked Nicole if she wanted to check it out, and off we went to Snohomish!

What made you buy a Dream Dinners franchise? 

Nicole & Sally: As a prospective franchisee, you would put together meals as one of the first things you would do. As we prepared the meals in Seattle, Nicole (who is a complete non-cook and can be satisfied with peanut butter toast) was pushing Sally out of the way and having a blast assembling the meals. Nicole’s excitement about this concept, despite not being interested in food, suggests it was a winner.

When we transported the food we had assembled in Seattle back to Florida, there was a snowstorm at our layover in Charlotte. When we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport, the luggage was missing the cooler. I returned the following day to retrieve the cooler, expecting the food to have spoiled but found everything was still frozen. As soon as we thawed it and made the Chicken Mirabella, we knew that this was a great concept and that the food was delicious!

Additionally, we learned about the mission from the owners and Home Office employees. My family had always shared meals together, and this tradition of eating together with others was very important to me.  Also, we considered it a unique concept, one that was ahead of its time and used technology, prepayment of the service, and access to customer insights.

What do you love about owning a Dream Dinners store?

Nicole & Sally: My favorite part of our service is making our guests happy over and over again. It is a unique opportunity to own a business where there are so few guest complaints, and the guests are genuinely happy and excited to do business with us month after month. 

We love giving our staff the opportunity to grow and develop. To be a part of a team that is focused on the same mission is a very rewarding experience. As the staff grows and develops, Nicole is honored to help them to be successful. A flexible schedule is also a huge plus for Nicole. She hated the rigidity of corporate life. Your Dream Dinner’s life can be molded however you wish. 

How do you give back to your community?

Nicole & Sally: Since our founding, we have found ways to give back to the underserved in our community. We have formed a partnership with ARC Broward, a non-profit that strives to provide people with disabilities with opportunities that spur life-changing outcomes. The students worked with us for a week doing prep, sessions, and Made for You assembly. We have hired several graduates from there, including a young woman who has now been with me for over five years.

Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies of Broward County is another organization with which we have consistently worked. We provided ingredients to Feeding South Florida and regularly donated to a local immigrant community that continued to work and pick produce during the pandemic. Without their work, food service businesses would have suffered even more.  

Sally Grant with Feeding America TrucksSunrise FL Dream Dinners EmployeesNicole Marefka giving a check to Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies

What’s your favorite Dream Dinners meal and Sides & Sweets item?

Nicole: Chateau Chicken, Savory Chicken with Sesame Honey Butter, Beer Battered Sidewinders, and Lemon Bars

Sally: Greek Island Shrimp, Buttery Bombay Chicken, Roasted Heirloom Potatoes, and Oreo Brownies

Is there anything that you’d like to tell us about you or your Dream Dinners store?

Nicole & Sally: Two weeks after we opened, the first major hurricane in 30 years (Wilma) came through our area. It caused so much destruction and disruption to power, we then had to close our doors and did not reopen until about 6 weeks later for our first full month of sessions in Dec of 2005. Also, we have a staff member that has been with us since the third month we opened, which is over 15 years.

Thank you, Nicole and Sally, for sharing your story and contributing so much to your community!

Have you ever thought about opening your own business? Dream Dinners is a locally-owned franchise business! To learn more about opening your own store, visit www.DreamDinnersFranchise.com