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Lisa Hake - CEO of Sociale Make & Take Gourmet

1. What is the 'make and take' gourmet meal assembly concept all about?

The make and take meal preparation concept is all about providing busy people with convenient, cost-effective dinner solutions. Customers can attend a Sociale cooking session to prepare delicious meals in just one hour to take home to their freezer or they can simply stop by to purchase chef-prepared entrees, sides, breads and desserts to store in their freezer or serve that evening.

Menus change each month and include both vegetarian options and heart-healthy entrees. Ingredients can be varied to meet specific tastes and dietary restrictions. Entrees are prepared in servings for 2-3 people or 4-6 people. Pricing varies by location, but self-prepared entrees average between $2.85 and $4.33 per serving, depending on the size and number of entrees. Ready-made entrees average $3.75 to $5 per serving, depending on size and number. All entrees come with quick and easy cooking instructions.

2. Where do you see the gap for a business like Sociale?

More and more people today are extremely busy with their careers, family and other activities, that they have little time to worry about what's for dinner. Sociale provides a convenient and cost effective way for people to enjoy more dinners at home with family and friends.

Sociale is a one-stop shop for anyone who likes to entertain and/or enjoys gourmet meals, offering customers the highest-quality, most-convenient and best experience possible. All recipes are created and tested by a team of Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs. Because from-scratch sauces and other gourmet ingredients are prepared in advance, Sociale meals take only half the time to assemble as other make-and-take meal services.

Sociale is also the country's only meal preparation concept whose locations include a boutique-style, gourmet lobby shop where customers can find a diverse collection of gourmet specialty selections including food and drink items, kitchen gadgets, serving pieces, unique gifts and customized gift baskets, many of which complement customers' make-and-take gourmet menu items.

3. What made you decide to franchise this concept?

We decided to franchise the Sociale concept for a few reasons. We had several people come into our stores or email us and ask if Sociale was a franchise. After being asked about this several times we started researching more about the benefits of franchising. Then the industry started taking off and growing extremely quickly. We always knew we wanted to have several locations, but in order to keep up with the growth we decided that franchising was the best way to grow. At the same time we started realizing the benefits of franchising for our franchise partners in terms of the economies developed through the streamlined processes, menu development and testing, the increased buying power in terms of our food and product costs, and the ability to focus our efforts on training and supporting our franchisees so our franchisees can focus on their customers and growing their business.

4. What makes Sociale a unique franchise opportunity?

Sociale is a unique franchise opportunity because of the differentiated position we have in this high growth industry. Sociale's strong brand, our service, retail offerings, and our overall food quality surpass the competition and help to define Sociale as the premier meal preparation service in the industry. In addition, we provide a franchise with:

Upscale kitchen environment with an attached gourmet lobby shop
Extensive test kitchen, menu development and support by
Sociale's team of Le Cordon Bleu chefs
Broad customer appeal with multiple service offerings
(make-it-yourself, pick-up or delivery)
*Retail lobby shop creates a unique and upscale atmosphere that
attracts customers and provides additional opportunity through the sales of specialty foods, gadgets and gifts
Well-branded and highly effective website
User-friendly administrative website to help manage and
streamline business planning and operations

5. What sort of support do you offer your franchisees?

We pride ourselves in the one-on-one support we give our franchisees. From the very beginning, we support our franchisees through customized demographic analysis and site selection assistance. We have a detailed store build-out plan and construction support to help them in every step of their store build-out process. We provide 6 days of comprehensive hands-on training at our headquarters in Minneapolis and on-site support when franchisees open their stores. We have a proven grand opening plan and ongoing marketing development support. We provide franchisees extensive recipe development and direct contact kitchen support from our professional chefs, and ongoing retail buying and merchandising support. In addition to that, we have a monthly newsletter, web portal, ongoing training opportunities throughout the year and an annual meeting with all franchisees.

6. Do you believe that Sociale is a great franchise for women?

Absolutely! Women tend to get the concept a little faster then men, just because it is women who typically are the ones concerned with what to make for dinner every night! To date, all of our franchisees have been women, or husband and wife teams. Over 80% of our customers are women. I always say, I am my best customer!

7. What are your own experiences of being a working mom?

It is not easy, but it has been 100% better since I started working for myself and not in the corporate world. I am able to schedule my time around my kid's schedules and work when it is convenient for my family. I do find that I have to really schedule my time, so that when I am with my kids, I am not focused on work. It is a lot of work, but in the end I know what my end goals are and that I am working hard to reach them to make a better life for my family. My husband and I get our kids involved in the business when it makes sense. They know what our goals are for the business and we tie it into what makes sense to them (e.g. a Disney cruise once we have 20 stores open). That helps them better understand why we have to travel to open a store. The great part about owning Sociale, is that I do not ever have to worry about what to make for dinner!

8. What motivates you?

My family is what motivates me the most. Seeing my kids be proud of our accomplishments and meeting our goals and enjoying our success through them is what makes all this hard work worth it. Our franchisees is another thing that motivates me. Watching them open stores and grow their business based on the systems and processes we have developed is just amazing. Our employees motivate me. Several of our employees have been with Sociale since the very beginning. They have grown with the business and have done so much to get it where it is today. My husband, Jason, also motivates me. It is great to work with him. We share the same goals and aspirations and are able to motivate each other to continue to work hard to make our business grow, so we can enjoy our family more!

9. Any words of encouragement for our mompreneurs?

Go for it! The hardest decision is to take the leap from a comfortable paying job or being a stay at home mom, but if you have passion for something you at least need to give it a try and never look back. Once you have made the decision to go for it, make a plan and work that plan. It will help you stay on track and better schedule your time. I am the queen of to do lists. I make them everyday. It is such a great accomplishment to cross off that to do list. I always include family time on my to-do list and make sure I am giving my kids my full attention by having fun with them every day. Keep a list of your goals and what motivates you in your wallet (right by where you keep your money), so that you see it every day. It will keep you going, especially when times are tough. Celebrate even the smallest successes. It is hard because when you are in the trenches you sometimes feel like you are never going to get out, but when you reach a goal (even the smallest of goals), be sure to take time to celebrate them and be proud of your accomplishments!

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