MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: Flagship Closes

Less than a year ago, Make & Take Gourmet founder Michele Bellso sent out a blast email announcing the closing of two franchise stores of the chain’s 16 locations. 

Bellso’s nonchalant, cheery tone and characterization of the lost investment of her franchise owners as  business-as-usual prompted the first (Make & Take Gourmet: Meal Prep Franchisor Takes Failures in Stride April 28, 2008) of 20+ posts  I’d write on the ill-conceived and ill-fated meal prep chain.

“Interest and excitement in the Make and Take Gourmet concept has never been greater!” wrote Bellso in her email last April.  “We anticipated that as this new industry evolved, stores would need to adapt to emerging trends. We expected that this would include some store closures, and unfortunately our Camillus and Baldwinsville stores have closed. However, our Cicero, Fayetteville and Auburn stores will continue to operate 7 days…”

Her email concludes:  “Interest in franchise stores is continuing…I can honestly say that Make and Take Gourmet’s future is looking very bright…”

Do you smell something burning?

The email came on the heels of other franchise failures.  Rather than halt franchise sales and figure out why her stores were failing, Bellso continued to market and open Make & Take Gourmet franchises.  In a July, 2008 interview she blamed the failures on the unrealistic expectations of her franchisees (”Too many people think they’ll make a million in the first year”) and said “The only thing that may have changed for us is to make a better selection of our owners.”

In August, 2008, Bellso closed the corporate-owned (MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: Bellsos Closing Company Store, Blame Economy).

They also were sued for fraud by their early franchise owners (MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: 3 Franchisee Groups Reportedly Suing), and it was announced another franchise was “de-branding” (MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: New Hartford MTG to Defranchise)

In December, 2008, we reported the Securities Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland charged Bellso & Make & Take Gourmet with the registration, disclosure, and antifraud provisions of the Maryland Franchise Law (Make & Take Gourmet, Michele Bellso Accused of Franchise Fraud (AG)).

Corporate stores closing:  Commence grieving.

This month, UnhappyFranchisee.com reported that Bellso has closed the corporate Cicero, NY flagship store, which Bellso had boasted sold as many as 3,000 meals per day and grossed as much as $1.7M yearly (MAKE & TAKE GOURMET: Flagship Cicero Store Closes).

Not surprisingly, Bellso’s email regarding the closing of her own store is “with much sadness,” a sharp contrast to the upbeat tone regarding her franchisee’s losses:

Dear Friends,
It is with much sadness that I announce that the Make and Take Gourmet store in Cicero is closing. We have really enjoyed helping you feed your families.
Unfortunately, tough economic times and rising costs have made it impossible for us to continue doing business. It was a difficult decision and not one that we wanted to have to make.
Saturday, March 28th will be our last day. Stop by and fill up your freezers with our Buy 2 Get 1 Free Blowout Event.
Thank you for all of your support over the last three years. We will miss you!
Michele

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Logo:  Make & Take Gourmet