Biz buzz: Assembly-style wining and dining catches on

The national trend of meal assembly stores — where customers spend a couple of hours putting together up to a month of dinners — is gaining traction in San Luis Obispo.

A second franchise, named Cena to Go — incorporating the word for “dinner” in Spanish and Italian — plans to open in early July in the Marigold Center. Similar to the Dream Dinners franchise, which opened in San Luis Obispo last November, Cena to Go allows its customers to select entrees from a monthly menu and schedule a session to prepare meals from prepared ingredients that can be frozen for future use. The appeal, say franchise owners, is that patrons get the upside of cooking at home without having to do meal planning, shopping and chopping.

“In about two hours, our customers will be able to make up to 12 meals that feed four to six portions,” explained Kim Colvin, owner of the local Cena to Go, which will open at 3940-2 Broad St. The cost for 12 dinners is $260.

In addition to “restaurant-quality meals” — including steak Béarnaise, pecan-crusted honey chicken and osso bucco — Colvin said she is partnering with Monterey Street Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo. Wine pairings will be suggested with the entrees, but the wine will have to be purchased at the wine shop.

Formerly in the local banking industry, Colvin said she saw a program on the Food Network about two years on a similar franchise which sparked her interest in the meal assembly concept.

It’s a model that is finding traction locally, said Karen Cipolla, a partner in Dream Dinners at Ferrini Square in San Luis Obispo.

“The response to our store has been amazing. Our numbers have been going up every month,” Cipolla said, adding that she is considering opening a North County location next year. “People tell us that we have changed their lives because we are helping to bring families back to the dinner table.”

Dream Dinners is focused on healthy meals. Eleven of the 14 entrees the store offers each month have less than 300 calories and less than 10 grams of fat per serving. The cost is about $250 for 12 large dinners.

—Ermina Karim

Red Cross celebrates 90 years in SLO

The San Luis Obispo County Chapter of the American Red Cross will celebrate its 90th year of service to the county at its annual meeting and volunteer recognition event today.

Each year, the local chapter elects new members to the Board of Directors and honors its many volunteers and supporters at the annual celebration. The meeting will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Monday Club, 1815 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

To learn more about Red Cross services, how to become involved or how to make a donation, call 543-0696 or visit

—Tonya Strickland

Dr. Joseph Crumbley will give a relative caregiving presentation June 29 and 30 at the Kinship Center in Templeton.

The free event will cover kinship care, which is the full-time care of a child by someone who is related by family ties or by a significant prior relationship.

The June 29 presentation from 5:30 to 8 p.m. will be for professionals. The June 30 presentation from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. is for relative caregivers.

Child care is available by request.

To make a reservation, call 434-2449 by Monday.

—Dawn Rapp

Jon-Erik Storm has been named as an advocate by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, an organization dedicated to ethical and effective advocacy by attorneys. Storm is an associate attorney for Employer Advocates Group, a law firm that advises and represents businesses in labor issues. The law firm has offices in San Luis Obispo and Redwood Shores.

—Dawn Rapp

Look in Biz Buzz every Tuesday through Saturday for the news and notes involving local businesses. To suggest a news story, call 781-7932. Press releases can be sent by fax to 781-7905, by e-mail to or mailed to Biz Buzz, The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112.

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