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CHICAGO -- Dinner by Design, a meal assembly chain based in Grayslake, Ill., has unveiled a new package of convenience services that the company expects will change the easy meal prep industry and significantly help today's time-starved families.

The new services will save an average family up to 35 hours a month or 10 hours a week in menu planning, shopping and meal preparation. With added variety, the average cost is only $3 to $5 a serving, less than many fast-food meals, according to the company.

Specifically, Dinner by Design's convenience services include:

-- New delivery services that allow people to preorder entrees and side dishes and have them delivered to their company, daycare, school or other organization. Based on a test marketing effort, the company already has more than 300 group delivery clients nationwide. Home delivery will be unveiled and tested in one location in mid-March.

-- Pick Up meals for busy people who don't have delivery service. Take & Bake entrees, desserts and side dishes are premade and can be picked up anytime during expanded business hours. Orders can be placed online, e-mailed, faxed or phoned in.

-- Dinner Tonight selections geared for people who need something for dinner without defrosting time. This service helps meet the needs of nearly 37 percent of people who don't think about dinner until just before preparing it, the company stated.

Group delivery, Pick Up service and Take & Bake selections are already available and operating successfully at most locations nationwide. Dinner by Design has nearly 60 kitchens open, and agreements for another 40 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

In related news, the company also announced the opening of a new prototype kitchen in Gurnee, Ill. This location is serving as the test site for a streamlined business model that focuses on convenience services, and features home delivery, group and corporate delivery, enhanced consumer retail space and additional freezer space for Take & Bake and Dinner Tonight selections.

"This is the wave of the future," president and CEO John Matthews said in a company statement. "This new business model has been very attractive to existing and potential franchise owners alike. We anticipate that the new meal assembly model will mean added growth for Dinner by Design owners and operators."