BASSET'S ORIGINAL TURKEY IS SET TO LAND ON EAST COAST

HORSHAM, Pa. -- A home-meal replacement bird of another feather is ready to take flight up and down the East Coast.Bassett's Original Turkey, a 12-unit Philadelphia-based quick serve format restaurant specializing in fresh-cooked turkey products, expects by year's end to complete franchise contracts for up to 35 new units, according to Bassett's chief executive Richard Obrzut.Fifteen of the units

HORSHAM, Pa. -- A home-meal replacement bird of another feather is ready to take flight up and down the East Coast.

Bassett's Original Turkey, a 12-unit Philadelphia-based quick serve format restaurant specializing in fresh-cooked turkey products, expects by year's end to complete franchise contracts for up to 35 new units, according to Bassett's chief executive Richard Obrzut.

Fifteen of the units would be located in Manhattan and four in southern New Jersey, with others planned for Westchester County, N.Y.; Fairfield County and Hartford, Conn.; Warwick, R.I. and the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington.

Currently, all but one Bassett's is located in the greater Philadelphia area.

"We started on a growth cycle about a year ago," Obrzut said. "We've taken everything [chain founder Roger Bassett] has done so far, developed a prototype store, and are ready for the expansion stage."

Bassett's offers three HMR components: 11 varieties of freshly sliced roast or smoked turkey sandwiches; such hot entree meals as hot turkey platters, turkey pot pies, turkey meat loaf and turkey chili; and a newly added component emphasizing such made-to-order salads as a turkey Caesar salad.

"We feel turkey is the fastest growing meat component in the U.S. today. And anything you can do with pork, beef or chicken, you can do with turkey," said Obrzut. He cited the development in recent years of such products as turkey pastrami, turkey meat loaf and turkey sausages as part of the growing consumer interest in turkey.

Bassett's has made its mark in high traffic urban neighborhoods and shopping malls, unlike HMR star Boston Market, which thrives in suburban areas with heavy automobile, commuter and shopper traffic.

And while Boston Market has acknowledged problems adapting to the high customer demand seen during lunch and dinner in urban units, Obrzut said Bassett's mall and street experience aided in developing the store format, geared to serve up to 150 customers per hour at peak. "You only have a two-hour slot at lunchtime to get people fed," he said.

Bassett's prices all items under $6: A hot turkey dinner with two side dishes, cranberry sauce and gravy sells for $5.99. Sandwiches range from $3.99 for half-size original to $5.99 for a turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese club. Turkey pot pie with cranberry sauce sells for $4.50; and such side dishes as stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and macaroni and cheese are sold in three sizes priced from $1.45 to $2.95.

Obrzut said Bassett's will also soon add more kid-focused menu meals, like turkey nuggets served with mashed potatoes and gravy or turkey franks served with macaroni and cheese.

Bassett's started on the road to expansion after founder Roger Bassett traded more than half the company to investors in order to grow business beyond the nine-store chain he had built.

Sometime next year, after this stage of expansion, Bassett's will try to raise money for continued expansion by going public, Obzrut said.