BLIMPIE SETS TEST FLIGHT OF CO-BRANDED PASTA SHOPS

NEW YORK -- Blimpie International here is poised to test a co-branded pasta program aimed at the supermarket home-meal replacement market."Pasta Central," will begin testing at a Blimpie Subs and Salads shop during the next three to four months in Valdosta, Ga. By summer, the company intends to have up to 10 test sites established in the Atlanta area.If the trial is successful, all new Blimpies are

NEW YORK -- Blimpie International here is poised to test a co-branded pasta program aimed at the supermarket home-meal replacement market.

"Pasta Central," will begin testing at a Blimpie Subs and Salads shop during the next three to four months in Valdosta, Ga. By summer, the company intends to have up to 10 test sites established in the Atlanta area.

If the trial is successful, all new Blimpies are likely to include Pasta Central. Established shops would be retrofitted on a case-by-case basis.

Pasta Central will have its own logo and decor, and was developed to trade Blimpie customers up and to expand the lunch-oriented business into the evening, said Joseph Morgan, group president of Blimpie Subs and Salads and Pasta Central. It was designed as a convenient alternative to supermarket HMR.

Pasta Central has two components -- made-to-order pasta dishes and prepacked self-service refrigerated meals. The menu will lean toward baked pasta dishes.

"Our research showed that dried pasta and jarred sauces are too easy, and we can't charge a premium for something like them," said Morgan.

Entrees will include baked lasagna, baked ziti and chicken parmigiana with spaghetti.

Such kid's meals as macaroni and cheese using dinosaur-shaped pasta will help create an appeal for children, but Blimpie will avoid head-to-head competition with kid-oriented fast feeders by marketing to mothers instead, he said.

An adult meal will cost between $3.99 and $4.79. Kids' meals will cost about $1.99.