BOSTON CHICKEN HYBRID IS SET FOR TEST FLIGHT

GOLDEN, Colo. -- The chicken is on the wing again.Boston Chicken, based here, plans to begin rolling out its new-format meals/market store, moving on the heels of initial consumer response to the company's first such experiment.The rollout is set for Boston Market stores in the Denver area.In another move, the company has acquired a majority equity interest in Progressive Food Concepts, which it had

GOLDEN, Colo. -- The chicken is on the wing again.

Boston Chicken, based here, plans to begin rolling out its new-format meals/market store, moving on the heels of initial consumer response to the company's first such experiment.

The rollout is set for Boston Market stores in the Denver area.

In another move, the company has acquired a majority equity interest in Progressive Food Concepts, which it had formed in January, 1997, with Roswell, Ga.-based Harry's Farmers Markets.

To speed the Denver market test expansion, Boston Chicken has purchased 16 Boston Market stores in the Denver market from local franchisee BCE West, LP.

The first example of the new format, which mixes Boston Market's hot foods with chilled entrees, sides, salads and sandwiches, opened in Charlotte, N.C., in mid-August. Most of the chilled foods at that store were produced at Harry's facility in Alpharetta, Ga.

"Although still early, we're very excited about the initial results of the Charlotte test," said Scott Beck, Boston Chicken's chairman and chief executive officer.

"Based on extensive research and investigation, we believe that significant potential exists for Boston Market to provide more fresh, convenient meal solutions for today's time-crunched consumers," Beck said.

Adding fresh grab-and-go chilled salads, sandwiches and desserts, and an entree/salad bar to the established Boston Market format has boosted sales of the company's core menu items, Beck said, which encouraged Boston Chicken to take a majority stake in Progressive Food Concepts.

In addition, Saad J. Nadhir, Progressive Food Concepts' chairman and also a co-founder of Boston Chicken, will rejoin the latter company's board of directors as co-chairman. Nadhir will also become chief executive officer of Boston Chicken. Both moves take effect Oct. 1.

The Charlotte store is structured around three components: the hot entrees, side dishes and sandwiches that have become the company's core menu; a 16-foot salad/entree bar, dubbed Boston Gardens; and a 16-foot "grab-and-go" section with more than 16 ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook meals, 10 salads, eight sandwiches and a variety of desserts supplied by Harry's Farmers Markets.

To fit the new meal items into the store, the company added 200 square feet of selling space, partially through removing about 20% of pre-existing seating.

The current test is in the first of two phases, set to determine customer flow, operational complexity and labor patterns. The focus of the second phase will be an advertising-supported consumer test, according to the company.