BOSTON CHICKEN IS TAKING A LIMITED RUN WITH CASSEROLES

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Chicken here has finally entered the arena of limited-run marketing tactics, with the addition of casseroles to its Boston Market menu for the winter months only.The casseroles are on the market only during the first quarter of 1998. Following that, Boston Chicken plans to launch other, different products in each remaining quarter of this year, said company officials.Offering

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Chicken here has finally entered the arena of limited-run marketing tactics, with the addition of casseroles to its Boston Market menu for the winter months only.

The casseroles are on the market only during the first quarter of 1998. Following that, Boston Chicken plans to launch other, different products in each remaining quarter of this year, said company officials.

Offering limited-time-only menu items is a popular tactic among leading fast-food operators, used by Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's and others to boost their menu variety. This, however, marks the first time this home meal replacement chain has offered a seasonal entree for a limited time.

According to Jeff Beckman, a company spokesman, Boston Chicken is responding to consumers' continuing quest for a broader choice of prepared foods to put on their tables.

Beckman added that limited-time offers give the company "a good way to offer variety, newness and freshness" to its customers throughout the year.

"As we approach the year 2000 and see where trends are going and what consumers are looking for, it's clear to us they're looking for a variety of meal choices. That's very much the spirit of what we're doing in Charlotte," he said.

Beckman was referring to two test-site Boston Market stores in Charlotte, N.C., where the company is putting a large number of different menu items, including panini and wrap sandwiches and prepacked salads as well as additional hot entrees, on trial.

The casseroles -- chicken and wild rice and beef shepherd's pie -- were introduced at all Boston Market stores in mid-January and will be available through March 13. The products will be supported with national advertising on network television and with local spot TV ads. Local radio spots in all Boston Market marketing areas are also running Feb. 16, Beckman said.

In addition to the advertising support from Boston Chicken here, some regional print advertising touting the casseroles has already hit the market. That, however, differs from area to area and is financed by the company's area developers, Beckman said.

Asked if there's a chance the casseroles will be added permanently to the Boston Market menu if they prove to be a sales success, Beckman said that is not on the company's agenda at this time.

"If they do very well, we'd entertain the idea of bringing them back as a limited time offer again or they could conceivably be added to the menu, but there are no plans for that right now."

The individual-serving casseroles are prepared by hand with fresh ingredients, baked on-site and served hot, Beckman said. Both are offered at a suggested retail price of $4.49 a la carte with cornbread, and at $5.59 with cornbread and a choice of one individual side dish.

The chicken and wild rice casserole features a blend of wild and white rice pilaf with freshly steamed carrots, onions and celery and is topped with pieces of roasted chicken breast and mushroom cream sauce. It's baked with four types of shredded cheese and garnished with steamed broccoli.

The beef shepherd's pie includes beef in gravy combined with assorted fresh vegetables and is topped with Boston Market's signature mashed potatoes and four types of shredded cheese. It's garnished with parsley.

Casseroles were chosen for the company's first limited-time run because of their seasonality, a Boston Chicken official said in a statement to the press.

"People enjoy hearty home-style food in the winter. Our two fresh-from-the-oven casseroles are the perfect dishes for the season," said Bob Karisny, vice president of new product research for Boston Chicken.

While the company will add limited-time menu items each quarter for the balance of the year, it is not ready to announce what the next items will be, Beckman said.