BOSTON MARKET PLANS TO EXPAND IN SUPERMARKETS

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Market, encouraged by sales and traffic at its supermarket takeout sites, intends to open 15 to 30 more branded deli stores within supermarkets this year, according to officials at the fast-casual restaurant chain.Eleven of the new locations will be in Food Lion stores in the Charlotte, N.C., market, including five in the retailer's new banner, Bloom, which is scheduled to

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Market, encouraged by sales and traffic at its supermarket takeout sites, intends to open 15 to 30 more branded deli stores within supermarkets this year, according to officials at the fast-casual restaurant chain.

Eleven of the new locations will be in Food Lion stores in the Charlotte, N.C., market, including five in the retailer's new banner, Bloom, which is scheduled to open this month, a Food Lion official said.

Late last year, Food Lion and Boston Market rolled out the Boston Market branded concept at a Food Lion in Concord, N.C., and announced plans to test the concept in at least 10 more stores over the next 18 months. In addition to Boston Market's signature rotisserie chicken, the unit in the Concord store offers meat loaf, side dishes, soups and salads in a take-and-go format. The Boston Market got off to a strong start in Concord, a Food Lion official told SN.

"We've been very pleased with the customer response to our first store with Boston Market home-meal solutions, which debuted last December," said Jeff Lowrance, a spokesman for Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion.

Boston Market, a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonald's Corp., opened its first supermarket unit in a Stop & Shop store in the Boston area in June 2002. Boston Market now has deli-like stores in five Stop & Shop units, including a couple of stores with limited seating for in-store dining.

In addition to Food Lion and Stop & Shop, officials are "in discussions with a couple of regional [supermarket] chains," Boston Market spokeswoman Phyllis Hammond told SN. She declined to be specific about the location of the new stores.

Famous for its chicken and other home-style dishes, Boston Market was the inspiration for the home-meal replacement movement that took supermarkets by storm in the 1990s. The chain expanded rapidly. At one time, it had more than 1,200 restaurants. The company ran into trouble, though, and in 1998, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A year later, McDonald's announced its intentions to buy the struggling chain. Many stores have been shut down in recent years. Today, Boston Market operates about 630 company-owned restaurants in 28 states.

Executives at Boston Market recently said they are focused on reinventing the restaurant chain to bring customers back into the stores. The expansion into supermarkets is one of several initiatives taking place to re-energize the chain.

Expanding into supermarkets offers Boston Market several advantages, Hammond said. "What we're trying to do is make the brand as convenient as we can," she said. "It's an easier way to make the brand accessible to our customers."

Last year, SN observed Boston Market's presence during a tour of a Stop & Shop in Walpole, Mass. Boston Market had a restaurant-like operation, with a handful of seats for in-store dining, near the store's customer service counter. Officials at the store told SN the full-service restaurant up front was a busy operation between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. In the deli, Stop & Shop also offered Boston Market rotisserie chickens, salads and other branded products, packed and ready for purchase.