Monday, January 17, 2011

Boston Market Review

When on the road a meal that reminds you of home is nice. That is the feeling we search at Boston Market.

In it's hay-day this chain was defining fast casual. High quality food with a nice adult atmosphere and no hassle counter service. Over expansion, and pandering to Wall Street analysts in order to keep generating investment was the strategy that ended up ruling Boston Market's fate. Unlike a contemporary, St Louis Bread Company (now Panera), who worked out the operation and P&L statement for 10 years before expansion.

In the years since the brand began it's decline, things went from bad to worse, until the value of the brand was gone, and it's real estate was all that mattered. In spite of the commensurate loss of customer good will, there are many Boston Markets still operating. We stopped into one in Chicago.

There were telltale marks of the
original look, the red grout in white tile, the Boston Chicken medallion sign. But the mural was painted over, the butcher block tables replaced. The Old Hickory rotisseries still turn and the food cases are still on the line, with smiling people behind them offering samples on occasion.

But what is fundamental to a brand is food. Here Boston Market continues to be adrift from it's origins. Oh the chicken is as good as ever. But thats it. So many core items gone. Mac n cheese, stuffing, butternut squash, chicken salad. All gone. The idea of narrowing offerings so waste is minimized is widely practiced. But it usually stops when the menu is gutted. And was this food always greasy and salty? It sure is now.

Well, it was worth a stop and a trip down memory lane.

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