Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Boston Market Rolls Out New Foods, Look, in West Palm Beach Area

May 24th, 2010 · No Comments

After 25 years of dishing out its famed rotisserie chicken dinners with monster sides, Boston Market is tweaking its formula for in-store diners. The new format is being tested in the Palm Beach County stores before a national roll-out.


“The response has been very positive so far,” said Lane Cardwell, a Miami native and CEO of Boston Market. The veteran of the fast-food industry, who took over as leader of Boston Market last June, was in Boca recently to talk about the reformatting. Added are new foods, a focus on hospitality, and new presentations they’ll roll out as they move from fast-food mentality closer to fast-casual dining in all of their locations. Boston Market, part of the Sun Capital group, has 520 stores in 28 states.

Plastic out, china in

Uniforms, hospitality also new

Diners will notice a number of changes – a few new dishes, new food cases and presentation, china plates and metal flatware, a central wooden homestyle dining table in the restaurant and new uniforms for the now-visible carvers.

“We listened to our customers,” Cardwell said, explaning that they have been slow to move in a market that’s rapidly changing. “We lost our pride,” he said. “That’s changing now. Our servers are smiling and greeting you when you come in, we have a dining room ambassador who is out in the dining room helping customers with drink refills, and talking to them, answering questions, bussing tables throughout the busiest hours – it’s made a huge difference with both the staff and customers.”

No price changes

So far, they’ve held prices stable and that’s “amazed the customer,” he said. “We’re lower than the same kind of cafeteria-style service restaurant you get at Panera Bread, or Pei Wei diner, for instance.” The average meal prices at Boston Market is $7. “We’re selling a $10 plate of food for $7, basically,” Cardwell said.

“The two slices of great multi-grain bread we use on our sandwiches cost us 50 cents. We use real sour cream in the mashed potatoes and real cheese – and we’re teaching our servers about the quality of our foods. They’re impressed, and taking pride in what they serve.”

Hot cases changed at Boston Market

Homestyle, comfort food focus in stores

“We were serving cafeteria style, and though our loyal customers remained loyal, we weren’t attracting as many new customers as we wanted. We knew from talking to our customers that most of the people who take home our foods take them out of the container and put them on real plates, and serve them at a dining table.”

Their mainstay is comfort food, he said – and that’s key to the new sales techniques, playing more on that aspect of the in-store dining experience.

Plastic plates and serving ware have been replaced by the new pieces like those used at home. Bright red, homestyle  cook pots contain the foods on the steam table now – replacing stainless kitchen pans. “Our foods look more appetizing than just on a steam table – we had these pots  designed just for us,” Cardwell said. “They are in smaller batches, too, so it keeps the foods fresher as we replenish them.”

Carvers behind the line are visible to the customer – and wear chef’s jackets. “That helps project a certain image and the customers like seeing the meats being carved fresh. We always did that, but it just wasn’t visible.”

Servers greet customers with a smile – it’s required when they’re hired to be able to project a cheerful personality, he said. “We want the customer to know we’re glad they’re here and that their experience is going to be pleasant.”

New foods with a twist

The menu with new additions includes loaded mashed potatoes – with bacon, chives, and cheese. Free sauces are available for the chicken, including an orange-chipotle glaze made for the South Florida market. Rotisserie turkey breasts are available, along with the traditional chicken. It’s now available in several portion sizes.

 A squash casserole, corn kernels added to the cornbread, and a market succotash made with edamame (fresh soy beans) are new. Also new on the menu are garlicky lemon savoy spinach, mediterranean green beans and chicken tortilla and broccoli-cheese soups.

Other dishes are planned when the changes go national.

“Sales are already up,” Cardwell said. “We have a few more tweaks, but I think this is going to be successful.”


Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News · Uncategorized

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