The Boston market has been around for ages. But the chain is a far cry from its glory days in the late ’90s, when it was one of the most popular places to get fresh roast chicken.
After filing for bankruptcy and changing ownership several times, the chain went from 1,200 restaurants in 1997 to its current 330 locations. It’s safe to say that the Boston market is no longer dominating the fast-casual chicken market as it once did, and the decline in sales shows that it has consistently fallen out of favor with customers.
Here’s why the fast-casual chain simply can’t keep up with its former glory. And for more, check out This once-popular sandwich chain is in sharp decline.
When it was good, it was great. In the late 90s, the Boston Market was Boston Chicken, and one of the most popular places to buy roast chicken. The unique hybrid of fast food and home cooking that grew out of a Newton, Massachusetts location has been so successful that it has continued to attract more and more investors.
These Zone Developers detonated his footprint with breathtaking speed. In 1991, the chain had over 30 locations, in 1993, over 200. By 1997, the chain was at its maximum footprint of 1,200 locations.
However, in a hurry to make this major expansion, the company reportedly ended up signing some of the restaurant industry’s most expensive leases, which ultimately led to growing debt.
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The Boston market may have had a unique product in roast chicken for a while, but soon other chains and even retailers like Costco realized the popularity of this relatively inexpensive product. In order to once again stand out from the competition, the chain started adding more things to its menu in the mid-90s. Turkey, ham, meatloaf and even sandwiches were soon among them, and a name change to Boston Market soon followed.
But the chain was starting to look more and more like a fast food restaurant and suddenly faced a whole new pool of competitors in this area. Money was spent on marketing as well as coupon offers, but the quality of their food and customer service lagged behind. This marked a major change in their reputation.
In 1997, profits collapsed and the expansion came to a screeching halt. The following year, the chain filed for bankruptcy. Fortunately, McDonald’s, which was looking to invest in smaller brands at the time, bought a controlling stake in the Boston Market business. The move saved the chicken chain from going bankrupt at the time, but McDonald’s ended up selling it eight years later.
In 1997, the chain had a whopping 1,200 locations. Some 400 of these sites closed following their bankruptcy filing in 1998, and their footprint has been shrinking year on year. In 2019, the chain announced it was closing an additional 45 locations, leaving its current footprint at around 330.
The pandemic year has been a difficult one for the entire restaurant industry, and the Boston market was no exception. In 2020, the chain saw a huge 24.1% drop in sales compared to the previous year. But their sales also fell 10% in 2019 and 1.3% in 2018, showing an unfortunate downward trend in popularity that began long before the pandemic.
Boston Market was bought by Engage Brands LLC in 2020, and the chain may attempt a comeback under the new owner. It has opened dozens of new locations since the acquisition, with 105 more in the works for this year. Knowing the chain’s history, new owner Jay Pandya is cautiously optimistic that Boston Market is on the right track.
“It was growing at a very rapid rate, but the debt was also there and was quite large,” Pandya said. Catering company. “In this round, it’s structured a little differently. We don’t add significant debt to build locations and we build them strategically, knowing what the market conditions are.”
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