On Jan. 27, the McDonald's Corp.-owned chain breaks the first effort from its new agency, Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, with the tagline "We're Always Cooking." The pitch aims to rebuild the chain's stake in home-style takeout meals that has been eroded by a barrage of options from fast-casual restaurants.
"There's encroachment on all fronts," said Trey Hall, VP-marketing. "But we're the only one truly in this space [between casual dining and fast food]." He added, "We really want to become the easy, everyday 4 p.m. meal solution."
dinner is key
That dinner niche may be key. The business of quick-casual chains is stronger for dining in and lunchtime takeout than for carryout business at dinner, said Dennis Lombardi, exec VP at consultant Technomic. "A lot of quick-casual players don't have family meals to go like Boston Market has."
When the 657-unit chain began in 1985 as Boston Chicken, it was among the first in the fast-casual niche, but the chain later lost focus and filed for bankruptcy just as other fast-casual chains were beginning to proliferate. In 2000, McDonald's purchased the brand and began a turnaround effort including remodeling stores and the menu. But the effort has yet to take root: Sales were flat in 2001 at $627 million and Boston Market's share of the quick-casual business fell from 21.6% to 18.6% of what was then a $3.38 billion fast-casual segment. "We're refurbishing our last few markets now," Mr. Hall said. "Now we need to become top-of-mind again and we needed creative to capture consumers."
In the first new TV spot, an office worker calls his wife at 4 p.m. to inquire about dinner, but is oblivious to the chaos emanating from the background at home. "We've got your dinner," a crew person says as the camera cuts to a Boston Market store. A spot to break in April shows two women watching a cooking-show chef explain how to prepare a squab. "I love these shows," says one woman to the other as the camera pans back to show the two eating takeout from Boston Market. Arnold has seven different 15-second and 30-second spots in the works, with other possible efforts to be added later in the year.
While spending will remain in the $30 million to $35 million range, the chain plans to drive more awareness by more carefully targeting its dollars and spending more of its budget in the early part of the year. It also will for the first time use a food giveaway Feb. 6 and provide in-store "ambassadors" to hand out coupons and tell customers how the chain can solve their dinner dilemmas. A radio spot will break later in the year.