Using the tagline "Deja food," three TV spots breaking in urban markets show customers experiencing happy flashbacks of home-cooked meals past. Each showcases one of the chain's new entrees-turkey, meatloaf, or ham.
Driving home the expanded menu will be critical toward boosting average weekly sales at Boston Market units, which have dropped in each of the last three quarters. Systemwide sales continue to rocket, up 121% to $187.4 million in the first quarter.
Chief Financial Officer Mark Stephens said cannibalization from the chain's rapid expansion is responsible for the drop experienced in average weekly sales, adding that sales from the new entrees-introduced in February-will reverse this trend when the company reports second-quarter results next week.
The "Deja food" TV and radio campaign is the first from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, which snared the roughly $35 million account from Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, Chicago, in April.
Boston Market executives say their biggest competition comes from supermarkets, now that the fast-food industry appears to be losing its taste for homestyle cooking. A year ago, everyone from McDonald's to Hardee's Food Systems was opening test units modeled after Boston Chicken.
But those units haven't moved beyond the test phase. McDonald's will close Hearth Express later this summer; KFC Corp. says it has no immediate plans to expand Colonel's Kitchen beyond a one-unit test in Dallas; and Arby's plans to incorporate elements of its Roast Town test into standard Arby's restaurants.
The reluctance to expand these test units reflects more on the investment required to compete with 683-unit Boston Market than it does on the viability of the homestyle cooking concept, industry observers say.