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Roy Rogers Restaurants is joining the gang of fast feeders cloning the Boston Chicken concept, with a quick-service test unit called Roy's Double R Grill.

Two restaurants opened last month in Germantown, Md., and Richmond, Va., serving fresh vegetables, ribs, fried and roasted chicken, side dishes and sandwiches. The restaurants seat 75 and sport a Western theme, including a drive-through window resembling a covered wagon.

Earle Palmer Brown, Bethesda, Md., is handling public relations for Roy's Double R Grill. No advertising is planned.

Linthicum, Md.-based Roy Rogers is not alone in its quest to divert the elusive dinner audience now flocking to Boston Chicken. McDonald's Corp. in September or October will open its much-anticipated dinner-focused test unit, called Hearth Express.

What every competitor wants are sales increases to rival Boston Chicken's. Second-quarter sales were up 177%, to $82.8 million at the 386-unit Boston Chicken, which this week begins operating from its new headquarters in Denver.

But the takeout dinner market is bound to get tougher for Boston Chicken as direct competitors like Kenny Rogers Roasters, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., continue to expand and as KFC Corp. intensifies its low-price advantage in new ads and promotions.

The 5,100-unit KFC last month introduced its $14.99 Mega Meal, bundling a whole Colonel's Rotisserie Gold chicken or eight pieces of fried chicken with side orders of potato wedges, six chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, four biscuits and a whole pie for dessert.

Agency Young & Rubicam, New York, features the recently introduced Col. Harlan Sanders lookalike in two TV spots supporting the Mega Meal. "A whole lot of food for not a whole lot of money ... how you gonna beat that?" the faux colonel asks.

One spot also compares the value of a Mega Meal with that of takeout pizza-an interesting twist considering both KFC and Pizza Hut are owned by PepsiCo.

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