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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2003 — September — Restauratour

Playing with Fire
Boston Market spinoff Rotisserie Grill courts diners who would rather dine out than take out.


Take a photographic tour of Rotisserie Grill

Half the customers who visit Rotisserie Grill, Boston Market’s new dine-in restaurant, make the connection between the parent concept and its offspring. The other half? Well, they simply think they’ve stumbled upon a new upscale eatery that happens to build its menu around rotisserie chicken. And upscale it is, especially compared with Boston Market’s black-and-white, fluorescent-lit interior. The lighting is soft and incandescent, emanating from ceiling spots and colored-glass fixtures over each table. Booths are covered in gentle geometric print fabric and burgundy vinyl, and the dining room’s floor sports a Berber carpet.

A serpentine room divider topped with translucent photos of flames, coals and other hot topics separates the big, square dining room into more intimate spaces. And every seat in the house has a view of a double rotisserie grill with a stone surround.

“The whole thing screams rotisserie and flame cooking,” says Gerard Lewis, chief concept officer for Golden, Colo.-based Boston Market Corporation. But the design isn’t all about the fire. “It’s extremely comfortable for any age or demographic group,” he adds.

Fanning the Flames
Boston Market executives cooked up the idea for an expansion concept about 18 months ago. The 650-unit chain had already cornered home-meal replacement, and it wanted to take a shot at the dining-out market.

“Boston Market might be really relevant for someone who gets off work and their family needs something to eat on a Wednesday night,” explains Keith Robinson, senior vice president of brand development. “Rotisserie Grill can be for that same adult and his spouse heading to a movie on Friday night.

“It’s an occasion difference,” he adds.

The first unit opened in Tallahassee, Fla., in May, and the second in St. Charles, Ill., in June. Both are new restaurants. “This is not a conversion strategy,” Robinson says. “There’s still significant opportunity for Boston Market.”

Several details help Rotisserie Grill solidify its position as a dine-in rather than takeout spot. The restaurant is about 1,000 square feet larger than a Boston Market. There’s table service. Customers place their own orders and help themselves to beverages, and servers deliver food to the tables.

And the menu is more expansive, encompassing salads, sandwiches and daily specials, and even a few vegetarian items. A selection of beer and wine accounts for about 6 percent of sales.

The varied menu is key to the concept, Lewis says. “Most fast-casual restaurants are committed to one cuisine. We use the rotisserie as a platform for different flavors: Asian, Southwestern, Italian,” he says, ticking off dishes like stir-fries, pasta, and beans and rice as examples.

Rotisserie Grill, however, doesn’t ignore the takeout market, which accounts for about 18 percent of sales. Takeout customers can use a separate entrance, which is marked with a green awning, and wait for their orders on an upholstered forest-green bench.

Rolling Toward the Future
Boston Market plans to open a total of five or six Rotisserie Grills this year. The third was scheduled to open near Boston in late summer, and the company is looking for locations in New York City, Dallas and Austin, Texas.

Robinson says that he wants three locations up and running before tinkering with the design. “We don’t want to overreact to what we see,” he says.

Plus, the initial design works, says Steve Rhodes, an architect and managing director at Chipman Adams Ltd., the Park Ridge, Ill., design firm that handled the Rotisserie Grill project. “We’re more than pleased with the finished product,” he says. Village ordinances dictated the slight changes made from Tallahassee to St. Charles, for instance a stone rather than brick façade.

Customers seem to like it as well. “We hear ‘warmth’ and ‘comfort’ from ustomers,” Robinson says. “They like the energy they feel there.”

Those who have made the Boston Market connection are even more pleased, he adds. “They expect it to be a Boston Market, and when they walk in they say, ‘Wow, this is different.’”

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