Boston Market shuttered six restaurants June 30 and closed another 39 this past Sunday, the chicken chain revealed in a letter to employees. Dated July 6 and circulated to various outlets, chief executive Frances Allen said the company “must take steps to ensure our operational structure will support long-term sustainability.”
The 45-unit cut represents roughly 10 percent of Boston Market’s 454-restaurant base. “Part of that effort involves continuously analyzing our geographic footprint and real estate portfolio to assess the ongoing viability of locations,” wrote Allen, who joined the chain in May 2018 after a run as president of Jack in the Box. “The dynamics of geographic areas can change dramatically over time, sometimes impacting the performance of a location.”
Allen took over the post from George Michel. Michel now serves in the same role at casual chain Friendly’s. Both brands are owned by Sun Capital Partners.
In mid-June, Debtwire reported that Boston Market entered negotiations with landlords in an effort to renegotiate leases for a swath of locations. In 2007, Sun Capital Partners bought Boston Market from McDonald’s for an undisclosed amount. Two years ago, Bloomberg reported that the company was considering a sale and attracted interest at a valuation around $400 million.
Debtwire said, in June, Boston Market was renegotiating leases as part of an out-of-court workout.
Allen wrote in the letter that rising costs were challenging the fast casual. As was shifting consumer preference.
“In many respects, this is a very exciting time in the restaurant industry, particularly as technology empowers the consumer in more ways and innovation continues to reshape the marketplace. At the same time, the industry is facing considerable headwinds in the form of increased competition, shifting consumer preferences, and rising costs on everything from goods and labor to real estate and utilities,” Allen said.
“Our success is not going to be measured by the number of stores; it’s going to be driven by and measured by our ability to execute on our agenda,” she added later.
Allen said the company is focused on actively driving evolution and change and has ignited a multi-faceted transformation plan. This includes digital innovation, like mobile ordering, loyalty, and delivery. Delivery first rolled out to more than 330 locations last August through Grubhub and DoorDash.
Boston’s Market’s menu is evolving, too. In June, the company introduced four new sandwich offerings: Southwest Chicken BLT, Chicken Avocado Club, Chicken or Turkey on Ciabatta, and Chicken Salad. It also launched two new salads (the Southwest Cobb Salad and a Caesar Salad).
Along with the menu launch, Boston Market issued a 100 percent lunch guarantee where guests could replace any item with another of equal or lesser value if they didn’t like the product.