Boston Market, which is facing several closures and legal challenges nationwide, announced Wednesday a new low-cost program making it easier for entrepreneurs to operate a restaurant.
Called “Boston Market Connect,” the program invites entrepreneurs to become owner/partner of a location without any buy-in requirements.
There are four key parts to the initiative. The first is “flexible integration,” meaning, an eligible restaurateur could open a Boston Market within their existing restaurant, deli, gas station, or other venue. No franchisee fees would be involved. Instead, there would be a “focus on mutually beneficial collaboration,” the company said in a news release. The other three highlights are comprehensive support, a nontraditional store model, and expansion potential.
“The Boston Market name stands for itself and it is well known throughout the country,” owner Jay Pandya said in a statement. “Now, with everyone’s support we will be able to provide our famous rotisserie chicken and delicious, homemade sides and family meals to everyone. We encourage anyone with a location and a desire to add Boston Market virtually to reach out and partner with us.”
The chain also revealed that it will launch a campaign introducing a new menu item every six weeks, with each one coming from a different country. It will start with Indian staples Chicken Tikka and Biryani.
Boston Market is looking to attract business partners amid significant financial turmoil. The chain is working through a number of lawsuits that accuse it of unpaid bills, rent, and wages. The biggest one is US Foods, which cut off its distribution agreement with the restaurant chain earlier this year and claimed it was owed $11.6 million in a lawsuit. The financial crisis has been severe enough to prompt government intervention. In August, the New Jersey Department of Labor took action by ordering the shutdown of 27 Boston Market outlets due to multiple violations of workers’ rights, which included owing over $600,000 in back wages to 314 employees. Additionally, the department imposed approximately $1.2 million in other fines and over $731,700 in administrative penalties on the chain. These locations were eventually permitted to resume operations once the owed wages were settled.
Boston Market has been evicted by landlords across the country, including New York, Florida, Connecticut, and more. Due to the issue with US Foods, restaurant leaders have been forced to run to grocery stores and collect key ingredients themselves. One general manager told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that she was making cream spinach from scratch in the microwave and making at least 15 batches to get through each night.
Then, in December, Pandya filed personal bankruptcy, although it’s unclear how the court proceedings will impact restaurants. He purchased Boston Market from Sun Capital Partners in April 2020 through his subsidiary, the Rohan Group of Companies.
Established in 1985, the chicken chain rapidly expanded to approximately 1,200 outlets within the following 12 years. However, this growth was ultimately a tale of a brand expanding too quickly. In 1998, Boston Market had to declare bankruptcy due to declining unit-level profitability and a substantial debt burden. Two years later, McDonald’s acquired the company. The fast-food giant held onto Boston Market until 2007 when it divested the restaurant to Sun Capital.
Over the past several years, Boston Market has shuttered a significant number of its locations. It now has a little more than 100 stores across the country.