After two years of research and testing, Boston Market is adding St. Louis Style Ribs to its menu at all of its more than 470 restaurants nationwide.
The ribs are for the present a limited-time offering (eight weeks). However, based on the results in test markets, they are likely to become a permanent menu item, Boston Market CEO George Michel told SmartBlog on Food & Beverage.
Boston Market completed market tests for the ribs in Norfolk, Va. and Buffalo, N.Y. last summer, and recently concluded a 10-week, fully advertised market test in Baltimore. There, results nearly doubled expectations, with ribs accounting for roughly 13% of total protein transactions (second only to Boston Market’s signature Rotisserie Chicken), according to the company.
The bone-in, slow-smoked ribs can be purchased as a solo entrée, with two sides and cornbread, for $10.99 (a quarter-rack of ribs) or $12.99 (a half-rack of ribs).
Or, customers can select a meal that includes a quarter-rack of ribs plus a quarter-rack of the rotisserie chicken, the sides and the cornbread for $12.99 -- and Boston Market has particularly high hopes for the ribs/chicken pairing.
“This launch is a game changer for us,” Michel said in announcing the ribs rollout. “We intend to own the pairing of rotisserie chicken with St. Louis Style ribs in this country.”
Boston Market says it’s the only fast-casual chain to be offering a ribs/chicken pairing, and also says that its ribs deliver “a meatier, tastier rib with a better price point” than competitors’ baby-back ribs.
The new ribs introduction is being supported by an integrated campaign spanning 15- and 30-second ads on national cable and local networks in key markets; point-of-purchase; banner ads; search-engine marketing; emails to Boston Market’s “VIP” customer email list; and public relations.
In addition, during April, Boston Market will run two “We Love the IRS” promotions around the ribs launch, using “IRS” to stand for “Incredible Rib Specials” and highlighting the deals on the BostonMarket.com site and the brand’s Facebook and Twitter presences.
In one promotion, 1,040 Boston Market gift cards will be distributed to randomly selected consumers who provide their contact information (starting April 8). Each entrant will also receive a $1 coupon for a ribs meal.
In another, visitors to any Boston Market location on one day only -- tax day, April 15 -- can buy two ribs meals for $10.40. Each meal includes a quarter-rack of ribs with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and cornbread. Boston Market views the ribs launch as one key component in further broadening awareness and driving growth for the chain, which has seen a significant turnaround since 2010, when it implemented a program to enhance its customers’ experience.
That program, dubbed “America’s Kitchen Table,” included revamping its menu, improving its service, and replacing all plastic tableware with real plates and silverware.
Boston Market has also seen success with various promotions, including a Summer 2012 “Unofficial Sponsor of Summer” promotion, which tied into summer sports activities as a means of building awareness of “wholesome” meal replacement positioning among a younger generation of consumers.
Results: The chain, owned by investment firm Sun Capital Partners, Inc., has now posted 30 consecutive months of positive comp-store sales. (Comp sales rose 8.4% in 2011, and are currently up more than 6.5% year-over-year in comparison to the already strong comp gains seen as of this time last year). Traffic was up 6% in 2011 and was running at about the same percentage increase as of July 2012, Michel told Nation’s Restaurant News.
The chain, which is now preparing to open its first new restaurants in six years, projected about $1.17 million in sales per unit for year-end 2012, versus about $1 million when Michel took over as CEO in Fall 2010, he told NRN. He also said that Boston Market will begin to look at franchising once it reaches the $1.3-million-per-unit average-unit sales mark.
Michel says that the rebuilding of the chain’s foundations is now enabling new product introductions -- including its recent, so-far-well-received introduction of Tuscan Rotisserie Chicken and Market Bowls, as well as the ribs launch.