Boston Chicken to Change Its Name in California : Restaurants: More than 20 West Coast stores will follow lead of 565 others in U.S. and open as Boston Market.


In a mid-course change in its expansion plans, Boston Chicken Inc. said Thursday that it will rename its 565 stores nationwide to Boston Market and expand the menu to include turkey, ham and meatloaf dishes.

The new moniker and menu will hit Southern California on March 27 when the Anaheim-based franchisee for Boston Chicken outlets opens a new store in Mission Viejo. The remaining 22 eateries operated by Boston Pacific Inc. will be made over by mid-summer.

“Even though we’re growing quickly, we’re still young enough that we see this as the right time to make the change,” said Patrick Lenow, Boston Pacific’s marketing director. The franchisee is a subsidiary of CKE Restaurants Inc., which also runs the Carl’s Jr. fast-food chain.


Boston Chicken customers in test markets liked the new menu items, he said. The idea is to capture more of the market for families and other groups that have some members who want to eat something other than chicken.

The changes won’t affect Boston Pacific’s plans to open 200 to 300 eateries in its area--Southern California and Sacramento--by 1999, Lenow said. Boston Pacific expects to open 40 more stores this year.

Boston Chicken Inc., based in Golden, Colo., won’t be changing its corporate name, but it will spend at least $5 million on the make-over to boost customer traffic and sales figures, both of which “haven’t been exciting,” said industry analyst Roger Lipton.

“The question is, will the customer get confused?” said Lipton, research director for Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. brokerage in New York. “Customers don’t like change, so the managers of this concept are running the risk that the customers are going to forget what Boston Market really stands for.”

Alladi Venkatesh, associate professor of marketing at UC Irvine, compared Boston Chicken’s name change to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s switch to the acronym KFC several years ago so the brand would be recognized more easily in foreign markets.

“You want a brand name that people can remember, but you also want it to have something to do with what you’re selling,” Venkatesh said. “Nobody changes their name overnight, so they must have seen other trends in the food industry that made them switch.”


For Boston Market, the rewards of the broader appeal may be worth the risk, said Allan Hickok, managing director for the Piper Jaffray Inc. brokerage in Minneapolis.

“De-emphasizing chicken is fine because that’s not what the concept is all about,” Hickok said. “It’s about high-quality, convenient meals, and diversifying to a whole raft of new things . . . ought to fit that,” he said.

“I don’t think they made a mistake,” he said. “They’re making an improvement.”


Boston Pacific at a Glance

* Founded: 1994

* Headquarters: Anaheim

* President: Kerry Coin

* Parent company: CKE Restaurants Inc.

* Business: Operates Boston Chicken restaurants, which will soon be called Boston Market

* California locations: 22, including stores in Fountain Valley, Irvine and Corona del Mar. Stores in Huntington Beach and Mission Viejo are planned this year.

Source: Boston Pacific Inc.

Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times