Fast-casual refers to the restaurants that are somewhere between McDonald’s and Applebee’s. When it launched in 1985, Boston Market was the biggest name in the fast-casual food industry, as its signature chicken dishes struck a chord with foodies.
After that big boom, the company became too successful too quickly and filed for bankruptcy. Now, Boston Market is back. George Michel, who previously worked as the head of A&W Restaurants, joined the company in 2010 as the CEO or, as he prefers to be called, “The Big Chicken.”
“That’s what my business card says, and that’s how I introduce myself to all of our employees,” Michel says. He says that speaking to a CEO naturally intimidates workers, “but the minute I say I’m ‘The Big Chicken,’ I get a big laugh, and we start the conversation.”
Michel has had Boston Market on an upward trend in recent years. This year, the company will open up 12 new restaurants. This is significant because Boston Market only has around 460 locations. When compared with Chipotle, another fast-casual brand that has more than 1,700 locations, it needs to gain all the ground that it can.
“We’re gonna continue to grow,” Michel says. “Next year we’re planning to open 20 to 24 [restaurants], so … we’ve been fine with competing in the marketplace.”
That marketplace doesn’t just include fast-casual restaurants or even just restaurants. According to Michel, “Between 4:30 and 6:30 really, we compete with supermarkets.”
Michel notes that at those evening times, moms and dads are thinking about what to bring home for dinner, and “either they’re going to go to Boston Market and get a family meal … or they’re going to go to the supermarket and do their shopping and buy a rotisserie chicken on the way out.”
Despite that competition, Michel says he feels optimistic about the future of his company. Much of that optimism comes from his appreciation of the restaurant business and Boston Market’s customers.
“In the restaurant business … you deal with the food that people love to eat and you measure your results all the way from the top to the bottom line,” he says. “What’s amazing is that everywhere that I go, people know what Boston Market stands for — people have a great love for the brand.”
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