Have you dropped by a Boston Market recently? The chain that was once best known for rotisserie chicken is now serving everything from ribs and meatloaf to sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. Whether you’re a loyal devotee of its meatloaf or if you didn’t even realize that it’s not still called Boston Chicken, we bet that there’s a lot you didn’t know about this pioneer of the fast-casual genre.
Boston Market is one of those chains that tends to get left out of conversations about fast-casual game-changers like Chipotle and Panera Bread, but in reality, when the first location opened in 1985, its menu of rotisserie chicken and sides had the fast food industry quaking in its boots. Founded in Newton, Massachusetts, in December of that year by a restaurant worker named Arthur Cores and his longtime friend Steven Kolow (both in their 20s), the menu of rotisserie marinated chicken and sides (including a chicken soup recipe from Cores’ grandmother) attracted long lines. A local businessman named George Naddaff (who opened the first KFCs in Boston) dropped by in 1988 and liked what he saw, and convinced Cores and Kolow to expand.
By 1991 there were 25 locations and 217 by 1993 (when the owners decided to take the company public). In 1995, the Boston Chicken moniker was swapped out with Boston Market in an effort to promote non-chicken menu items like meatloaf, turkey, ham, and sandwiches. The owners later added on beef brisket, burgers, and ribs, as well as limited-time offers including Crispy Country Chicken and baked fish during Lent. You can also find frozen Boston Market-branded frozen meals at your local supermarket, including macaroni and cheese, barbecue chicken breast, and chicken parmesan.
So read on to learn 10 things you might not have known about Boston Market. While the company might not be the dominant fast-casual player it was in the mid-1990s, it’s in the midst of a turnaround plan that will see 30 new locations by the end of 2016 and new initiatives, which aim to tout the chain’s low calorie options and fresh ingredients. And after all, you can’t deny that that rotisserie chicken isn’t pretty darn good.