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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2004

Boston Market picks Toledo to test home-delivery service

The national fast-food chain Boston Market Corp. - best known for rotisserie chicken - has selected Toledo as a city where it will test-market home delivery.

When the service is rolled out here in mid-July, Toledo will become one of only a few places where delivery is available, said Phyllis Hammond, a spokesman for the chain in Golden, Colo.

The service, which is part of a series of moves designed to re-charge the one-time fast-food favorite, began in Washington and surrounding areas in Maryland in December. Metro New York and the state of New Jersey followed.

Toledo and two cities the chain declined to identify will be next to get delivery service, the spokesman said.

"We've got the big urban markets," she explained. "We now want to test it in different markets with a different population mix and less dense population."

Plus, the metro area's five stores have a number of managers who previously have worked for restaurants that offered delivery, the spokesman said.

There will be a $2.50 fee for the service, and that doesn't include a tip for the driver.

Boston Market, a pioneer of the so-called "home meal replacement" segment, was a favorite of diners and investors in the early 1990s. But rapid expansion and heavy debt forced the chain to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 1998.

McDonald Corp. bought the chain out of bankruptcy four years ago for $174 million. But it has continued to struggle.

Home delivery is just one of a number of strategies the chain is pursuing to revive sales. Other moves include a larger menu, a different approach to discounting, placement in supermarket deli departments, and a "wellness guide" which makes menu selections for various diets, including popular low-carbohydrate diets.

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