BOSTON CHICKEN DIPS INTO BREAKFAST MARKET

Boston Chicken Inc., making its first foray outside the fast-food chicken business, said Monday it put up $20 million for a partial stake in a company that runs bagel shops.

It made the investment in Progressive Bagel Concepts Inc., a retailer of gourmet bagels, as part of a strategy adopted last year to diversify into the ''high potential'' breakfast food business, a company spokesman said.

''We want to be able to participate in the breakfast business while maintaining our focus on the chicken market,'' he says.

Proceeds from both financings will be used primarily to expand the bagelmaker's store base.

Progressive Bagels was formed through the merger of three leading regional bagel retailers -- Brackman Brothers Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bagel & Bagel Inc. of Kansas City; and Offerdahl's Bagel Gourmet Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The company expects to have more than 100 bagel stores open in the next year.

Boston Chicken recently announced it is changing the name of its stores from Boston Chicken to Boston Market, adding three new dinner entrees, rotisserie-roasted turkey, baked ham, and meatloaf, and an expanded sandwich line to its menu.

''For the last several months, we have been evaluating various aspects of the morning segment and the role breakfast may play in the future evolution of the Boston Market concept,'' says Scott Beck, Boston Chicken's chief executive.

Boston Chicken, based in Golden, Colo., operates and franchises food-service stores that specialize in complete meals featuring homestyle entrees, fresh vegetables, salads, and other side items.

There are currently more than 590 Boston Market/Boston Chicken stores in 30 states and Washington. The company estimates the Boston Market system will have about 850 stores open by the end of the year.

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