Au Bon Pain adds 200-calorie small plates

BOSTON Au Bon Pain, the 226-unit fast-casual bakery-cafe chain, is rolling out a line of small plates that each contain 200 calories or fewer.

Called Portions, the new line is already available in 50 stores, and marketing director Ed Frechette said the company hopes to extend that number to 180 by the end of the month.

Au Bon Pain executive chef Thomas John developed the Portions line, which consists of 14 items. The small plates, which weigh in between 4 and 5 ounces per serving, include such items as hummus and cucumbers, Thai peanut chicken, and Brie, fruit and crackers. Prices are $2.99 for nonmeat items and $3.49 for dishes with meat.

Both John and the company’s nutritional board had discussed implementing a small plates menu at Au Bon Pain stores for about a year before the rollout, Frechette said.

“Thomas saw a trend of people wanting to sample [different dishes] or be more calorie conscious, people just wanting to eat less,” Frechette said. “We’re viewing this a whole new category, not a new product. We think this is the way people are going to eat. We have very high hopes for what Portions can do.

However, Frechette noted that a number of customers are purchasing the smaller plates as sides to their regular meals.

“People are using it as an add-on rather than replacing a full sandwich or salad,” he said.