Skip navigation
Boston Market.jpeg
Boston Market faces a mounting pile of legal, financial and reputational issues.

A closer look at Boston Market’s slow death

After being sold to Rohan Group in 2020, fast-casual restaurant chain Boston Market quietly faded into obscurity until many ongoing lawsuits against the company were brought to light

Before Boston Market was sold to Engage Brands under the Rohan Group of Companies in 2020, the American rotisserie chicken chain was undergoing a brand transformation that was supposed to breathe new life into the struggling Colorado-based restaurant company. But now, four years later, Boston Market’s Denver headquarters have been seized by local authorities and many of the company’s locations are closing, have been abandoned, or have been forced to stock their stores with supermarket food as vendor contracts run out.

As of August 2023, Boston Market is staring down a growing pile of lawsuits from unpaid vendors and former employees. According to comments from both current and former Boston Market executives, the new owner has “run the business into the ground,” and it’s only a matter of time before the chain dies out completely.    

How did Boston Market get to this point?

The history

As Boston Market — founded in 1985 as Boston Chicken — expanded rapidly in the mid- to late-90s, popularized by its Thanksgiving-style meals and seemingly healthier options, the company hit some roadblocks pretty early on. In 1998, Boston Market filed for bankruptcy and was then purchased by McDonald’s in 2000, before the company was eventually sold to private equity firm Sun Capital Partners in 2007.

Under the new ownership, Boston Market closed nearly 40% of its more than 1,000 locations, and did not open a single new restaurant until 2013.  Throughout Sun Capital’s tenure of ownership from 2007 to 2020, there were a few attempts to revive the often-struggling brand, including a rebranding effort in 2011 called “America’s Kitchen Table” under the leadership of then-CEO George Michel. In a recent email exchange with Nation’s Restaurant News, Michel — who served as CEO of the brand until 2018 — said that although he has not been involved with the company for five years, he would blame Boston Market’s current financial and legal troubles on the pandemic and intense inflationary pressures over the past two-plus years.

In 2018, Frances Allen was named CEO and, in a now-familiar story to the Boston Market legacy, her job was to reinvent and invigorate the brand after yet another series of store closures in July 2019. In an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News that month, Allen detailed a multi-pronged approach to improve sales and expand Boston Market’s potential moving forward, including menu innovation, brand visibility, and improved convenience. The company began rolling out chicken sandwiches that summer in an attempt to lean into a trendier menu category in an effort to “make sure our brand is relevant and to deliver exceptional dining experiences,” Allen said.  

Shortly before Boston Market was sold to Engage Brands in April 2020, Frances Allen stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Eric Wyatt, who would become the company’s third CEO in two years. With the company under new ownership, Wyatt announced a “new chapter” for Boston Market, saying “we are now well-positioned to achieve future success.” In Oct. 2020, the company launched its first late-night menu of sliders and bowls available from 9 p.m. onward, an effort that clearly targeted a younger demographic.

But shortly after, Boston Market slowly faded into obscurity and made very few public announcements. In fact, Nation’s Restaurant News had not heard news from or about Boston Market until the lawsuits began to surface.  

The lawsuits

Of the many lawsuits filed against Boston Market over the past couple of years, US Foods probably has the most high-profile case. The food supplier is suing the rotisserie chicken chain for $11.3 million in unpaid bills, according to a lawsuit that was filed with the United States District Court of Illinois last month. NRN also reported that the company’s headquarters in Golden, Colo., and its three remaining Colorado locations had been seized in May for $328,592.34 in unpaid sales and payroll taxes that had been accumulating for about a year.

But these are far from Boston Market’s only angry creditors. Going back to 2021, Boston Market was sued by former employees over a failure to “provide timely wages” to staff, according to a class action lawsuit filed by New York area Boston Market employees in Nov. 2021. In a similar ongoing lawsuit against the company, Arizona-area store employees are suing Boston Market, company president Krupa Patel and Rohan Group owner Jignesh Pandya for “failure to pay…minimum and overtime wages.” Elsewhere, workers at 11 Massachusetts Boston Market locations filed a lawsuit last month after not receiving wages in June.

Besides US Foods, several other vendors that worked with Boston Market sued the company for failing to pay its bills, including data analytics company SiteZeus, refrigerator rental company Polar Leasing Company, and food distributor Ben E. Keith. These three companies filed lawsuits against Boston Market in Aug. 2022, Sept. 2022, and Jan. 2023, respectively. Taken in total, Boston Market allegedly owes all three companies more than $1 million for services and goods rendered, which combined with the debt from US Foods, totals more than $12 million in unpaid bills.

Multiple landlords are also suing the company for similar financial issues, including the company’s former owner, McDonald’s, which has filed lawsuits against the company multiple times this summer.

As lawsuits pile up, how are Boston Market’s owners, the Rohan Group, responding?

“From what I’ve heard, the owner said he didn’t care if they sued him; he thought it was funny,” one former Boston Market executive, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “From what I understand, he picked up the organization for cheap… I think he was just trying to maximize profits for the first few years he had ownership and now he’s just letting it bleed out.”

The employee testimonies

Besides unpaid bills, the other common thread among the complaints lodged against Boston Market is a lack of communication. According to the Denver Post, which first broke the news about Boston Market’s headquarters being seized in May, the Colorado Department of Revenue filed a lawsuit against the company “after exhausting all other options,” after Boston Market ignored the state tax department’s attempts to reach the company about its unpaid taxes, which had been accumulating for more than a year.

Similarly, Nation’s Restaurant News reached out to multiple publicity, marketing, and corporate contacts at Boston Market for comment on this story, but while some emails bounced back from people that no longer work at the company, most just went completely unanswered. Nation’s Restaurant News also reached out to the Rohan Group but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Communication issues have plagued remaining Boston Market employees at both the corporate and store levels. The previously mentioned former executive said that while they left about six months after Rohan Group took over, they were hardly the only one, and estimates that corporate headquarters — which has since been shut down — only had about three or four employees left.

For employees who have stuck around, it can be nearly impossible to get a paycheck. One current corporate employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Boston Market is two full paychecks behind in paying them.

“Ever since the new owner, Jay Pandya, took over, things have gone downhill,” the employee said. “I have received my paycheck late for four months in a row now. I went without pay for eight weeks and then I finally received three paychecks all on the same day….We never know when or if they are going to pay us….Half of the restaurants I am in charge of are closed down because the staff refuses to go in to work until they are paid.”

For store-level employees, communication from ownership and management can be even more sparse.

Lale West, a former Florida-area Boston Market general manager who was laid off after her store closed, said that she received no warning that her store was being shuttered, and was told by her regional manager that she could not transfer her employees to other stores in the area.

“We don't have anybody to communicate with, we apparently have no corporate office,” West said. “The owner’s wife owns the whole Florida district. I can't even count on my hands and toes how many times I’ve written to that lady and she’s never responded to me.”

Despite the lack of communication, West said that she and her fellow managers knew that the writing was on the wall long before her store was closed.

“A lot of us general managers have our own chat and we just basically just put two and two together,” she said. “When we lost the contract with US Foods, we were struggling….at that time, I was working in another store when they closed that down. I actually found out because my employee called me when I was at home to say that the sheriff’s here and they’re closing the store down.”

Starting in January, West said, she and her employees started losing all of their benefits, including her 401k and insurance, and corporate pulled the plug on the general manager’s chat room. She tried calling general managers at other stores, but they did not pick up, presumably because people had stopped coming into work altogether. West said that her store even began sourcing food from nearby grocery stores to make up for the lack of suppliers.

“We’re going to Walmart, Sam’s, BJ’s and we’re making all of the [menu items] from scratch to sell it, even down to the rotisserie chicken,” she said. “So now you’re lying to the public, you’re making them think you’re selling hormone-free chicken when that chicken comes from a [supermarket] and yes, has hormones in it now.”

Anthony Corwin is another former employee who worked out of a store in Lansing, Mich., that was allegedly shut down by the fire marshal for consistently undercooked meat. Corwin said that he was supposed to be transferred from the first store to another one in the region, but he was still waiting on his last paycheck. In February, he worked at that second store for two weeks and never received the paycheck he was owed, so he ended up finding another job. Corwin said that he asked his regional manager, Jullie Boone, for his last paycheck and kept getting the runaround. After trying to get in touch with corporate ownership, he filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Labor but has thus far not been successful.

Another former employee at a Raleigh, N.C. store, who asked to be referred to as Kem S., said that he was also having issues with his paychecks and could not deposit one of his last checks from the company:

“My boss tells me I wasn’t supposed to deposit it yet and they didn’t have the money, and that I’ll get it next check,” Kem said. “I worked for over a month. The final straw for me was when they delayed one check for four days, then the next one by a week. I stopped going to work because I simply wasn't being paid… I missed multiple months of rent because of this, I had no food, I had no money for utilities… I don’t know how I’m even going to pay next month’s rent or pay this month’s bills.”

Now what?

So now that Boston Market’s reputation and legal and financial troubles have spun out of control, is there a way back for the brand? According to both the current and former employees NRN spoke with, the company is not long for this world.

“You drive by these units that clearly haven’t paid their rent, and they’ve got signs out now that they’re closed,” the former Boston Market executive said. “I think at the end of the day, the owners are milking whatever little profitability they can get out of the company probably before jumping ship…. I think Boston Market is going to go away entirely unless somebody's willing to buy it out at a very cheap rate and try to salvage whatever they can.”

The current corporate employee NRN spoke with said they are actively looking for employment elsewhere:

“The owner, Jay Pandya, seems very greedy (even though he is a billionaire), doesn't care about paying his hardworking staff on time, and he has run this business in to the ground,” they said. “I feel the days are numbered for how much longer Boston Market will remain in business.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]m

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.