The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued stop-work orders to 27 Boston Market locations across the state, after finding multiple violations of worker rights including more than $600,000 in back wages owed to over 300 workers,
In South Jersey the list includes locations In Deptford, Turnersville, Mt Holly and Vineland. Looking at the official NJDOL press release, it does not include the Moorestown NJ location, so we can assume that one location is still operating.
Right now the combined total of back wages, liquidated damages and administrative fees and penalties is over $2.5 million!
To be clear this is not a permanent shutdown at this point but Boston Market will have to answer to these citations and satisfy the concerns or the New Jersey Department of Labor before they can reopen.
Boston Market has requested a hearing to review the charges, and NJDOL has 7 days to schedule it.
The press release goes on to say that this investigation started in November of last year when a worker at the Hamilton store filed a complaint regarding wage issues. Since then nearly three dozen additional complaints had been received for a variety of New Jersey Boston Market locations.
Initial citations were for unpaid late payment of wages, hindrance of the investigation, failure to pay minimum wage, records violations, failure to pay earned sick leave, and failure to maintain records for earned sick leave.
“With restaurants across the country, Boston Market needs to set a better example for fair treatment of its workers,” said Joseph Petrecca, Assistant Commissioner of NJDOL’s Division of Wage and Hour and Contract Compliance. “Thanks to the Murphy Administration, NJDOL has the tools to carry out large-scale enforcement efforts within the state so we can work with employers to stop worker exploitation, create sustainable change, and prevent future violations.”New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development Press Release
NJDOL investigators have found $607,471 in back wages owed to 314 workers, as well as $1,214,942 in liquidated damages. Boston Chicken of NJ was also assessed an administrative fee of $182,241.30 and $549,500 in administrative penalties, for a total of $2,554,154.30.
At the same time, Boston Market corporate is also dealing with a $12 million lawsuit from food supplier U.S. Foods for unpaid bills related to food and products delivered to Boston Market restaurants. (Nation’s Restaurant News)
According to that lawsuit Boston Market began to fall significantly behind in its payment obligations to U.S. Foods beginning in 2022.
Additionally, the Colorado Department of Revenue seized the Colorado Headquarters of Boston Market due to $328,000 in unpaid sales and payroll taxes which had been accumulating for over a year (The Denver Post)
Locally, just a few weeks ago the Turnersville location had closed for several days, and when they reopened workers had stated they were having supply chain issues, and trucks had been delayed in making deliveries.
Then news of that US Foods supplier lawsuit came out just a few days later.
I actually visited the Turnersville store for lunch a day or two after they reopened to find that they didn’t have many of the menu items including meatloaf or the new Nuggets. They only had turkey gravy for the chicken (which seemed watered down) and there were no napkins at all in the facility (I specifically asked for them and was given a very direct “Sorry sir, we do not have any”)
So while Boston Market in New Jersey is not completely gone, there does appear to be significant challenges at several levels to resolve, before they can reopen again.
Boston Market Ups and Downs
The current list of financial challenges are not new to Boston Market.
Boston Market was founded in 1985 as Boston Chicken. At the time they featured just one main entrée item… They’re classic rotisserie chicken, which was a very unique menu item at the time. In 1985 supermarkets and warehouse clubs were not selling rotisserie chicken.
In 2023, online resources say Boston Market has almost 300 locations, but in their heyday of the early 90s they had over 1100 locations!
The were a leader in creating the “fast casual” style of restaurant, which is very common today with restaurants such as Chipotle, Panera Bread, Panda Express and others.
With a new and delicious food item in a relatively new restaurant concept they experienced rapid growth and in just a few short years it positioned them to be a darling of Wall Street, who thought Boston Chicken was going to be the next McDonald’s!
When Boston Chicken went public in 1993 with its IPO, its stock initially followed that trend as one of the hottest of the era!
But that rapid expansion came with large amounts of debt, which quickly deflated much of that early excitement.
In 1995 the brand expanded to include turkey, meatloaf, and ham to the entrée menu which had them changed the brand’s name to Boston Market.
In 1998, the company which just five years prior was a high flyer on Wall Street, was filing for bankruptcy protection.
They were purchased by McDonald’s for reasons reported to be initially more about the real estate locations of the restaurants, than actually continuing them as Boston Chicken.
McDonald’s soon learned there was more value to the brand and chose to continue operating them as Boston Chicken.
In 2007 the Boston Chicken brand was sold to private equity firm.
Consider that all of this change from zero to 1,100 restaurants, stock market IPO, bankruptcy, ownership by McDonald’s and then sold again, menu expansion and name change… all happened in just the first 10 years!
In 2020 Boston Market was sold to Engage Brands which is one of the Rohan Group of companies … owned by a real estate investor and restaurant operator based right out of Bucks County Pennsylvania.
The transaction for that acquisition happened in April of 2020. Basically right at the height of the pandemic and is likely the catalyst for the last round of financial troubles.
It appears that Boston Market still maintains their headquarters in Colorado, although as mentioned they State of Colorado seized the building earlier this year.
Links and Location
South Jersey; Deptford, Turnersville, Mt Holly, Vineland, Moorestown