Bob Evans Farms to roll out its broasted chicken to all of its Ohio restaurants following testing at its Cincinnati restaurants; product will be at all state locations by Thanksgiving, will be offered across chain by April 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio , July 10, 2014 () – The chicken or the egg is an age-old argument, but at Bob Evans Farms, the chicken has come out ahead.

The restaurant chain tested broasted chicken -- which is marinated, breaded, then pressure-cooked and fried -- at its Cincinnati locations this year to stunning results, according to CEO Steve Davis.

The chickens out sold Bob Evans' longtime sales champ the Rise and Shine breakfast. In some locations broasted chicken accounted for up to 12 percent of sales, almost double the reach of the Rise and Shine, Davis said.

"We never dreamed we'd see 12 percent," Davis said during the company's fourth quarter earning call today.

Bob Evans will now roll out broasted chicken to all of its Ohio restaurants by Thanksgiving, and throughout the chain by April.

Fried and breaded chicken sales are steady or growing in spite of a trend toward more healthful eating, said Dennis Lombardi, vice president at WD Partners.

Demand was so strong during the testing that most restaurants sold out of the chicken and simply could not make enough, Davis said. The test restaurants were given just one machine to make the chicken, something that will be remedied in the full rollout.

"A new menu item needs time to settle in," Lombardi said, "but when it does that well initially, even after the honeymoon, it is probably going to be a pretty successful item."

New Chief Financial Officer Mark Hood noted on the earnings call that forecasts for sales growth in 2015 leaned on the success of broasted chicken.

Bob Evans reported weak dinner and lunch business. The chicken is expected to reverse that and capture more customers later in the day, when people tend to also spend more on meals, Davis said.

Broasted chicken also fits with Bob Evans' farm theme and menu replete with familiar dishes.

"It is right on brand for them," Lombardi said. "It is a product that everyone will know what it is. It is about as American as it gets."

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