All things rotisserie are spinning back into spotlight
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
There's an unexpected spin to the rotisserie business: It's heating up, again.
Boston Market is going back to its rotisserie roots. Next week, in Tallahassee, Fla., the 650-store chain will open the first of six so-called Boston Market Rotisserie Grills planned this year. An open-flame grill will be the focal point.
The move comes at a time when rotisserie foods are making a comeback. Rotisserie sales at grocers have surpassed restaurant sales. Grocers sold $1.4 billion worth of rotisserie foods last year, says the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Restaurant rotisserie sales are estimated at about $1 billion.
The rotisserie industry seemed all but dead just a handful of years ago when industry leader Boston Market was scraping for survival.
But several trends have converged to lift rotisserie sales: healthier eating, takeout dining and food-as-entertainment. "We call it the theater of cooking," says Lee Hindin, CEO of Chicken Out Rotisserie, which has 33 units.
Another reason rotisserie's hot: "It's the only goof-proof way to cook chicken," says Dennis Lombardi, consultant at Technomic, a research firm.
Here's who is rotisserizing:
- Fast food. The Boston Market Rotisserie Grill menus will include rotisserie roast sirloin and toasted rotisserie roast beef dip sandwiches. And Chicken Out Rotisserie is considering rotisserie menu items including pork loin and vegetables, Hindin says.
- Grocery. Supermarket sales of rotisserie chicken have grown so fast that some locations now sell more cooked rotisserie chicken than fresh or frozen.
- Rotisserie grills. Rotisserie grills are booming. Who hasn't seen the Ronco infomercial where inventor Ron Popeil tells viewers the best feature of Showtime Rotisserie Grill: "Set it and forget it." The company has sold more than 5 million units over the past three years — priced from $100 to $255.
And more than 1 million George Foreman Rotisserie Grills — $59.99 to $99.99 — have been sold for each of the past three years, says Gary Ragan, marketing vice president at Salton.
- Rotisserie pit smokers. Custom backyard rotisserie grills are the latest craze. Southern Yankee BBQ makes about 50 per year. And it's currently designing a $7,700 model that includes a chilled beer keg and a margarita machine, owner Billy Penny says.
- Rotisserie sticks. For $19.95, consumers can buy the Keener Wiener Rotisserie, a hand-held device that lets folks roast weenies over the fire without turning the stick. Inventor Ronald Green brags, "It also works great on marshmallows."