Bertucci’s Express Lunch: If It Isn’t Fast, It’s Free

Bertucci's chief executive, Brian Wright, won't let fast-casual chains muscle out the restaurant.
John Chesto Cartoon

Bertucci‘s chief executive, Brian Wright, isn’t about to let the fast-casual chains eat his lunch.

Wright and his Northborough-based corporate team have engineered a promotion that is being rolled out in all of the chain’s 81 restaurants by early next year. With the Express Lunch promotion, servers promise they’ll deliver every order within 15 minutes. If not, the entire check – excluding alcohol – is on the company.

The goal is to meet the deadline, of course. But one crew deliberately botched it this month at a Pennsylvania restaurant, just to gauge the reaction at a table of three men. Wright says they acted as if they’d won the lottery.

Streamlining the menu is also crucial. Wright became CEO last year at the company, which is owned by the private equity firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, following a four-year stint as chief operating officer at the fast-casual giant Au Bon Pain.

Soon after arriving, Wright hired Rosario Del Nero, one of the chefs who worked with Bertucci’s founder, Joey Crugnale, back in the 1980’s. This time around, Del Nero helped simplify the chain’s menu, chucking dishes like jambalaya that didn’t quite fit. Wright estimates that his team culled the menu size by at least 30 percent.

The Express Lunch promotion should arrive in Boston-area restaurants by December, Wright says.

“You can have this Italian experience with fresh food and still get back to work on time,” Wright says. “You can see the Paneras of the world, who have done a phenomenal job in how they get people in and out. I think we can start to give them a run for their money.”