Former Boston Chicken President Pilots Expansion of National Kennel Chain

    NORWALK, Conn., June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- What PetsMart did for pet
 retailing, Best Friends(R) plans to do for the kennel and grooming industry,
 according to Charles A. Cocotas, chairman and CEO of Best Friends Pet Care,
 Inc.
     "As the first major chain to penetrate the $2.5 billion fragmented kennel
 and grooming market, our team of enthusiastic professionals fully expects to
 redefine the business by providing unprecedented levels of quality care and
 service," says Cocotas, former president and CEO of Boston Chicken.
     Intent on leading the industry into the 21st century, Cocotas points out
 that Best Friends has designed a state-of-the-art, environmentally-controlled
 resort for pets that is odorless, sound-proof and flea-free.  "We have
 computerized the operations of our pet care centers, introduced an array of
 lavish services for dogs and cats, elevated pet care, customer convenience and
 employee training to new levels, and created a distinctive marketing strategy
 focusing on brand differentiation.  In essence, what we did for Boston chicken
 we will do for Best Friends," says Cocotas.
     With initial capitalization of $19 million from private investors, and $24
 million in incremental funding recently arranged through private placement by
 Merrill Lynch, Best Friends has catapulted to the forefront of the industry.
 The company operates 16 Best Friends Pet Resorts & Salons in 15 markets coast
 to coast and is negotiating the purchase of 70 additional properties.
     Established in 1991, Best Friends reported systemwide revenues of $8
 million in 1995 and anticipates a 25% increase in revenues, to $10 million, in
 1996.  According to Cocotas, boarding and grooming comprise the most
 profitable segments of the $20 billion-a-year pet care industry, which is
 growing 15% annually.
     "The foundation of our business plan is the exceptionally high margins of
 our existing centers," says Cocotas, pointing to gross margins in excess of
 55% and operating margins of 40% or more.  "Our plan will extend these high
 margins to the bottom line by focusing on our highest margin core business
 segments, boarding and grooming; acquiring only premium properties that
 meet stringent demographic, financial and operating criteria and rapidly
 expanding within each target region to maximize market share and preclude
 competitive response."
     Cocotas projects the opening of 18 additional Best Friends Pet Resorts and
 Salons by the end of 1997.  Future expansion plans call for the opening of 24
 centers in 1998, 36 for 1999, and 50 each year thereafter.  Initially the
 company is targeting market areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states,
 eventually progressing to the West Coast.
     To facilitate expansion goals, Best Friends has recruited real estate
 specialist Pat Chiacchia, who was instrumental in sourcing and negotiating 118
 choice properties for Boston Chicken as vice president.  Chiacchia, who has
 been named vice president, real estate development, will focus on acquiring
 and converting existing kennels and on purchasing property for the
 construction of a newly-designed prototype.
     The prototype, in addition to being environmentally controlled odorless
 and flea-free, features spacious suites for pets, each with lambskin bedding
 (washed daily) and private patio; multi-level kitty condos -- each
 independently air controlled; modern grooming salon; in-door playroom that
 converts to an obedience training facility; geriatric ward for older pets and
 those that need a quieter, recuperative environment; multiple full-service
 stations and bathing room with special recirculating hydro tubs.  Best Friends
 has contracted General Polymers Corp., to install Macroseptic(R) floors --
 widely used in hospitals and research labs -- in the prototype, all future
 centers, and in retrofit kennels.  The biostatic floor system inhibits
 microbial growth, controls odors, and ensures a safe, hygienic environment for
 pets.
     Best Friends specially-trained staff of pet care experts provides a wide
 range of services, including boarding; grooming; dog obedience training;
 playtime (walking, running, petting and/or cuddling sessions); top-quality,
 nutritionally-balanced cuisine; careful monitoring of eating, play, and
 elimination habits; twice-daily cleaning of quarters with hospital-grade
 disinfectant; custom care and feeding programs, day care and go-home fresh
 baths.
     "With 50% of American households owning one or more of the estimated 115
 million dogs and cats in the U.S.(l), 25% of whom actively use boarding
 kennels and grooming services," says Cocotas, "we have the market opportunity
 as well as the management expertise and vision to lead this exceptional
 industry."
 
     (1)  Center for Information Management, American Veterinary Medical
          Association.
 
 

SOURCE Best Friends Pet Care, Inc.

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