El Pollo Loco announced Thursday that CFO Larry Roberts will become the chain's new CEO, effective immediately.
As Roberts moves into his new role, he will also work as interim CFO while El Pollo finds a replacement.
“I am incredibly honored to assume this new role and equally thrilled for the future of the Company,” Roberts said in a statement. “With the strong foundation that our team has built over the last few years, we are excited about the opportunity to move our brand forward and are ready to execute on our strategic priorities to further strengthen our business and deliver long-term growth.”
The industry veteran joined El Pollo in July 2013 as CFO. Prior to that, he spent 14 and a half years at Yum! Brands in various roles, including CFO and COO of KFC and CFO of Pizza Hut's joint venture in the U.K. Roberts also spent seven years in managerial roles at PepsiCo.
“After thoughtful consideration, the Board unanimously concluded that Larry is the right executive to lead El Pollo Loco forward,” Michael G. Maselli, chairman of the El Pollo Loco Board of Directors, said in a statement. “Larry has done an extraordinary job leading our company as our interim CEO and CFO during the past five months, navigating a challenging operating environment while making the El Pollo Loco brand stronger than ever. With his deep and detailed knowledge of our business and the industry, the Board is confident in Larry’s ability to drive growth and long-term shareholder value.”
In the fourth quarter, El Pollo's systemwide comps increased 11 percent year-over-year, including a 6.2 percent rise at company-operated stores and a 14.2 percent uptick at franchise restaurants. The chain ended 2021 with 480 stores—189 company-run uinits and 291 franchises.
El Pollo is in the midst of an "acceleration agenda," which envisions an aggressive franchise push in a number of markets across Western and Southwestern DMAs.