El Pollo Loco announced Friday that CEO Bernard Acoca is resigning as CEO effective immediately. 

The company said Acoca stepped down from his role to pursue other opportunities. CFO Larry Roberts will serve as interim CEO, and Acoca will provide consulting services to ensure a smooth transition. 

“It has been an honor to lead El Pollo Loco over the last three and a half years,” Acoca said in a statement. “The El Pollo Loco family, its customers, employees and franchisees are very special, and the Company remains a truly differentiated brand. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to lead this tremendous company, and I know, under Larry’s leadership, El Pollo Loco will continue on its successful path.”

Acoca joined the fast casual in early 2018 after seven years as a Starbucks executive. For two and a half years, he served as president of Teavana, Starbucks’ global tea brand. Prior to that, he worked as the coffee chain’s senior voice president of marketing and category for the Americas, CMO for the Americas for L’Oréal, and a decade in various marketing roles at YUM! Brands. 

“On behalf of the Board and everyone at El Pollo Loco, I want to thank Bernard for his valuable contributions, leadership and years of service to El Pollo Loco,” said El Pollo Chairman Michael G. Maselli in a statement. “Bernard and his team successfully navigated through the many challenges of the pandemic, and today the Company is stronger than ever with increasing sales and a strong connection with our customers. Under Bernard’s leadership, we have accelerated our digital penetration and positioned the Company for success over the coming years. Bernard will always be part of the extended El Pollo Loco family, and we wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

Acoca led the brand through what was called a “transformation agenda” in which digital accelerated, drive-thru and back of the house were streamlined, and the chain doubled down on its L.A.-Mex brand with a new contemporary prototype and design. El Pollo is now in the midst of an “acceleration agenda”—a strategy that envisions aggressive franchise expansion in a number of markets. Initial efforts will focus on penetrating Western and Southwestern DMAs before moving East. 

In the second quarter, same-store sales lifted 21 percent compared to 2020 and 14.8 percent against 2019. During the period, the brand saw its two best sales days in history with El Pollo Loco’s National Burrito Day and Cinco de Mayo promotions. El Pollo ended Q2 with 198 company-run stores and 282 franchise stores. 

Employee Management, Fast Casual, Story, El Pollo Loco