El Pollo Loco, Inc., the nation’s leading fire-grilled chicken chain, is eyeing Oklahoma City as part of its next wave of expansion.
Company plans call for opening as many as five restaurants in the metro area over the next few years, with each restaurant occupying approximately 2,400 square feet of real estate and employing as many as 50 people.
The announced expansion is part of a broader growth initiative that expects to see the 480-unit chain open 140 new franchisee-owned restaurants in select DMAs throughout the Western United States by 2026.
According to Chief Development Officer Brian Carmichall, American consumers are eating with an ever-expanding perspective on freshness and health, while shifting their dining behavior away from on-premise business. This change in behavior and new lifestyle adaptation, coupled with El Pollo Loco’s focus on fresh ingredients, will no doubt contribute to the brand’s development plans.
“We are excited to grow our footprint and bring El Pollo Loco's signature chicken, handcrafted Mexican entrees and assortment of healthy offerings to new communities,” says Carmichall. “The expansion announcement and impending unit growth is sure to appeal to the growing number of consumers looking for healthier options; consumers’ growing demand for bolder, spicier flavors; and experienced franchise owners with the desire to be part of a strong franchisee family.”
In addition to El Pollo Loco’s nearly 50-year history and fiercely devout following, the expansion will be driven by two recently unveiled prototype designs geared to meet the demands of today’s growing off-premise business.
One caters to off-premise sales with a dual drive-thru, walkup take-out window and convenient parking for curbside pick-up. To maximize sales per square foot, it boosts only patio seating and has no indoor dining room. The second prototype will have a smaller-than-typical dining room that opens up to an expansive patio. This format will also feature a dual drive-thru and designated curbside pick-up parking.
Both prototypes share an enhanced digitized experience – including “Pollo To Go” cubbies for mobile to-go and delivery orders, digital menu boards and GPS-enabled curbside pick-up, all integrated with the company’s dynamic and versatile mobile app.
At El Pollo Loco restaurants, the chicken is always fresh, never frozen, marinated in a proprietary recipe of citrus, garlic and spice, fire-grilled over an open flame and hand-cut to order. The freshly grilled chicken serves as the base for an authentic selection of dishes, including individual or family chicken meals, bowls, burritos and salads. The brand is well-known for a range of flavorful menu items that customers feel better about eating because they are healthier than typical fast food and fit into a host of dietary regimes ranging from calorie counting to keto.
“Whether you want a fresh Mexican-style meal on the go or a complete family dinner of our famous fire-grilled chicken, El Pollo Loco’s menu meets today’s needs,” says Carmichall.
Today, El Pollo Loco has 480 restaurants in six states, with 291 of those owned and operated by franchisees.