Leads, LLC – a new partnership between a trio of El Pollo Loco veterans – has acquired the brand’s five existing units in San Antonio and committed to develop four more in the area.  

The franchise group consists of Phong and Mirna Huynh, and Carlos Esquivel, who possess more than 75 years of combined experience on both the franchisor and franchisee side of the business.   

“We’re heating up our franchise expansion throughout Texas and beyond. Our famous fire-grilled chicken, vast menu, and exciting new image keep customers coming back and our franchisees developing in more markets,” said Brian Carmichall, El Pollo Loco’s Chief Development Officer. “We’re very fortunate to partner with great franchisees such as Phong, Mirna and Carlos, who will no doubt add value and unlock further growth potential for our brand in the San Antonio area.” 

Orphaned until the age of 13, Phong began working nights in an El Pollo Loco restaurant and, throughout much of his teens, held nearly every position from a cook, prep employee and cashier to crew leader and general manager. He also served as the franchise training manager and director of franchise operations on the corporate side of the business, before becoming a franchise owner in 2012. Today, Phong and his wife own and operate 19 restaurants across three states.

Carlos was hired as a Chicken Prep in an El Pollo Loco restaurant in 1997 and eventually went on to hold several top-level corporate positions over a period of 22 years, including Vice President of Operations. The restaurants in San Antonio mark Carlos’ first venture as a franchise owner. He will serve as operating partner for Leads, LLC’s nine area restaurants. 

“El Pollo Loco is a big part of who I am. The spirit of the organization, the people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working, and the great customers who keep coming back – those are all reasons why El Pollo Loco is so special,” says Carlos. “I’m incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to be part of this storied brand and look forward to sharing that love with the San Antonio community.” 

The new restaurants will introduce one of El Pollo Loco’s two new prototype designs geared to meet the demands of the company’s off-premise business. Both feature 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. 

One version caters to off-premise sales with dual drive-thru ordering, 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 dining room that opens up to an expansive patio. This format will also feature dual drive-thru ordering and designated curbside pick-up parking. 

Leads, LLC is also planning to remodel the existing restaurants.

As for the menu offering?

At El Pollo Loco restaurants, the chicken is always fresh and 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.

The San Antonio expansion announcement comes at a time when El Pollo Loco is aggressively looking to expand its national footprint with existing and new franchisees. Over the next few years, the plan is to remodel more than 300 of the brand’s 481 existing restaurants with the new prototype designs and develop 140 new restaurants in select DMAs throughout California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington.

Fast Casual, Franchising, Growth, News, El Pollo Loco