El Pollo Loco expects to see an increase in franchise inquiries over the next several months, thanks in large part to a new CivicScience survey recognizing the chain as the No. 1 quick service Mexican restaurant for positive customer experience.

The survey, in which El Pollo Loco garnered the highest positive experience rating amongst nearly 2,300 responses weighted by U.S. Census 18+, comes at a time when the Southern California-based chain is targeting parts of the Western United States for expansion, including select DMAs in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington. The 480-unit chain hopes to open as many as 140 new restaurants out west over the next five years.

“Being recognized as the leader in positive customer experience amongst top QSR Mexican chains highlights our commitment to delivering meaningful, best-in-class value to our customers,” says El Pollo Loco CEO Bernard Acoca, noting that high quality and better-for-you benefits of food have been longstanding hallmarks of the brand. “I’m confident that our continued focus on such brand building efforts will resonate with prospective franchisees and further augment the growth of our national expansion plans.”

Late last year, El Pollo Loco unveiled two new prototype designs to drive the expansion plans, both of which are geared to meet the demands of the company’s off-premise business.

One version has no indoor dining room. Instead, it caters largely to off-premise sales with a take-out window, a dual drive-thru, parking for curbside pick-up, and patio seating. The second prototype will have a smaller-than-typical dining room that opens up to an expansive patio. This format store will also feature a dual drive-thru and curbside pick-up parking spaces.

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.

“The roll out of our evolved restaurant concept, coupled with the recent top ranking, echoes our commitment to innovation and further establishes us as a leader in positive customer experience,” says Chief Development Officer Brian Carmichall.

The initial investment to own and operate a single El Pollo Loco unit is estimated between $770,000 and $2,097,000, which includes a franchise fee of $40,000.

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