El Pollo Loco eyes return to El Paso for expansion

El Pollo Loco announced Monday that the company is looking to grow its Texas footprint by again targeting El Paso as part of its next wave of expansion.

“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,” said El Pollo Loco’s Chief Development Officer Brian 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.”

The Southern California-based chain which already has 31 restaurants operating across the state, plans to open 3-4 locations in El Paso over the next few years.

Chain officials say each restaurant will occupy approximately 2,400 square feet of real estate and employ as many as 50 people.

In addition to El Pollo Loco’s nearly 50-year history and following, the expansion will be driven by two recently unveiled prototype designs 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.

Restaurant officials add that, while the look may be different, the vast and diverse menu will remain the same.

“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,” officials shared. “The freshly grilled chicken serves as the base for an authentic selection of dishes, including family chicken meals, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, bowls and salads. The Pollo Fit section of the menu also offers low-calorie, vegan and even keto-certified options for followers of the keto diet.”

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

The announced expansion is part of a broader growth initiative that expects to see the nearly 500-unit chain – more than half of which are operated by franchisees – open 140 new restaurants in select DMAs throughout the Western United States by 2026.