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El Pollo Loco turns to drive-thru improvements to boost traffic

The fast-casual chicken chain is plotting handheld menu offerings while also working on drive-thru speed and accuracy.
Photograph: Shutterstock

With traffic down about 25% for the second quarter, El Pollo Loco is planning to expand on the success of its drive-thrus while also implementing curbside pickup to help bring in more diners.

El Pollo Loco reported a same-store sales decline of 9.7% for the quarter ended June 24, with sales picking up so far in the third quarter for a same-store sales bump of 2.8%.

With many dining rooms closed due to the pandemic, the fast-casual chicken chain’s drive-thrus have become vital, growing from 45% of the brand’s business to more than 70% of it during Q1.

“Our primary focus for the balance of the year in operations will continue to be enhancing the drive-thru experience for our customers,” CEO Bernard Acoca told analysts Thursday, according to a transcript from Sentieo. “We’ve already made good progress, but we believe that there is even more room to improve speed and accuracy.”

The Costa Mesa, Calif-based chain is also working to improve its labor deployment, as well as reevaluating the equipment layout at the drive-thru station to make it more efficient.

To go along with the drive-thru upgrades, El Pollo Loco is launching a line of burritos in September that offer keto and vegetarian options.

“We believe these portable, on-the-go products will serve us well given the amount of business we are generating in the drive-thrus,” Acoca said.

The chain is also seeking to drive traffic with a relaunch of its Loco Rewards loyalty program in September. The revised program will include a free sign-up offer and a reduced threshold to redeem rewards. Currently, El Pollo’s rewards members account for 10% of the chain’s sales mix.

El Pollo plans to launch curbside pickup in September as well.

“We believe the addition of curbside pickup will provide additional peace of mind for our customers to safely access our offerings as curbside service is seen as one of the safest ways to access food off-premise,” he said.


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