RLC Idea: How El Pollo Loco leverages its A players

Every chain has A, B and C units. A shame, but it’s true. A key to growth—without actually building new stores—can be in turning C’s into B’s and B’s into A’s.

“A chain with 500 locations, where 100 are C performers, and C performers are selling on average $100K less than their peers, equates to an opportunity of $10 million annually,” pointed out Scott Griffith, founder of Tell Us About Us, a customer intelligence service, and a presenter at the Restaurant Leadership Conference.

Steve Sather, president and CEO of El Pollo Loco, has embraced this notion and in January implemented a new program to use his A operators to help his B’s and C’s raise their game.

Once a quarter the chain’s top five operators are dispatched to critique operations, focusing on quality, service and cleanliness.

“They do a four hour, in-depth investigation,” says Sather. “Nothing can hide.”

The chain formerly relied on area leaders to do this type of inspection, but Sather admits, “It was kind of like having the fox watch the henhouse.”

As Sather explains, the investigators don’t just find problems, they sit down with managers and lay out an action plan for improvement.

Griffith says tapping top performers in this kind of way is valuable and too often an overlooked resource.

“These people know what to do,” he says. “They’ve developed their own tricks to make their stores better.”

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