El Pollo Loco plans big expansion in Colorado

The fire-grilled chicken chain is eyeing Colorado as part of its next wave of expansion.

DENVER — Fire-grilled chicken chain El Pollo Loco is eyeing Colorado as part of its next wave of expansion.

El Pollo Loco told 9NEWS it plans on opening 10 to 15 restaurants in the Denver metro area and as many as five others in the Colorado Springs area over the next five years.

Each Colorado restaurant would employ as many as 50 people, said El Pollo Loco in a statement.

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The restaurant chain said the Colorado expansion is part of a plan to open 140 new locations throughout the western United States by 2026. El Pollo Loco currently operates 478 locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Louisiana.

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“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 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 restaurant chain is known for its L.A. Mex food, "an innovative blend of traditional Mexican cuisine and better-for-you eating, that Los Angeles is known for," according to a release.

Credit: El Pollo Loco

The nearly 50-year-old El Pollo Loco said its expansion will be driven by two recently-unveiled prototype designs.

One version has no indoor dining room, instead catering 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 will also feature a dual drive-thru and curbside pick-up parking spaces.

El Pollo Loco said each of its new 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.

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“Whether you want to indulge in Mexican-style comfort food or you want try one of the low-calorie menu options that complies with your dietary regime, we have a menu that has something for everyone,” said Carmichall.

Of El Pollo Loco's 478 restaurants, 282 are owned and operated by franchisees. The chain said it is seeking operators to help with its western expansion. 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, according to El Pollo Loco.

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