DENVER — Fire-grilled chicken chain El Pollo Loco is eyeing Colorado as part of its next wave of expansion.
After first announcing plans to enter the Colorado market in March, El Pollo Loco has signed two separate development agreements for eight initial restaurants in the Denver area.
The deals include four restaurants each on the east and west sides of the Denver metro area, according to El Pollo Loco. The first restaurant is expected to open on the east side of Denver in 2022.
El Pollo Loco said the franchise partners are experienced operators:
- Pikes Pollo Inc. will open their four restaurants in west Denver. The partners currently own four restaurants in Southern California.
- LMU Investments, LLC, whose partners already own 18 El Pollo Loco restaurants throughout California and Utah, will open four restaurants exclusively on the east side of Denver. Their first restaurant will be located in Peoria, Colorado and is expected to open in 2022. Peoria is located on Interstate 70 east of Aurora, about 30 minutes east of E-470.
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.
"These agreements will further expand our footprint in key target markets throughout the Western United States, as well as mark the brand’s entry into the Denver market," said El Pollo Loco Chief Development Officer Brian Carmichall "Our growth would not be possible without franchisees like LMU Investments and Pikes Pollo, who continue to demonstrate their high level of confidence in El Pollo Loco by bringing our brand and products to life each and every day."
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.
El Pollo Loco previously operated one restaurant in Denver that closed during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
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.
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.
"This exciting franchise development is a reflection of our Acceleration Agenda, our strategic plan for ongoing national expansion through franchising," said Carmichall. "The success of our better-for-you menu combined with our new L.A. Mex restaurant design has continued to attract experienced multi-unit operators interested in our growing brand."
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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