El Pollo Loco Serves Up Inspiration, Inclusivity

El Pollo Loco wants to close 2020 with inspiration, introducing a holiday campaign that celebrates cultural inclusivity and how a shared meal can bring people together. And it’s also introducing a new design aesthetic, which it hopes will add a little joy to an often-dreary category.

The holiday ads star a handful of sweet kids, talking about ways that sharing food traditions help people get to know each other.

“When you share food that is part of your tradition, you share part of yourself,” says Bernard Acoca, president and chief executive office of the Mexican chicken chain. “That leads to greater understanding and ultimately brings people closer together.”

He tells QSR Land that using kids to deliver that “Share the tradition, share the love” message seemed especially apt. “This year has been complicated one for all of us,” he says in an email, “one marked by division, with people more focused on our differences rather than our similarities.” 

The new campaign comes just as the company, based in Costa Mesa, California, returns to positive same-store results. Created by Vitro, ads are running on TV, digital and social media.

The company also hopes to inspire with new visuals, and recently introduced a design approach that it thinks will shake up the QSR experience.

The big push toward new graphics, packaging, store design and exterior murals feels like a bold move, especially after months of industry focus on sanitation, contactless delivery and drive-throughs.

“The focus on design serves as a source of inspiration and joy during a chaotic time,” Acoca says. He hopes the changes remind customers that “there are beautiful things to admire in the world.” And it’s also intended to offer “a visual cue that the high quality of our food is deserving of beautiful design to match it. We consider design to be the next milestone in our ongoing efforts to evolve the brand and offer customers the highest quality experience.”

The brand is committed to more visual storytelling in the year ahead, including the restoration of murals across Los Angeles that celebrate its Mexican-American roots. And it’s dedicating more storefronts as canvasses for new murals. 

Pending “design-forward efforts” include the drive-through friendly Loco Lunch Box, new seasonal packaging and gift cards. And in its “restaurant of the future,” already under construction, “you will see our commitment to design manifest itself in the most dramatic of ways," adds Acoca.

Last month, the chain announced third-quarter revenue of $111 million, down slightly from $112.1 million in the year-ago period. Systemwide comparable restaurant sales increased 1.8%, marking its return to positive results after months of COVID-19 challenges. Net income was $9.9 million, compared to net income of $6.4 million in the comparable period of 2019.

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