El Pollo Loco to launch ‘restaurant of the future’ concepts — one with no dining room

Marianne Wilson

El Pollo Loco will introduce a new, digitally enabled format designed to enhance off-premise convenience as more consumers shift to take-out amid the pandemic. 

The fast-casual, grilled chicken chain will unveil the design, which will also feature a modern take on the brand’s Mexican-American heritage and 40-year L.A. hometown roots, in two remodeled locations, both in L.A. country. According to a report by Nation’s Restaurant News, El Pollo Loco plans to remodel 55 stores in 2021.

There are two versions of the new design, with one fully focused on driving business off-premise. It features a take-out window, a dual drive-thru, dedicated curbside pick-up parking spaces, and patio seating — but no indoor dining room.   

The second version includes a dual drive-thru, dedicated curbside pick-up parking spaces and a smaller than typical dining room that opens up to an expansive patio via flexible garage style doors. When the doors are open, the indoor and outdoor experiences “seamlessly blend,” according to the company, and increase the comfort level of the customers inside by enabling them to enjoy their meal in an airy, well ventilated environment.

In other features, the back-of house where the chicken is grilled will be fully exposed through an enlarged window in the drive-thru lane. 

The two designs share an enhanced digitized experience, including a double drive-thru with digital menu boards and GPS-enabled curbside pick-up. Customers will have the option to go fully contactless and pick up their mobile to-go orders from designated cubbies inside the restaurant. The digital features are all integrated with the company’s mobile app.

Subtle brand cues throughout the restaurant are designed to honor the brand’s heritage, from the cleaver door handles (a nod to the fact that all chicken is cut to order) to the turning fork chandeliers (which repurposes a tool of trade used by the brand’s grill masters).  Murals, imagery and city maps evoking the brand’s 40-year Los Angeles hometown roots on the interior and exterior walls.

“Where you will see our commitment to design manifest itself in the most dramatic of ways is with our new restaurant of the future,” said Brian Carmichall, chief development officer at El Pollo Loco, which operates than 465 company-owned and franchised restaurants in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Louisiana. “To compete in a COVID world, we knew we needed to create a unique concept that is anchored in technology, accessibility, and modern design elements infusing our brand history to make it easier and more rewarding to be a customer.”

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