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Pollo Campero debuts new prototype in Dallas

Pollo Campero opened a new prototype earlier this month in Dallas, with fresher colors and new menu that it plans to use in future development.

Campero USA Corp., the 56-unit division of Guatemala-based Pollo Campero, plans to capitalize on the growing interest in Latin flavors, and add as many as 10 corporate U.S. units in 2015, according to Tim Pulido, president and chief executive of Dallas-based Campero USA and Campero International.

The USA and International divisions are owned by Corporación Multi Inversiones (CMI) of Guatemala, which has 232 Pollo Campero units, predominantly in Guatemala. Pulido also heads the separate Dallas-based International division, which has 59 franchised units in Italy, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Spain.

Tim Pulido, president and chief executive of Campero USA and Campero International. Photo: Pollo Campero

The concept was founded in 1971 in Guatemala and opened its first U.S. location in 2002 in Los Angeles.

“The new logo and look are more modern,” Pulido said in an interview at the new unit, which replaced an older restaurant a few blocks away. “That older unit looks like a concept that was from 1985 and south of the border.”

The new Pollo Campero occupies a former retail space, and has about 2,000 square feet and 65 seats. Ideal restaurants would have between 2,300 square feet and 2,500 square feet, with 85 seats, Pulido said.

“We went with vibrant colors, like what we call ‘fresh green,’” Pulido said of the rebranding. “Yellow, orange and brown are our heritage colors, so they are still here.”

The rebranding also included a refreshed “Pollito Campero” chicken mascot, new menu boards and updated seating, Pulido said, with the goal of keeping Latin consumers and also appealing to a broader customer base.

“We do really well among Hispanic customers,” Pulido said.  “They see this as an authentic Hispanic brand. And we’re doing well with the general public as well. Lunch business is taking off among the general audience.”

That lunch business is driven by the increasing interest in Latin foods. “Latin flavors are going mainstream,” said Pulido. “People feel more comfortable today walking into a Pollo Campero than a few years ago.”

Pulido said with the new look, he anticipates the brand will continue to broaden its consumer appeal.

“The American palate in general wants to try new, bolder, spicier flavor profiles,” he said. “As the Hispanic population, which is now at about 17 percent and headed to 20 percent [of the U.S. population], other people are more comfortable in trying new Latin things.

“We’re not another Mexican concept,” he added. “We have a unique spin.”

The menu features grilled and fried chicken, empanadas and chicken sandwiches, and traditional Latin side dishes such as yuca fries, sweet plantains and black beans.

A typical two-piece fried campero with one side. Photo: Pollo Campero

Average unit volumes are $1.5 million, and ticket averages are large — $13 to $14 — because of family meals, which are sold especially heavily on weekends, Pulido said. U.S. units have seen three years of 7-percent year-over-year sales growth.

A large share of Pollo’s sales are for large orders for families, he added. The mix is about 40 percent on-premise dining and 60 percent for takeout. Only about a quarter of the U.S. locations have drive-thrus, he said.

Menu prices range from $2.99 for five chicken nuggets, or Camperitos, served with creamy cilantro-lime or sweet chipotle sauce, to $39.49 for a 20-piece family meal with four large sides, tortillas or rolls. Citrus-grilled whole chickens are also available for $12.99, or in meal packages with two sides for $18.99.

“‘Authentic Latin chicken’ is the phrase that’s a sweet spot for us,” Pulido said. “This brand really was built in Guatemala. Those are our cultural roots.”

In the new prototype, the menu layout has been updated and simplified. “We’ve tried to make it easier to read,” said Pulido. “You have individual chicken meals on the bone, family meals on the bone, off-the-bone items and the side items. We tried to go broader in the past, and I think we made a mistake. We’ve really focused on the chicken and the Latin authenticity. It’s true to our core.”

About half of the 56 U.S. units are corporate-owned and the rest franchised, Pulido said, and most of the growth in the next few years will be in company-owned locations. “We’re proving out the business case both for our remodels and our new design,” he said.

The U.S. development will continue primarily in areas where the brand already has locations: California; the District of Columbia region; Florida; Long Island, N.Y; and Texas. The company bought back its restaurants in the D.C. area in 2012.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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