COSTA MESA Calif. El Pollo Loco, the grilled chicken chain, is giving other proteins another try with the introduction this weekend of several sirloin steak dishes, the chain said Thursday.
Starting Saturday, El Pollo Loco locations across the country will add four new dishes featuring carne asada-style marinated beef:
- Two steak tacos with citrus-marinated, flame-grilled steak, cilantro and onion in corn tortillas for $3.99
- Grillmaster Steak Taco with melted jack and cheddar cheeses and topped with pico de gallo and guacamole in a grilled flour tortilla for $2.49
- Sirloin Steak Bowl with fresh cilantro, onions, pico de gallo, Spanish rice and pinto beans for $4.99
- Sirloin Steak and Three-Cheese quesadilla with jack, cheddar and cotija grilled in a flour tortilla and served with guacamole and sour cream for $5.99
Anew salsa rojas, which pairs with beef, will also be added on Saturday, said Mark Hardison, El Pollo Loco’s vice president of marketing.
It’s not the first time the chain, known for its citrus-marinated grilled chicken, has offered steak. In the early 1990s, El Pollo Loco offered steak tacos, but they were later dropped from the menu as the concept focused more on its signature grilled chicken.
Hardison said the chain decided to bring back steak as a protein option in response to customer demand. The decision was “born out of our expertise in grilling,” he said. “Consumers were asking, 'Why don’t you grill steak?'”
The move also aims to build customer traffic by eliminating the veto vote among those who prefer beef over chicken, he noted. If successful, more beef dishes will likely be added to the menu.
Last month, the company confirmed that it was also testing a fish taco in a handful of stores in Southern California, but company spokeswoman Julie Weeks said it was a preliminary move to gauge customer reaction and that fish tacos were not on the product calendar for 2010.
Television advertising in both English and Spanish will support the introduction of the new steak items, officials said.
On Jan. 20, the chain is scheduled to host a “Stampede for Steak,” in which customers dressed in cowboy-themed clothing will receive a free sirloin steak taco between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Those who Tweet, post on Facebook or email to El Pollo Loco a photo of themselves in cowboy garb will be eligible to win $250 in El Pollo Loco gift vouchers.
“We’re not putting our chicken out to pasture,” said Steve Carley, El Pollo Loco chief executive. “El Pollo Loco has taken the bulls by the horns. We are expanding our 30 years of flame-grilling expertise to sirloin steak that is deeply marinated in a signature blend of citrus, garlic, herbs and spices and then grilled over open flames by our expert cooks. Don’t fence us in!”
Based in Costa Mesa, Calif., El Pollo Loco operates or franchises 415 units across the country, mostly in the West.