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El Pollo Loco to launch customizable bowls

El Pollo Loco to launch customizable bowls

Limited-time, Create Your Own Bowl promotion will focus on drive thru

El Pollo Loco's Chicken Pollo Bowl

El Pollo Loco will launch Thursday a limited-time offer that lets customers build their own Pollo Bowls both in restaurants and at the quick-service chain’s high-volume drive thrus.

The Create Your Own Bowl promotion will be rolled out to El Pollo Loco’s 406 units systemwide, and will last about five weeks.

The offer is another example of a quick-service restaurant chain moving to a customizable format long offered by fast-casual brands like Chipotle Mexican Grill. For example, McDonald’s is testing a build-your-own burger option.

However, the feature is less common at quick-service drive thrus. But that’s where El Pollo Loco hopes to stand out, given that about 50 percent of sales of its popular Pollo Bowls come from customers in cars.

El Pollo Loco chief marketing officer Ed Valle said drive-thru customization fits with the brand’s positioning as QSR-plus, targeting “mainstream foodies on the go.”

“The world is going to choice and customization,” Valle said. “Mainstream foodies on the go are demanding in terms of quality of food, but they don’t have a lot of time. We deliver real food at the speed of life.”

The challenge, however, will be maintaining the chain’s four-minute service-time average, Valle said.

As guests drive up, they will see new paneled menu boards that outline the four-step ordering process.

To build a bowl, guests first select their protein: chopped chicken thigh meat, chopped breast or pork carnitas. Next, they choose a base of rice, pinto beans, black beans, lettuce or broccoli. Then they choose toppings of avocado, cotija cheese, guacamole, corn, sour cream, mango salsa, jack cheese or pico de gallo. Lastly, they select a topping, including poblano salsa, creamy cilantro, ranchero sauce or queso.

Prices, which are based on the protein selected, start at $5.79. Guests can double the meat serving for an additional $1.50, Valle said.

In tests, guests picked up the process very quickly and service times were maintained, Valle said. Surveys also came back “very, very strong,” he said.

“There’s a real appetite out there for this,” he added. “It empowers guests to create meals that satisfy their personal preferences.”

If successful, the Create Your Own Bowl promotion could result in the addition of the fully customized process to the permanent menu.

“The thing here is how well will it perform and what kind of role will it play for us in the future,” Valle said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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