Ed Valle, El Pollo Loco’s CMO since 2011, has suddenly exited the company.
In a brief regulatory statement, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based fast food chain said Valle and the company “mutually agreed to part ways” on June 27.
“Mr. Valle had no disagreement with the registrant on any matter relating to the registrant’s operations, policies, or practices,” according the SEC filing.
Valle came to El Pollo Loco from the hotel industry in 2011. Before that, he previously held marketing positions at Panera Bread and Dunkin’ Donuts.
El Pollo Loco, in a statement to Nation’s Restaurant News, thanked Valle for “his substantial contributions and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
The company said a search in underway for a new CMO. “El Pollo Loco has a unique opportunity to continue to evolve and elevate our brand, and we are committed to finding a world-class marketing leader that can help take our business to new heights,” the company said.
In the meantime, vice president of marketing Mark Hardison has been promoted to senior vice president of marketing, the company said.
Valle’s departure marks another corporate leadership shift for the flame-grilled chicken chain, which has more than 470 units. In February, El Pollo Loco named Bernard Acoca its new president and CEO. He started in mid-March. Acoca replaced Steve Sather, who retired. He had led the company since 2010.
At a recent conference, Acoca and CFO Larry Roberts said the brand is focusing “on developing a people-centric culture” and “clear articulation of brand,” according to a research report by Jeffries equity analyst Andy Barish.
In the report, Barish said El Pollo Loco is projected to open 6 to 8 new stores this year, down from 16 stores in 2017. He said the slowdown reflects the company “decision to pull back from the Texas market.”
“Near term, new units will cover existing markets” in California and Nevada, he said. The company is also focused on remodeling stores under its new Vision design.
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