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El Pollo Loco to debut new design format in 2021, focusing on drive-thru, curbside pickup

New design also focuses on outdoor dining amid COVID-19 pandemic

El Pollo Loco launched a redesign of its restaurants, aiming to take its off-premise business to the next level. The fire-grilled chicken chain has reimagined the layout, known as L.A. Mex, based on new consumer habits to create its restaurant of the future. Moving forward, the digital and contactless experience—of primary interest to consumers due to COVID-19—are front and center in the new prototypes.

The El Pollo Loco L.A. Mex design features two different formats. The first design has a takeout window and a dual drive-thru, emphasizing off-premises business, along with dedicated curbside pickup spaces and patio dining. In this iteration, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based restaurant chain offers no indoor dining.

The El Pollo Loco's first design has a takeout window and a dual drive-thru, emphasizing off-premises business, along with dedicated curbside pickup spaces and patio dining
El Pollo Loco focuses on drive-thru, curbside pickup and outdoor dining in its new designs. Image by El Pollo Loco.

The second version features a smaller dining room than the typical El Pollo Loco restaurant with garage doors that open up to a spacious outdoor patio. It also includes a dual drive-thru and dedicated curbside pickup spaces. The aesthetics of this prototype help blend the indoor and outdoor spaces when the garage doors are open.

“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.”said Brian Carmichall, El Pollo Loco chief development officer.

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Inside the restaurants, murals and chandeliers are a nod to the chain’s 40-year Los Angeles history and brand heritage. Even the door handles are shaped like cleavers, which pay homage to the fact that El Pollo Loco’s chicken is cut and prepared in-house.

Under construction this quarter, the new, L.A. Mex restaurants reflect modern visuals. Customers can fully view the restaurant back-of-house, which is where the chicken is grilled. Dedicated pickup cubbies help expedite the to-go experience for takeout. GPS technology, coupled with the QSR’s app, make curbside pickup more efficient.

Furthermore, the Mexican-style QSR equipped its drive-thrus with digital menu boards.

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In Los Angeles, El Pollo Loco is remodeling select restaurants in the specs of the new design. Newly-built L.A. Mex restaurants will debut in 2021.

Photo credit: El Pollo Loco (featured preview, inline image)

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