COSTA MESA, CALIF. – COVID-19 isn’t quashing El Pollo Loco’s plans for expansion. The foodservice chain that specializes in fire-grilled chicken revealed plans for aggressive expansion in 2021, driven by two new restaurant designs.

El Pollo Loco, a 478-unit chain, hopes to open as many as 140 new restaurants out west over the next five years. But for now, the company will initially target markets in Denver, Colorado Springs, Colo., Albuquerque, NM and parts of Texas. Driving the expansion are two prototype designs that meet the demands of the company’s off-premises business.

One version caters mostly to off-premises sales with a take-out window, a dual drive-thru, parking for curbside pick-up, and patio seating; there is no indoor dining room. The second prototype will have a smaller-than-typical dining room that opens up to an expansive patio. The company said this format will also feature a dual drive-thru and curbside pick-up parking spaces.

Both prototypes share an enhanced digitized experience – including “Pollo To Go” cubbies for mobile to-go and delivery orders, digital menu boards and GPS-enabled curbside pick-up, all integrated with the El Pollo Loco’s mobile app.

“The future is now,” said Bernard Acoca, president and chief executive officer of El Pollo Loco. “We’re excited to roll out our evolved restaurant concept, which brings us to the culmination of the company’s three-year transformation agenda and sets us up for even more geographical expansion in the years ahead.”

The potential of the new store formats lies in consumer preference for off-premises dining options coupled with demand for healthier meal options that are affordable, according to Brian Carmichall, chief development officer.

“We are excited to grow our footprint and bring El Pollo Loco’s famous fire-grilled chicken, and handcrafted “LA Mex” entrees to these new communities,” Carmichall said. “The expansion announcement and impending unit growth is sure to appeal to the growing number of consumers looking for the type of food options El Pollo Loco has to offer; and experienced franchise owners with the desire to be part of a strong franchisee family.”

Another characteristic in the company’s favor is El Pollo Loco’s fire-grilled chicken-driven menu that fuses Mexican cuisine with fresh better-for-you ingredients which differentiates the brand from other concepts and aiding in the company’s development plans.

“Whether you want to indulge in Mexican-style comfort food or you want try one of the low-calorie menu options that complies with your dietary regime, we have a menu that has something for everyone,” Carmichall said.