El Pollo Loco (Nasdaq: LOCO) opened a restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana, a new market and the first of a two-location franchise deal with Listo Way LLC.
The Costa Mesa-based fast food chicken chain said in October 2016 it planned to enter Cajun country; Listo Way owner Jason Trotter told a local business publication in mid-July the restaurant would open “no later than November” but development was delayed and it debuted St. Patrick’s Day.
It can cost more than $1 million to open an El Pollo Loco; the location is on the site of a former gas station and convenience store.
The state has been home to several local fast food and fast casual chicken favorites—Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, now in Atlanta, was founded in New Orleans, and Raising Cane’s USA LLC is in Baton Rouge. Southern states more generally have multiple options for chicken, including Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits in Charlotte and, of course, KFC, in Louisville, owned by Taco Bell parent Yum Brands Inc.
“With its distinctive culture, rich history and incredible culinary scene, Louisiana was a natural next step,” for the chain, Gus Siade, El Pollo Loco senior vice president of operations, said in a press release.
The chain is going light at first with two locations; it’s basing the effort on its “famous fire-grilled chicken,” Trotter said in the release.
He has experience as an area developer and franchisee for Plano, Texas-based Zoë’s Kitchen Inc.; he sold his stores and rights back to the parent company in 2014 for an estimated $8 million when it went public.
El Pollo Loco is the fourth-largest OC-based restaurant chain with about $795 million in system-wide sales and $400 million in revenue; the latter number is lower because franchised restaurants send only part of their sales to the parent company.
It has 475 company-owned and franchised restaurants in six states and traded recently at a $382 million market cap.