|El Pollo Loco is a fast-food restaurant chain and Mexican grilled chicken franchise, and may be the first Latin-American franchise to branch into the United States market. "El Pollo Loco" is Spanish for "The Crazy Chicken".|
Juan Francisco Ochoa started the restaurant in Guasave, Mexico, in 1975. By 1979, the chain had expanded over northern Mexico. In 1980, the first U.S. restaurant opened in Los Angeles, California. In 1983, the American restaurants in the chain were acquired by Denny's, with an agreement where the Ochoa family could operate the restaurants in Mexico.
There are some holes in the history presented at the El Pollo Loco website, however. The USPTO reports that El Pollo Loco's trademark was assigned from a Humberto Galvez to the El Pollo Loco corporation in 1981. El Pollo Loco joined the former Trans World Corporation with the rest of Denny's in 1987, but was sold as the holding company got rid of all its operations other than Denny's.
Humberto Galvez later started the Pescado Mojado (rhyming Spanish for "The Wet Fish") chain of fish restaurants.
In the United States, the El Pollo Loco chain operates in the Southwest and California, with a single location in Chicago and a recently opened location in Connecticut at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Ledyard. Their main dish is pollo asado, a grilled marinated chicken. Initially, their competition was with Kentucky Fried Chicken for plates of chicken, but today, they have expanded into burritos and salads, and serve items that compete with Taco Bell, Del Taco and other Mexican style restaurants. Their primary competition appears to come from smaller mom-and-pop restaurants with copycat names.
The chain's most recent marketing efforts, featuring a handsome Latino playing a character named El Caliente (Spanish for 'The Hot One') (played by Matt Cedeño), have drawn fire from Chicano advocacy groups who claim that the ads depict a stereotypical view of Latinos. Generally, however, El Caliente is seen as less offensive than previous Latino mascots, such as the Frito Bandito.
In Mexico, the originating chain still operates under the same name and logo in most of northern Mexico, particularly in cities such as Monterrey or Culiacán. The chain enjoys high commercialization on take out and fast food selling primarily grilled chicken. The chain marketing efforts are primarily on radio.
Recently, the restaraunt was the setting for a challenge on The Apprentice: Los Angeles in which the contestants had to take El Pollo Loco's famous dish, the "Pollo Bowl", and make something original out of it.
El Pollo Loco website