- El Pollo Loco CEO Laurence Roberts has left his post as president, CEO and director after being with the company for over a decade, the company said in a Thursday press release.
- Roberts has been CEO since 2021 following Bernard Acoca’s departure from the chain to become CEO of Zaxby’s.
- Maria Hollandsworth, El Pollo Loco’s chief operating officer, will become interim president and CEO. She joined the chain in 2022 and has over 30 years of restaurant experience.
To ensure a smooth transition, Roberts will provide consulting services to El Pollo Loco through Dec. 28. The board of directors has hired an executive search firm to help find a new CEO.
Roberts originally joined the chain in 2013 as CFO after serving over 14 years in various leadership positions at Yum, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“Larry has been an instrumental part of El Pollo Loco’s history as a public company, from serving as our CFO during our initial public offering in 2014 to leading the Company as our CEO for the past two years,” William Floyd, chairman of the board at El Pollo Loco, said in a statement.
Hollandsworth brings “extensive operational experience across multiple franchised, quick-service brands” to her interim position, Floyd said. She has worked at various brands, including Dunkin’ and Jack in the Box.
“During her tenure at the Company, Maria has put the customer at the forefront of everything we do while driving significant operational improvements,” Floyd said. “She has been vital in creating our strategic vision and we are excited for her to lead this brand forward.”
While El Pollo Loco searches for a permanent CEO, the QSR will continue to accelerate its unit growth and enter new markets to become a national brand, Floyd said on Thursday during the company’s earnings call. During Q3, the chain opened its second restaurant in Denver with its second franchisee in the market, Hollandsworth said during the call. The brand also refranchised 17 restaurants, including nine in Houston, seven in California and one restaurant in Utah.
The chain has also been working toward streamlining operations inside restaurants and has been rolling out new salsa processing equipment, which is expected to be in all restaurants by the end of 2024, Hollandsworth said. It is also testing an automated dishwasher, enhanced holding equipment and ordering kiosks. The company rolled out a revamped loyalty program with four different point levels, as well.
The company ended Q3 with systemwide comparable sales up 0.8% and over 490 units.