- Bernard Acoca, El Pollo Loco's CEO, director and president, has resigned from the company to pursue other opportunities effective Friday, the company announced Friday. Acoca will provide consulting services to El Pollo Loco to ensure a smooth executive transition.
- El Pollo Loco CFO Laurence "Larry" Roberts will serve as interim CEO and continue his role as CFO.
- Acoca has led the company over three and a half years, during which time he's overseen a rebrand, rolled out two off-premise-focused redesigns and increased technological innovations — including GPS-enabled curbside pickup and drone delivery.
Acoca departs El Pollo Loco in a strong position thanks to the string of technology investments made during his tenure, which should help it operate in an increasingly digital landscape.
The Mexican chain pivoted to create more off-premise opportunities and increase diner engagement by launching a loyalty program in September 2020. The program has helped boost transactions and now boasts 2.6 million members, Acoca said during the company's August earnings call.
The company also rolled out its GPS-enabled curbside pickup to 97% of its stores, Acoca said in March. Digital sales grew from 5% to 10% of total sales in 2020, and El Pollo Loco aims for its digital business to comprise 30% of total sales over the next three years, he said.
The QSR chain has also invested in a drone delivery pilot that can deliver food up to a two-mile radius, which will open up opportunities for cheaper delivery for shorter distances.
Prior to the pandemic, systemwide sales and comparable sales were growing under Acoca's leadership. Systemwide sales increased 3% to $894 million in 2019 and only dropped about 1.7% in 2020 to roughly $880 million, according to an SEC filing. Comparable restaurant sales also grew 2% and 1.2% in 2019 and 2018, respectively, declining 2.4% in 2020 after the company was hit hard by lock downs in Los Angeles, one of its biggest markets.
During the first half of the year, El Pollo Loco's systemwide sales growth resumed, with sales increasing 15%, according to an SEC filing. Comparable sales were also up 14% during the first half of the year.
"Bernard and his team successfully navigated through the many challenges of the pandemic, and today the Company is stronger than ever with increasing sales and a strong connection with our customers," Michael G. Maselli, chairman of the board of directors at El Pollo Loco, said in a statement. "Under Bernard's leadership, we have accelerated our digital penetration and positioned the Company for success over the coming years."