Skip to content

This Beloved Chicken Chain's Loyalty Program Is Keeping It Alive

El Pollo Loco has witnessed a tremendous growth in sales and it's all thanks to its digital makeover.

It's not uncharacteristic for even the most successful restaurant chains to have had to close some of its locations across the nation since March. However, El Pollo Loco is defying the odds and posting tremendous growth in sales. In fact, it tripled its sales generated from digital channels.

Prior to 2018, the beloved chicken chain was spending 98% of its media budget on TV and print media outlets, which means they were forgetting to target two key audiences: Millennials and Gen Z.

"If we didn't revisit and rethink our approach for how we were going to market, particularly with media, we would run the risk of not bringing new and younger customers into franchise," CEO of El Pollo Loco Bernard Acoca said in an interview with Restaurant Dive.

However, since Acoca joined the team two years ago, he has prioritized investing in digital media by gradually scaling back on spending for print and TV. As of the most recent quarter, Acoca spent 30% of the media budget on the company's digital platforms and the results were astonishing. The chain tripled its sales in that sphere.

When Acoca overhauled El Pollo Loco's digital media presence, he not only restructured its website and mobile app to make them more user-friendly, but he also started investing in the chain's loyalty program. (Related: This Is Why You Can't Stop Buying Your Favorite Junk Food).

"The loyalty program is really the centerpiece of our digital flywheel and where we expect more and more of our sales comp in the month and years ahead [as we] siphon away dollars from traditional media and invest in our loyalty program," Acoca explained to Restaurant Dive.

The revamp of the chain's digital platform was essential during a time when dining rooms closed and to-go and delivery orders were the only way for businesses to keep earning revenue. Just before the pandemic hit, El Pollo Loco's digital spending was closer to 20% but that increased by 10% as the chain caught wind of consumer behaviors changing in real-time.

"It is so much more of an efficient way to communicate to our customer base and demonstrate that we know them because we're able to mine our database and segments we've created in that database," Acoca was quoted by Restaurant Dive. "We've seen an increase in frequency of visitation and increase in average member spend."

So, who wants to learn about these Loco Rewards? For more, check out 16 Fast-Food Loyalty Programs That Can Save You Money Right Now.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more