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El Pollo Loco Hires New CEO

El Pollo Loco [NASDAQ:LOCO] announced yesterday that its board has appointed Bernard Acoca as the company’s president, chief executive officer, and member of its board of directors effective March 12. Acoca succeeds retiring CEO Steve Sather. 

Acoca joins El Pollo Loco from Starbucks. Over the past two and a half years, Acoca  served as president of Teavana, the tea shops that Starbucks acquired in 2012 and then announced that it would close by 2018.  Acoca led the transition of the Teavana brand from being sold in a chain of 379 specialty tea shops that are shuttering to be now sold in Starbucks’ 26,000 coffee shops. Acoca also spent ten years in marketing roles at Yum Brands.

El Pollo Loco grows its restaurant count by 6% from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017El Pollo Loco’s chairman of the board of directors, Michael Maselli, stated: “Bernard is a seasoned executive with over twenty-five years of experience, including sixteen years at leading restaurant companies Starbucks and Yum! Brands.  With a long and proven track record of driving sales and profit growth through new product development, brand communications, and integrated go-to-market strategies, Bernard brings significant strategic, marketing, operational, and digital expertise to the role of CEO.  As El Pollo Loco embarks on its next chapter of growth, we are confident that Bernard’s skill set, experience, and passion for the brand make him the ideal person to lead this company into the future.” 

Maselli also thanked outgoing CEO Steve Sather for his service and wished him a good retirement. With more than 260 franchised restaurants, there was no mention of the chain’s franchisees and what their stores can expect with the changing of the franchisor's top executive. However, its press release mentioned that outgoing Sather had improved the chain’s average unit volumes and restaurant level margins. No numbers were given.

In its last reported quarter for the 13-week period that ended September 27, 2017, El Pollo Loco reported that same-restaurant sales for its franchised restaurants grew by 2.4 percent compared to the same period in 2016. The company will announce its fourth quarter and year end results on March 8.

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email