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Guatemalan chicken chain plans 40 new Florida locations as part of national expansion

Pollo Campero plans to open 40 new quick service restaurants in Florida over the next five years, including several in Orlando.
Pollo Campero plans to open 40 new quick service restaurants in Florida over the next five years, including several in Orlando. (Handout)

About five years after fast-casual chicken chain Pollo Campero closed its only Orlando store at Downtown Disney, the Central American brand is gearing up for a big comeback in the market.

As the name suggests, the menu focuses on traditional Guatemalan fried chicken and citrus grilled chicken, with an array of regional sides, including empanadas, yucca fries and signature pinto beans. The previous store operated out of a former McDonald’s building, but it closed when the building was demolished to make way for the Disney Springs expansion.

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Now the QSR is making Orlando a key market in its national expansion plans. Sam Wong, director of franchising for Pollo Campero, told GrowthSpotter the company plans to open up to 20 new restaurants in Central Florida, and 40 across the state, over the next five years.

The Pollo Campero menu features South American staples, such as citrus grilled chicken, beans and rice, empanadas and yucca fries.
The Pollo Campero menu features South American staples, such as citrus grilled chicken, beans and rice, empanadas and yucca fries. (Handout)

Wong said the company is in discussions with several experienced restaurateurs and could award up to three franchises for the Orlando market. The plan is to blanket the community with locations across multiple neighborhoods and partner with local schools and organizations.

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“Every franchise group that we recruit for the Orlando market has to have the mindset of being involved in the local community,” Wong said. “We can be a major contributor to the local economy, local community, even if we only open 10 stores. We are part of the DNA of Orlando, and we want to support the lifestyle of our customers.”

The company’s growth strategy would boost its unit count by 250 stores, which would more than triple its current footprint. With 77 U.S. locations already open and in development, Orlando is a natural next step for Pollo Campero given its local consumer base, real estate availability and business community.

Pollo Campero made its Orlando debut in 2010 at Downtown Disney in a former McDonald's store.
Pollo Campero made its Orlando debut in 2010 at Downtown Disney in a former McDonald's store. (Dewayne Bevel/Orlando Sentinel file)

The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Dallas, currently has two existing locations in the state – Miami and Boynton Beach. Wong said both of the South Florida stores are being renovated to comply with the company’s updated prototype.

The company has redesigned its new stand-alone stores as a result of COVID to have smaller dining rooms and to add drive-thru windows, curbside pick-up and patio seating. Improvements to the company’s digital platform were already underway when the pandemic hit, Wong said.

“So it caught us prepared,” he said. “The pandemic has proven our ability to adapt and speaks to the appeal of both our business model and franchise opportunity.”

As for site selection, the real estate team will employ a mixed-strategy to satisfy the tourist market and surrounding trade areas. Wong said the ideal location would be a corner pad in a shopping center anchored by a Home Depot, Target or Costco. The secondary strategy will be to focus on neighborhood retail centers with available end-caps that can accommodate the drive-thru and outdoor dining.

Finally, the company will consider second-generation restaurant spaces that can accelerate the Orlando roll out. “That’s definitely part of our game plan,” Wong said. “We did a conversion of a former KFC, and in that case the development timeline is faster because you don’t have to do a traffic study to get your drive-thru permit. But it has to be in the right trade area.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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