El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:LOCO) Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

May 03, 2018 • 05:00 pm ET


El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:LOCO) Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript


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Bernard Acoca

by hand, the amount of food we do every day in our restaurants.

Another point of strength is our Los Angeles and Southern California roots, where we have developed a deep cult like connection with our loyal fan-base. From an operations perspective, I have also been impressed with store-level performance in our core markets, which continues to be very strong and is reflective of the overall quality and commitment of our people. Over the last 50-plus days, I have spent a significant amount of time meeting with each of our teams here at our support center, franchisees, as well as with many operators in the field. And I'm very enthusiastic about the quality of our people, the commitment of our franchisees and the opportunity I see to further build this brand over the long term.

It is obvious to me that the team has done a lot right to get this brand where it is today. This is evidenced by the recent Market Force survey, in which El Pollo Loco essentially tied with Chipotle as consumers' favorite Mexican restaurant brand, and tied with Zaxby's for third in the chicken category. Clearly, consumers love our concept, but we are setting our sights on taking El Pollo Loco to higher levels. To that end, we are focusing our work on three key foundational strategies, number one, develop the people-first culture. Two, differentiate the brand; and three, grow the business. Let's quickly review all three.

First, because our people are our greatest asset, we need to develop a people-first culture that invests in and grows our talent. This includes implementing a heart-centered leadership program to capitalize on the sense of family that exists throughout the company and foster a culture of courage and compassion to lead others with authenticity, transparency, humility and service with a strong emphasis on impactful coaching and recognition that reinforces the behaviors that we value. This culture already exists within certain parts of our business, but it needs to live within our entire system, both company and franchise. We've already developed and started training on our heart-centered leadership program and expect to start rolling it out to our franchises at our leadership conference in July.

Second, we must further clarify what our brand stands for, and differentiate it by extenuating and building up on our strengths. This includes establishing El Pollo Loco as the undisputed chicken brand of choice, what we call Pollo Passion, solidifying our better-for-you positioning, celebrating our Hispanic heritage and roots, and consistently delivering service that wows the customer. Clear articulation of the brand should provide the guardrails for everything we do, from marketing, the product development, the store design. Most importantly, we will become a consumer-driven company. Third, we will grow the business responsibly and profitably for the long term. This includes developing a customer-centric growth strategy to achieve successful unit growth in new geographies and driving friction-less convenience by making accessing and ordering from us effortless.

All our decisions, strategies and tactics will be