How El Pollo Loco Plans To Keep Attracting Young And Lower-Income Customers

A lot of things changed during 2020, including El Pollo Loco's marketing plans. It wasn't just the coronavirus pandemic that inspired the fire-grilled chicken chain's shifting strategy, but demographics. As the company's CEO explained to Marketing Dive, the issue was that the chain wanted to add younger customers to its predominantly over-40-year-old customer base.

Thus, in 2020, El Pollo Loco overhauled its marketing strategy, which at that time was overwhelmingly budgeted for television and print media. The brand began shifting its focus to digital marketing. TikTok has since become an important platform for El Pollo Loco, and thanks partly to a 2022 video series that targeted Hispanic Gen Z customers with "abuela approved" chicken, El Pollo Loco's demographics are beginning to skew younger. According to a YouGov report published earlier this month, 29% of the chicken chain's customer base is under the age of 34 while only 9% are in the coveted 18-to-24-year-old range.

The challenge for El Pollo Loco is to keep attracting younger customers, as well as budget-strapped diners affected by inflationary food price increases. Plans are in place to address both of these issues.

El Pollo Loco will continue using TikTok

With more than 1 billion users, TikTok is an asset to restaurants. For instance, Chipotle took an immersive approach to social media and gained over 1 million TikTok followers. El Pollo Loco has also mined the social media marketing strategy as well. Promotions for its Overstuffed Quesadillas drew over 10 million views on TikTok during the brand's fiscal fourth quarter, leading to an uptick in sales, CEO, Larry Roberts noted during a recent earnings call, per Seeking Alpha. TikTok remains a key marketing focus for El Pollo Loco in terms of reaching younger customers, particularly with its Overstuffed Quesadillas, which have proven popular with them. Perhaps that's unsurprising, given the popularity quesadillas have seen elsewhere on the platform. (In fact, a viral TikTok hack for ordering the dish led Chipotle to announce an update to its menu that would enable fans to request the hack on the app.)

Customers constrained by budgetary factors are also a focus for the fire-grilled chicken specialist. El Pollo Loco has raised its prices in response to inflationary pressures. The company expects those price hikes to tally about 4% by the end of 2023. So in the interests of budget-minded diners, the company has worked to keep value-based options on the menu. These options include $5 bowls and Fire-Grilled Gombo meals, as well as Family Feast meals for $24. El Pollo Loco hopes value offerings will encourage frequent visits. During its recent fourth quarter, same-store sales rose by 4.7%.