Lafayette native Jason Trotter is closing in on his plans to bring two locations of El Pollo Loco to Lafayette by November.
As ABiz first reported in October, Lafayette will be the first city in Louisiana to receive the citrus-marinated, flame-grilled chicken and Mexican-style food chain. Trotter, a former Zoës Kitchen franchisee, is the CEO of Listo Way Group, the new franchise partner for El Pollo Loco.
“It’s where we had our first Zoës, and Lafayette was so great to us,” Trotter, 36, tells ABiz about his selection of Lafayette for the first El Pollo Loco locations.
Trotter declined to identify specific locations, saying the deals were not complete yet.
Government records, however, indicate that a permitting process is underway for an El Pollo Loco at 3808 Johnston St., the site of a long-shuttered gas station/convenience store.
Though he is working on both locations in tandem, Trotter says one site is still “up in the air” because of unexpected delays but maintains that El Pollo Loco will “absolutely" be introduced to Lafayette this year.
“We hope to be open October, November,” he continues. “No later than November.
Trotter says the restaurant is a “fast-casual concept that Lafayette isn’t used to.”
“Our food is made fresh from scratch every day,” he says. “There’s nothing frozen, nothing that comes out of a bag. You’ll see when you walk in chicken grilling, big pots cooking rice.
“The inside doesn’t look typical. It resembles a Zoës, if you will. It’s very...” Trotter says, pausing to think of a way to characterize the restaurant. “It’s comfortable.”
In 2006, Trotter joined Zoës Kitchen as the company’s second franchisee. When he joined, Trotter says there were “roughly 22 stores nationally.” There are now 203 locations in 20 states across U.S., according to Zoës Kitchen’s website.
“They were only in the South when we started,” Trotter says. “They were based out of Birmingham and all around that area. The furthest they went was Nashville at that time.”
He opened and operated multiple Zoës Kitchens across Louisiana, Florida and Alabama.
In 2014, Trotter sold his franchises back to the parent company.
“The company went public, and they bought all the franchisees out,” says Trotter, who declined to comment on the sales price for his franchised units.
According to a corporate press release, the company acquired ”three Zoës Kitchen restaurants, two restaurants under development and area development rights in Louisiana from a franchisee for approximately $8 million in cash.” The press release notes that the transaction closed on Nov. 10, 2014.
According to El Pollo Loco’s website, the chain originated in Mexico before spreading to the U.S. in 1980. There are now more than 430 restaurants in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.