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Competitors Converge on Georgia’s Chicken Chains
Bojangles and El Pollo Loco move forward with aggressive expansion plans for Georgia.
El Pollo Loco brings its flame-grilled chicken to Georgia.

El Pollo Loco Inc. and Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits are expanding into greater Atlanta with plans to open more than 130 new restaurants in that already thriving quick-serve market.

Atlanta is already home to several major quick-serve chicken chains, including Chick-fil-A, Mrs. Winner’s, and Popeyes, but officials at Irvine, California–based El Pollo Loco and Charlotte, North Carolina–based Bojangles are confident there is plenty of room for business in the city, saying they can distinguish themselves from the hometown competition.

“Georgia is our highest growth area,” says Eric Newman, executive vice president of Bojangles. “We have critical mass in the Carolinas, and we have had a presence in Georgia since the inception of the company. The culture and the local palate make Georgia a natural fit for us.”

Steve Carley, president and CEO of El Pollo Loco, says that like the West Coast, Atlanta offers an equally lucrative market for its citrus-marinated, flame-grilled chicken.

“Atlanta is a terrific market for us, and while there are numerous other chains that offer chicken in the Atlanta area, none offer what El Pollo Loco does,” he says.

In early August, El Pollo Loco announced that it plans to open 50 locations in metro Atlanta within the next six years. On August 27, the city of Hiram became home to the Southeast’s first El Pollo Loco, unveiling the company’s new building concept, which features “contemporary Mexican design with multiple textures, geometric shapes, natural wood, and Aztec design elements.”

“We are very excited about our expansion momentum underway,” Carley says, adding that five stores are under construction throughout metro Atlanta—Gainesville, Marietta, Lithia Springs, Roswell, Lithonia, and Chamblee.

“In addition to Georgia, we have a pipeline of franchise commitments in California, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Florida, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia. North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and New England,” he adds.

Bojangles announced last week that it will open 15 more of its fried chicken franchises throughout metro Atlanta during the next three years. The new stores, which are slated for Atlanta, Buford, Conyers, Newnan, Rockmart and Statesboro, are part of a greater expansion plan that will bring more than 80 new locations to Georgia’s major cities, including Savannah and Macon, over the next five years. In early August, Bojangles celebrated the grand opening of its College Park restaurant. Franchises in Conyers, Rockmart, and Statesboro are expected to open by the end of the year.

“In Georgia we have four company stores, 33 franchises and 84 contractual agreements to build,” Newman says. “There is an incredible interest. Our activities are not limited to Georgia, but if we had to pick one area, it would be Georgia. Next would be Virginia and Tennessee, Alabama, and north Florida.”

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