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El Pollo Loco Solves Chicken-or-Beef Dilemma : Dining: Restaurant in Upland combined its menu with that of Fosters Freeze; revenue increased 60%. Other eateries may form similar alliances.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fast-food types call it “veto power.”

Mom and dad have a hankering for broiled chicken, but the kids noisily cast their votes for burgers. So the parents grudgingly give in and bypass the El Pollo Loco restaurant for a nearby burger palace.

“There are folks who won’t go to El Pollo Loco because we don’t have a certain product that they want,” acknowledged Ray Perry, chief operating officer of the Santa Ana chain with more than 200 locations in California, Nevada and Texas.

El Pollo Loco is addressing the chicken-or-beef dilemma at an Upland restaurant that offers a dual menu filled with chicken from El Pollo Loco and hamburgers and fountain desserts culled from the menu at Fosters Freeze, an Arroyo Grande company that has 146 restaurants.

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The Upland experiment, which began nearly two months ago, increased the El Pollo Loco’s revenue by 60%, according to store owner Lonnie Priester. Discussions with two other fast-food operators could lead to similar alliances involving El Pollo Loco, Perry said.

The dual menu concept is similar to food courts at shopping malls, where a number of fast-food and sit-down restaurants share common space, said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a Chicago-based consulting firm. When the menus are joined within the same building, the concept works best when it helps a restaurant build upon its strengths, Paul said.

“One of the earliest (pairings) was Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins, which have the same parent company,” Paul said. “Dunkin’ Donuts is generally thought of as a breakfast place, while Baskin Robbins is known for desserts or snacks.”

It was disagreement over a proposed dual menu that sparked hamburger magnate Carl N. Karcher’s ongoing war to regain control of the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain. Karcher, who was ousted as chairman of Carl Karcher Enterprises on Oct. 1, wants the chain to test market Green Burrito brand food products at a handful of restaurants.

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Karcher maintains that Green Burrito products would lure new customers and bolster Carl’s Jr. business, particularly at dinner time. But a majority of CKE’s board sided with President Donald E. Doyle, who maintains that market research fails to support the concept.

Previously, Anaheim-based Green Burrito teamed up with Arby’s restaurant in Long Beach. Perry, a former CKE executive, said he first heard of the dual menu concept while at Carl’s Jr. “I felt pretty strongly about it back then,” Perry said.

The El Pollo Loco restaurant in Upland has “Fosters Freeze” signage out front and on the building. Inside, customers order from a menu that includes food from both companies. “Fosters was a good fit for us,” Perry said. “It’s a good name . . . it has great dessert products and it has flame-broiled products, just like we do.”


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