Homage to Heritage: Pollo Campero Rebrands for the 21st Century
Rebranding a major chain is never easy, but when your brand's historic roots run deep, there is even more on the line. It's great to have an established fan base, but a serious group of longtime devotees can be a double-edged sword. When a brand's look and feel starts to tire, how does a franchise draw in new audiences without alienating supporters who feel like family?
Pollo Campero, the world's largest Latin chicken restaurant brand, started as a small family restaurant more than 40 years ago. The restaurant's flavors were so special that Guatemalans and Salvadorans would bring chicken back in their suitcases to give family members living out of the country the unparalleled taste of home. Today, that devotion has helped Pollo Campero grow to more than 350 restaurants in 12 countries across the globe.
The first Pollo Campero opened in 1971 in Guatemala, and the first U.S. location opened in 2002 in Los Angeles. Our challenge in 2014 was to rethink our brand's appearance and attitude while staying true to the vibrant spirit that first made the restaurant loveable.
Who is our intended audience?
The whole planet has gone crazy for fried chicken, and Pollo Campero has been a big part of delivering real Latin flavors to a growing list of countries worldwide. Our core style and flavor are wholly Latin American, but we have a huge following in the United States, as well as in Spain, Ecuador, and Italy.
The restaurant's most loyal fans either raised their families on Pollo Campero or grew up eating it, and we knew they would be happy that our signature spices and tried-and-true Latin American recipes weren't going away. However, modern diners are adventurous, and we were eager to invite new audiences and younger generations to make great memories across our tables the same way our first fans did. It was crucial to strike a balance between illustrating our zesty attitude without making aficionados suspect a change in their favorite meals they kept coming back for.
Pollo Campero's design and layout weren't broken, but our classic templates were beginning to feel dated. How could we give homage to our heritage, while still moving the brand into the 21st century? Our goal was to recreate the restaurant experience without sacrificing elements that already worked well. Instead of focusing on any single aspect, we stepped back and viewed the restaurant as a whole to reengineer a total experience that would put our proud history on full view while ushering in an exciting era of great times at the table.
Perhaps no other point is more important: do not focus on design elements independently, but examine the restaurant as a whole and ensure the parts communicate the brand essence. In our case, we wanted to demonstrate that Campero is always vibrantly authentic, providing a unique Latin chicken that will delight our friends and family.
Redesigning and rebranding
Our older curbside facade was defined by white stucco, yellow awnings, and a bright red wall that framed Pollito, our longtime mascot, whose wings spread a wide welcome directly over our name. The new design is modern and angular with a fresh color palette in deep brown, energized green, and warm orange tones. A wood portal and green architectural fin guide guests to the entrance, and awnings have been redone in green to add energy to a more upbeat tan exterior. Pollito still welcomes guests throughout the restaurant, and our restaurant name and logo have been remixed with a contemporary caps font in a youthful script.
Inside, the redesign projects a genuine Latin vibe. Coordinated colors mimic the outdoor theme with wood flourishes that add a homey feel. Carefully branded images tell our story as customers weave through the line, and smooth designs make efficient use of space and avoid physical and visual clutter. Some displays have gone digital for easier updates to current specials, promotions, and offers.
To make the most of dining room space and improve wait time, the kitchen was economized with smarter layouts that added 200 square feet to the dining area. More ergonomic layouts boosted productivity and deployment at prep stations, which also improved side item consistency. Upgraded lighting and a green tiled wall make the kitchen glow, giving waiting diners a glimpse of our freshness and quality.
The dining room is sectioned into various seating zones for more privacy, and a flexible layout makes table arrangement easier for large groups. Pendant lighting, new upholstery, and flat-screen televisions modernize the entire space.
Our customers now experience a vibrant yet authentic restaurant concept that is true to its roots and heritage--while also being a true 21st century brand. It is no surprise to us that our current guests love our design, while we also attract a new, younger audience looking for a Latin flavor adventure. It is the best of both worlds.
Restaurants in two of our prime markets, Guatemala and El Salvador, implemented the rebranding and redesign in February 2014. Updates and renovations in the U.S. soon followed in the Washington, D.C., metro area and Texas, and four newly built locations opened in 2014 with the new design. Three more restaurants are scheduled to completely remodel in 2015, and 11 plan to renew branding to show off the updated designs.
Our new global brand platform is also coming to life beyond our restaurants. We are in the process of updating our website to reflect the brand's bold attitude, as well as close to launching a mobile application pilot test to make online ordering more convenient for our customers.
Whatever the impetus is for a redesign, there are always serious risks involved. Pollo Campero invested significant resources at every level into our updated look and feel, but we're proud to report that longtime supporters are still choosing us and new followers are flocking in to see what makes us one of a kind. We have revitalized our brand and have set a new course for accelerated growth!
Tim Pulido is president and CEO of Pollo Campero International, the world's largest Latin chicken chain. Visit www.campero.com, or follow the company on Facebook or Twitter @CamperoUSA.
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Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 2, 2015