El Pollo Loco, a chain of 418 grilled-chicken restaurants based in the Southwest, is engaged in an ugly cock fight with industry giant Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Last month, KFC launched a grilled-chicken product amid great fanfare. It was the largest new-product launch in the history of the bespectacled Colonel’s storied franchise, and a lightning strike to the grill of El Pollo Loco.
It didn’t buckle the contender’s knees. In fact, El Pollo Loco’s CEO Steve Carley unleashed a furious counterattack including TV commercials challenging KFC to a taste test.
He even set up a toll-free number that the Colonel could to call to arrange a showdown.
Yum Brands’ KFC, which has 11,000 outlets world-wide, claims it wasn’t ruffled by the challenge.
“We’re certainly more focused on Kentucky grilled chicken than on any advertising or online efforts of competitors,” KFC spokesman Rick Maynard told the Wall Street Journal.
Maybe so, but when a flood of calls came in to the hot line from people claiming to prefer KFC’s entry, El Pollo Loco’s handlers determined by tracing the caller IDs that some of the calls originated from HQ over at KFC.
“We’ve been grilling our employees to see if anyone’s done any undercover dialing,” Maynard said.
For El Pollo Loco though, this was a chance to make some serious gravy. It posted follow-up videos on YouTube outing KFC’s purported sham calls and claiming it had gotten under the Colonel’s oven-baked skin.
The spat has now escalated to the grandest stage of all, as king-maker Oprah Winfrey–who in the last year alone got the other Big O elected president and quadrupled the value of Twitter—announced that viewers could download coupons from her Web site for a freebie at KFC.
Once again, El Pollo Loco was ready. The coupons, it turned out, were good through mid-May, excepting Mother’s Day.
The contender posted yet another video on YouTube.
“What does KFC have against Moms?” it asked, while offering to honor KFC’s coupons on the holy day.