Monday, December 19, 2011

Pollo Tropical Hoping Second Wave a Hit in Atlanta

South Florida-based Pollo Tropical is continuing its return to Georgia with a second new location, a free-standing restaurant at Akers Mill shopping center in Cobb county.  A location opened in Lawrenceville on Duluth Highway in August, marking the chain's first Georgia location since a local franchisee closed his three Pollo Tropical restaurants in
1996 citing unhappiness with the franchise.  (A fourth location had been planned, but never opened.)  Although I have yet to visit the new location myself, I'm told they are doing a brisk business and at least on opening day, had a drive thru line that wrapped around the restaurant.

Last year, I reported that their first new Atlanta area location would open in North Buckhead on Roswell Road near Wieuca Road.  On land that had previously housed a Just Brakes location, then tenant Lucy's Market was forced to relocate to the former Sears automotive lot on West Paced Ferry Road.  Eventually though, the neighborhood refused to support the restaurants plans for access from both Wieuca and Roswell Roads, and I'm told Pollo Tropical abandoned their plans to open on the site.  (A nearby Zaxby's did receive community support and opened earlier this summer on land previously home to an abandoned car wash.)

In 1995, Pollo Tropical had three franchised restaurants, one at North Druid Hills and LaVista Roads, near Toco Hills, now home to both an Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Caribou Coffee.  A second was in south Buckhead and was later converted to a full-service restaurant called MacArthur's before closing, sitting vacant and later being razed for the Mezzo apartment tower and Varasano's Pizzeria.  A third restaurant was  was located in Roswell and like MacArthur's, was converted to another restaurant, Dream Doggie Cafe, a family friendly casual eatery that lasted about two years before closing itself.

Tropiclanta Inc., the name of the local franchise of the restaurant was funded by Gary Link, a 20 year veteran of the restaurant industry with time spent in management at  both T.G.I. Fridays and Steak. It was Link who also opened MacArthur's and Dream Doggie Cafe.  Given Link's restaurant experience, I'd wager the concept's failure in Atlanta was largely due to the (then small) Hispanic population which since 1996 has exploded.  Additionally, when Link's locations opened in 1995, Pollo Tropical's store count was a mere 46, almost entirely in Florida.  Today the chain has nearly 150 locations in three states and a handful of foreign countries such as Ecuador and  Honduras.

Now, 15 years later, the chain has come back, and has high hopes for its second foray into the Atlanta market. Some said the chain was ahead of its time when it opened in 1995, so perhaps now Atlantans, or enough Florida transplants will appreciate this fast food chain's Caribbean cuisine featuring "Chicken on the Grill."   

The chain's new location will open within Akers Mill shopping center along Cobb Parkway.
The restaurant at 2955 Cobb Parkway, will be built adjacent to LongHorn Steakhouse on land previously home to no structure, just parking.

Pollo Tropical joins the aforementioned LongHorn Steakhouse along with Hooters, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A along the Cobb Parkway side of the shopping center.  Additionally, Cinco Mexican Cantina is located to the back left of the center, near Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.  Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint will soon open in the center as well, in the former Wine Styles space.  The center is also home to Top Spice Thai  Malaysian restaurant and a Pinkberry, among others.

It's probably ironic, but just thought I'd make note of the fact that Uncle Maddio's orginal location is within Toco Hills, adjacent to the first Top Spice location and a few blocks from one of the short lived Pollo Tropicals of the 90s.

Pollo Tropical is a wholly owned subsidiary of Syracuse, New York-based Carrols Restaurant Group.  Carrols also owns the Taco Cabana chain, with one location Atlanta on Piedmont Avenue, and is one of the worlds largest franchisees of Burger King restaurants with some 315 locations across 12 states.

Lake Forest, California-based Del Taco, a chain specializing in "American style Mexican cuisine," has also reentered the Atlanta market after leaving it the early 2000s.  In its first entrance into the Atlanta market, Del Taco restaurants were dual branded with Atlanta-based Mrs.Winner's, a then popular fried chicken restaurant.  After the closure of the dual branded locations, Mrs. Winner's continued to suffer, with even more store closures this past fall.  Today the chain operates and or franchises less than 40 locations in the southeast.  Many shuttered locations remain vacant and could be appealing to new concepts coming to or expanding locally.

The first next generation Del Taco will open in Snellville on Scenic Highway in February with an additional one on the books for Chastain Road in Kennesaw later in the year.  The chain has plans for numerous other locations in the metro but no others are confirmed at this point.  Last year, a Del Taco Coming Soon sign was spotted on Fairburn Road in Douglasville but I have since been informed that site was never approved, and no location was or is opening there.  

In October I wrote about  El Pollo Loco's  troubles in the Atlanta market.  The Costa Mesa, California-based chain had authorized up to 50 franchised units in 2007 but less than ten ever opened. Fiesta Brands, the local franchisee of the chain filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 in 2009 and corporate took over control of the Atlanta units.  It  closed more than half of the locations, sparing the successful Chamblee, Norcross and Cumberland locations before closing them too this past October.  

Atlanta is the birthplace of uber successful chains like Waffle House and Chick-fil-A but is also very competitive.  What do you think of the ups and downs of the chains mentioned above?  Do you have a favorite?  Had you dined at one of the Pollo Tropicals in the 1990s and have now been to the Lawrenceville  location?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Like what you see? Follow me on twitter and like me on facebook

11 comments:

SB said...

The Pollo Tropical's in Miami are so busy that the drive thru lines often wrap around the plazas.... not unlike the Chick fil-a at Mt Vernon/Abernathy....

TheJohnP said...

When I lived in SoFL for a few years, I preferred Miami Subs vs Pollo Tropical. Both tried and failed to make inroads in Atlanta. Hopefully PT will make headways so Miami Subs can make a return.

Atlantan99 said...

Hey JohnP,

I think it's weird to compare Miami Subs and Pollo Tropical as it's like saying you prefer Burger King to Chick-fil-A. Both are fast food, but appeal to different consumers.

I will say I was unimpressed with Pollo Tropical on my most recent visit to SoFl but hopefully they've improved. I recall the Miami Subs on Briarcliff ( now Tin Roof) but were there others?

Thanks for reading and for the comment!

mpittmanoutlaw said...

I think it will be a great idea to have Pollo Tropical here across from the cumberland mall. I love the restaurant i move here from south Florida an miss eating at the restaurant. I can wait until they open the doors. This time they will have more customers and they will due great.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Miami, Florida and every Friday and Saturday evening my wife and I would get this to go from the Drive Thru. However, living in GA for the last 6 years doesn't quite have the variety I'm used to getting in the 305. But, I see the Atlanta is attempting to have more diversity here in the south since most Floridians have left Miami and moved to GA. Cant wait for more diversity and a Pollo Tropical near to my residence.

Anonymous said...

Pollo Tropical is delicious. I was born and raised in Miami and grew up on Cuban food and other Latin food. I'm very excited to have this option in my neighborhood. I think the Cobb location will do well with the growing Latin population and gringos like myself who enjoy a variety of foods. Grilled chicken and black beans with garlic yuca YUM!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm also a Miami transplant in Cobb county and I can't wait for this location to open!!!

Anonymous said...

Me and my family are from south Florida and I recently found in my travels the pollo tropical in lawrencville and was so excited. I live in Cobb and have drove to lawerenceville 4 times to eat here. I am soooo glad one will be close by. It is always so busy and so good I'm sure it will do great here. I have also found a Florida based millers ale house and to my surprise has been in Alpharetta since 2006. I wish it would make some headway for more locations. Miami subs would also be so awesome. Closest one is Spartanburg Sc and I have eaten there.... I know I go way out of my way for things I want.....lol. I fell in love with del taco when I was stationed in Yuma Arizona and just found out they r putting one in kennesaw. Man I'm going to be putting on alot of weight soon

Anonymous said...

We need a pollo tropical in Gwinnett mall area. A perfect location would be on satellite blvd between pleasant hill road and old Norcross road. This location with all the auto dealerships and office buildings nearby would do gangbuster business.

Melinda said...

I just tried it for the first time this weekend. I LOVE IT! best fast food option when you don't want fried food or sandwiches. I got the tropi chop 1/2 brown rice 1/2 lettuce. With pork, and all the fixins (sans the red beans, black beans are enough)...YUM!

Anonymous said...

the cobb pollo tropical, is only business no food good, the employees the paying $7.25 the diswasher cook the chicking to customer , to put garbage out ,etc. all for $7.25, is a no good place for family.