Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another Pollo Tropical Cumming

Miami, Florida-based Pollo Tropical is once again expanding in Georgia.

Pollo Tropical re-entered the Atlanta market in 2011 with a location in Lawrenceville just off Highway 316.  Last year, a second location was added at Akers Mill on Cobb Parkway.  Later last year, I announced that other locations are planned for Alpharetta at exit 9 off Georgia 400 and off Interstate 75 in Kennesaw at Cobb Place Shopping Center.  

The new location in Cumming will replace Cumming Fish Market in front of a Holiday Inn Express in a Lowe's Home Improvement anchored center.  The fish restaurant closed over a year ago, and has remained vacant.  The existing restaurant will be demolished and a new free standing Pollo Tropical restaurant constructed in its place.

No word on when each of the upcoming locations will open, but it's possible that they will open within a few months of each other, all later this year.  In Alpharetta, the restaurant will simply build on vacant land, whereas in Kennesaw and Cumming, an existing structure will be demolished and new free standing buildings erected.  

Early indications are that the chain is doing well in its return to the Peach State. (Three franchised locations closed in Atlanta in 1996.)  Now under corporate control, the chain's Atlanta stores feature what a company representative referred to as "flex-casual."  Between fast food (Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King etc.) and fast casual (Panera Bread, Smashburger, NaanStop etc.) lies a new category segment industry folk have recently named flex-casual. 

Flex-casual is basically a fast food restaurant with a slighter higher price point and increased service.  Upon visiting the Akers Mill restaurant (shortly after opening,) I was greeted by an employee at a host stand who sat me at an available table.  This type of service is often found only in casual and fine dining establishments.  Not surprisingly, shortly after opening, the service was discontinued.   Ordering took place at a counter,  as it does now, and one's food, silverware and drinks are brought to customers tableside.  Additionally, the interior of the restaurant is clean and fresh (partly because it's so new) and each Atlanta area restaurant also offers free Wi-Fi.

Personally, I'd much prefer a slightly less expensive menu over having my food and silverware brought to me.  There is a time and place for service like this, and to me, a fast food restaurant operating as a flex-casual concept just seems weird.  Having also been to Pollo Tropical in Florida, there is a dramatic difference in the service levels between the Florida and Georgia locations.   I'd hate for Pollo Tropical to suffer the same fate as El Pollo Loco, but the two restaurants' Atlanta segmentation strategies seem rather similar.  El Pollo Loco, of course, is a Costa Mesa, California-based fast food chicken chain that entered Atlanta in 2008 with a higher end look and feel than their California locations.  By 2011, all locations in Atlanta had closed

Are you a fan of Pollo Tropical? Do you think the expectations of consumers familiar with the brand from Florida will cause confusion in Atlanta?  What do you think of the idea of flex casual?

1 comment:

nsk said...

So many lost opportunities for sexual puns. And on today, of all days.