Hopping onboard two major trends in the increasingly digital restaurant biz, chicken chain El Pollo Loco this week announced it is finally launching curbside pickup and a nationwide rewards program via its mobile app. A press release sent to The Spoon notes that the loyalty program officially launched Thursday and the curbside pickup will be available from September 28.
The rewards program revamp, which offers members one point for every $1 spent, comes at a time when restaurants are encouraged to build out their digital properties as off-premises orders continue to be the main lifeline for business. Mobile apps are also a way for chains to keep more of the delivery process, including customer data, under their own roof instead of handing it over to third-party delivery. El Pollo Loco has partnerships with Postmates, DoorDash, and other major third-party delivery services. But it can also, in certain markets, accept and process orders via its own app and website. A stronger loyalty program would potentially drive more customer traffic directly to the chain’s own digital storefront.
Baked into that digital storefront is El Pollo Loco’s new curbside pickup feature, which is GPS enabled. Using the app, customers can order ahead. When they arrive at the restaurant, they get an automatic a notification to check in via the app. A staff member then brings out the order.
Curbside pickup is common nowadays thanks to more off-premises orders and the expectation for restaurants to go as “contactless” as possible. Few, however, offer a tech-enabled approach that truly speeds up the process. For most, customer must still call a phone number to let the restaurant know they’ve arrived. El Pollo Loco’s GPS-equipped system sits somewhere in between said phone call and the more sophisticated approach of Panera, which uses geofencing technology to automatically check a customer in when they arrive.
Both the revamped rewards program and curbside pickup are clearly a play by El Pollo Loco to increase digital sales in the future. Anymore for restaurants, high digital sales are becoming as much of a mandate as social distancing measures, so this is just the start of what we’ll see from El Pollo Loco as it revamps its restaurant experience.