Irvine, California-El Pollo Loco Inc. announced plans to expand the quick-service restaurant chain by more than 130 units over the next five years, primarily through franchise growth. This initiative expects to include the development of restaurants both within and outside El Pollo Loco's core markets in the West, including the concept's first major expansion east of the Mississippi River.

The chain currently operates 314 restaurants (136 company and 178 franchise-owned) in four states: California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. El Pollo Loco's expansion is marked by its first entry into Illinois with the recent signing of an agreement with Chicago-based Fortis Restaurant Development Inc. to develop at least 10 restaurants in Chicago.

Development of the first unit is scheduled to begin in Cook County in late 2004. El Pollo Loco is searching for experienced multiunit franchise operators to develop additional Chicago territories spanning Cook County, Will County, Kane County, DuPage County and downtown Chicago ("The Loop"). Beyond Chicago, El Pollo Loco intends to explore further expansion in the Midwest and East. -El Pollo Loco Inc.