Since North Carolina was recently ranked as the best state in the country to do business by CNBC (and pretty much everyone else), there are a lot of headlines about large corporations moving here to gain a competitive edge. But there are also thousands of smaller companies that move here or open storefronts every year. Last year, that included Pollo Campero, a Guatemalan-style chicken restaurant that opened a Raleigh location in October.
Pollo Campero may have started in Guatemala in 1971, but most of their 80 franchise locations are located in the United States, including three in North Carolina. The other two are in Charlotte. Since its opening, the Raleigh location has seen “record sales,” according to Mauricio Blanco, vice president of Andi Valentino Investments, Inc., which owns Pollo Camper.
“We expected sales to be high, but what we got exceeded our expectations,” Blanco, who started with the company’s marketing department in May 2017, told the Carolina Journal. “People waited three hours for chicken the first week we were open. Even Food Lion and the surrounding stores have seen an increase in business since we opened here.”
Pollo Campero’s director of franchise development, Blas Escarcega, agreed that they had high hopes for the Raleigh location, especially since the brand was already “very well-received in Charlotte.” Escarcega said the Triangle’s great workforce, proximity to Research Triangle Park, favorable taxes, excellent university system and large Latino population all contributed to the Raleigh opening being the largest franchise opening in a decade.
“Raleigh is an area that we knew was going to be really successful,” Escarega said. “The Southeast in general likes fried chicken. Because of Tik Tok and social media, more people want to taste flavors from around the world.”
At a time when the restaurant industry is heavily impacted by the “Great Resignation,” where it is difficult to get many workers to stay, Pollo Campera has managed to maintain a strong workforce.
“Since Pollo Campero started in Guatemala, Latin Americans are very proud to work for this brand,” says Blanco. “And we are doing our part; we are willing to work with the needs and wishes of our employees: free time, family, life, etc. We take care of them and listen to what they want.”
Blanco adds that the fact that the owner of Andi Valentino Investments, Inc., himself an immigrant from Latin America, has occasionally worked side by side with employees of all ranks boosts morale within the company.
“For normal employees, it’s inspiring to see the owner working alongside them,” Blanco said.
However, the road to record sales was not without complications. Andi Valentino Investments, Inc. it also has two locations in Charlotte, but those two locations didn’t initially garner quite the same reaction as the Raleigh location, nor did they have the same pre-opening experience.
When opening in Raleigh, Andi Valentino Investments, Inc. she had a different experience with city and county officials than she had in Charlotte. Although they bought the Raleigh location back in 2018, the concept didn’t open until October of last year.
Blanco said the pandemic and the city of Raleigh were largely to blame, complaining that there was too much “subjectivity” among inspectors and city officials in Raleigh compared to Charlotte, which ultimately led to delays in opening.
“The ordinance is open to interpretation by the person handling the case,” he said, recalling that when there was a septic problem, “the city said one thing, the county said another thing, and the utility company said something else.”
That said, Blanco admitted that the delayed opening was luck in disguise because it created more hype for Pollo Camper.
Looking to the future, Pollo Campero and Andi Valentino Investments, Inc. plan to take advantage of more benefits that come with doing business in a state that is ranked as the best state to do business by Forbes and #2 by the American Legislative Exchange Council. for a general economic perspective. Escarcega, who praised North Carolina as a balanced and welcoming state, says there’s “a lot of white space” — meaning unclaimed territory — to open more locations. According to Escarcega, there are plans to open 15-20 more Pollo Camperos in the next five to ten years if economic trends in North Carolina remain positive.
Fortunately for Escarcega, Blanco and Pollo Camper, the pro-business legislature has no intention of undoing any of the groundwork they’ve laid over the past 10 years that has led to North Carolina’s current economic trajectory.