Woman Shocked by ‘Crazy’ El Pollo Loco Drive-Thru Meal Cost: ‘I Went Home and Made Dinner’

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 09, 2024

Josie expected a typical dinner run at El Pollo Loco but was floored by the drive-thru prices. 

When she saw the $43.99 tag on a 12-piece chicken meal, she was shocked: “I did not buy. I went home and made dinner. I was not going to get ripped off,” she shared in her now-viral TikTok video.

Customer Loyalty Tested by Soaring Prices

Looking back at previous prices, Josie recalled in her video, “I remember when the 12-piece family meal was $12.99. Now, it’s $43.” 

A serving of El Pollo Loco's fire-grilled chicken pieces displayed in a black takeout container, accompanied by sides of green salsa, red salsa, and yellow corn in branded cups

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

This dramatic price increase has jolted longtime customers, leaving them both surprised and disheartened, as evidenced by the flurry of social media reactions.


A Closer Look at Family Meal Deals

El Pollo Loco currently offers different sized meals: an 8-piece for $32.99 and a 16-piece for $52.99, alongside the 12-piece option. Each comes with several sides, tortillas, and chips and salsa. 

An El Pollo Loco meal laid out on a table, including grilled chicken in a black container, a salad, a bowl of soup, rice, and salsas with tortillas on the side

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

The new pricing has prompted many customers to rethink their choices, with some searching for more budget-friendly alternatives.

Price Spike Sends Video Viral

Josie’s video didn’t just capture her dismay—over 50,000 TikTok viewers felt it too, making it her most popular post. 

Close-up of an El Pollo Loco drive-thru sign mounted on a bright yellow arch, with red text and blooming purple and yellow flowers in the foreground

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

Her candid shock resonates widely as more diners confront and grapple with the higher expenses at their favorite eateries.

El Pollo Loco’s Rise to Prominence

From its humble beginnings in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1975, El Pollo Loco has grown to nearly 500 outlets in the U.S. 

A contemporary El Pollo Loco restaurant exterior with a wooden frame around the entrance, large glass windows, and outdoor seating shaded by yellow umbrellas

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

Despite this impressive expansion, the brand has had to navigate significant hurdles, including price adjustments in response to economic changes.

A Dip in Profits Leads to Price Adjustments

El Pollo Loco’s recent earnings report showed a decline, with profits falling to $7.5 million in the last quarter from $9.5 million a year earlier. 

A person holding an El Pollo Loco takeout bag with the restaurant's logo, outside the car window

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

This financial pressure has driven the chain to revise their menu pricing, according to their latest press release.


Unpacking the Causes Behind Price Hikes

To cope with increased operational costs, particularly the new $20 minimum wage for California fast food workers, El Pollo Loco has raised its prices. 

A group photo of El Pollo Loco staff members, dressed in black uniforms, standing in front of the restaurant with the colorful El Pollo Loco logo and exterior visible

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

These adjustments are crucial for the company to maintain the quality of service and product amidst financial pressures.


Public Outcry Over Higher Prices

Social media platforms have become stages for customer grievances, with many voicing their frustration. 

A table set at El Pollo Loco with tacos, grilled chicken, beans, and a drink served on biodegradable plates and cups

Source: El Pollo Loco/Facebook

“Their prices have gone up, and their portions have gone down. I only opt in for their $6.00 combos now,” one customer pointed out, highlighting a shift in consumer spending habits due to the price increases.


Exploring Cheaper Dining Alternatives

As fast food prices climb, savvy consumers are sharing tips on more affordable options. 

Exterior view of a Publix supermarket, featuring a green and beige facade with the Publix logo prominently displayed above the entrance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“I can go to Publix and get eight pieces of chicken for $9.99,” suggested a Florida-based TikTok user, promoting grocery store deals as economical substitutes to fast food meals.


The Rising Popularity of Boycotting Fast Food

Discontent with rising prices has led some to completely boycott fast food chains.

A person cooking a meal in a black frying pan on a stove, stirring vegetables and meat with a wooden spoon, with steam rising from the pan

Source: Kevin McCutcheon/Unsplash

“I boycotted a lot of fast food restaurants since they started price gouging… Best decision I’ve made in a while,” shared one TikTok user, echoing a sentiment felt by many looking for more value in their spending.


Fast Food vs. Home Cooking

Josie’s decision to head home and cook instead of paying the elevated prices highlights a growing trend.

A wooden cutting board filled with fresh ingredients including avocado, tomatoes, eggs, mushrooms, green onions, and spinach

Source: Katie Smith/Unsplash

Many are now opting to save money and potentially eat healthier by cooking at home, turning away from fast food alternatives.


Broader Discontent Across the Fast Food Industry

It’s not just El Pollo Loco facing customer pushback—other big names like KFC and Popeyes are also under scrutiny for similar price increases. 

The front of a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant, with the signature red and orange color scheme

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This widespread dissatisfaction signals a critical moment for fast food chains, which may need to rethink their strategies to maintain customer loyalty and ensure satisfaction.