IRVINE, Calif.—El Pollo Loco has begun piloting its “Air Loco” food transport, becoming the first national restaurant company to pilot “door-to-backyard” drone delivery.
“We want to lead the way in the quick service restaurant industry in a way no other brand has previously attempted,” Andy Rebhun, El Pollo Loco’s vice president of digital, told The Epoch Times. “We’ll be the first [fast food restaurant] to deliver this type of memorable experience to our customers in a cost-efficient, fun, and reliable fashion.”
The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company has partnered on the initiative with Tel Aviv-based Flytrex, which specializes in on-demand, direct-to-consumer autonomous drone delivery services.
According to Flytrex’s website, its drones are capable of carrying packages weighing up to 6.6 pounds and can fly about 6.2 miles roundtrip at up to 32 miles per hour.
El Pollo Loco began piloting the technology on June 24, when a select number of its Loco Rewards members in Southern California were treated to a meal from above.
When a drone arrives at its destination, it slowly lowers the takeaway bags to the ground with a hook and rope. The customer is required to approve the package before the food is delivered.
Once the service is fully rolled out, Loco Rewards Members can place their orders and keep track of their delivery via El Pollo Loco’s online Air Loco app.
The order is placed in a specially designed insulated bag and loaded in the drone’s delivery box, which is then flown by a drone engineer to its predetermined route to the customer’s backyard.
“Our goal is to roll out drone delivery in 10 Southern California restaurants later this year. The first test took place in Corona. After the test, we hope to scale this delivery option into new locations based on the results, market demand, and FAA regulations,” Rebhun said.
When asked about flying in inclement weather, Rebhun said that they won’t currently fly Air Loco in rainy or extremely windy conditions.
“Our partners at Flytrex are currently working on the next generation Air Loco drone where inclement flying conditions may be possible,” he said.
The move to drone delivery is a continuum of El Pollo Loco’s investment in digital evolution and enhanced customer experience, according to the company president Bernard Acoca.
The company recorded a 250 percent increase in delivery performance in 2020, largely due to pandemic lockdowns resulting in increased food delivery demand.