Albert Okura, future founder of Juan Pollo Restaurants was working for various fast food chains as manager. A char-broiled chicken chain (The other guys) opened a restaurant across the street. Albert was very impressed with the simplicity of the operations. Never really enjoying fried chicken because of the heavy breading and greasy taste, Albert became intrigued with this style chicken. Little did he realize that one day he would produce an improved system of cooking healthy chicken.
While working as a store supervisor (Del Taco) in Carson, California, Albert met Armando Parra who told him that he had an idea to sell char-broiled chicken back home in Mexico before El Pollo Loco. Albert filed that information as maybe wishful thinking.
Albert’s Uncle called and told him he had a restaurant location available in Ontario and felt that it would be an ideal location for a char-broilled chicken restaurant because it was on a main street and was surrounded by a large Hispanic population. Even though Albert knew nothing about opening his own business, he jumped at the opportunity. Not knowing where to start, Albert thought about it and remembered his friendship with Armando Parra. Armando came and took one look at the location and told Albert that there was absolutely no room for char-broiled chicken and Albert should sell rotisserie chicken because that is the way they really cook it back home.
Armando helped Albert get the first Juan Pollo ready to open. (Ontario, California) One week before the scheduled opening, the rotisserie cooker arrived from New York. Armando had one week to perfect a recipe for the rotisserie chicken. Armando’s stated goal was to “enhance the natural flavor of the chicken without adding any fats or oils.” Armando wanted to create a flavor that would appeal to everyone regardless of their ethnic background.
In January 1984 the first Juan Pollo opened in Ontario. First days sales were $165.00.
While Albert was perfecting the chicken process, sales were inconsistent and this was probably due to inconsistent quality of chicken. Sales in 1985 began to show steady improvement.
Received first unsolicited review from San Bernardino Sun. The writer, Norman Baffry, visited the San Bernardino location and bought chicken without telling anyone who he was. He loved the chicken but before telling us, he came the next day to make sure the chicken tasted the same. It did and Norman became an instant fan. His column had a huge following and after the article came out, Juan Pollo’s sales increased 50% overnight!
From 1986 to 1990, sales increased monthly. A very loyal and increasing fan base grew every year. Albert worked to refine the operating systems to make it easier to duplicate the product. Albert spent many hours motivating and training his hourly employees with the hope of letting them open their own Juan Pollo’s.