Dozens of people milled around the entrance to Pollo Campero Monday morning, some wondering whether it would finally open and others trying to figure out which line was for dine-in customers and which was for takeout orders.
The popular Central American fast-food chain was scheduled to open its doors at noon, but hungry customers were happy to be let in earlier than planned. By 11 a.m., all the dine-in seats were in use.
“I walk by here about 10 times a day and I can’t believe it’s finally open,” said 19-year-old William Lopez, who grew up in Guatemala. “Today I came here hungry,” he said.
“The guys were ready and we just decided to open at 10:30 a.m.,” said Ingrid Martinez, the restaurant’s director of marketing.
“It’s exciting, very exciting,” said Andrew Hatzis, vice president of operations, as he looked out at the crowds of young men and women licking their fingers after eating.
“It’s exciting that we come here and that the people are excited to be here,” said Hatzis.
The opening of the long-awaited fried-chicken chain store has been in the works for over a year. Many were relieved to see the new business open in the former Payless location, despite complaints from community leaders.
“For the Central American community it’s like bringing a little piece of home,” said Martinez as she greeted families waiting to get a taste of the food at San Francisco’s first Pollo Campero.
That was the case for 30-year-old Liz Martinez, originally from El Salvador, who brought along her two young daughters and two friends.
“I’m very happy because even though some things look different in this menu than the one at home, I know that the taste of the chicken will be like the one we had back home,” she said.
Pollo Campero is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 2740 Mission St., between 23rd and 24th streets; 415-401-8226.