Make us your home page

Guatemalan chain Pollo Campero opens in Tampa in July

They have not advertised, and the new building next to Fiesta Plaza didn't sport a Pollo Campero sign. Yet somehow the Central American community in the Tampa Bay area figured out a familiar fast-food taste is coming.

"We're getting calls and people at the door asking when we open," said Stephen Carlson, local operations director of a Guatemalan chicken chain with a cultlike following. "We open in early July."

Fried chicken may not be a growth industry in today's health-conscious society, so Pollo Campero is one of the few chains offering roasted items as well. It also was the first with a self-serve salsa bar, a tactic since picked up by Miami-based Pollo Tropical.

The Gutierrez family backed into the business after cash-poor customers at its general store in Guatemala traded chickens for flour. So in 1971 they added a restaurant.

Today there are 326 with sales of $400 million across Central America and the Caribbean. One of the busiest is in the Guatemala City Airport, where it's common for departing passengers to fill carry-ons with Pollo Campero for homesick relatives.

The expansion followed migration patterns north to Los Angeles in 2002. Today, there are 50 U.S. stores.

The flavor's not spicy, but distinctive. Credit a citrus marinade and Peruvian seasonings in the oven-baked chicken. The fried chicken is cooked in soy oil.

The chain is been no shrinking violet in real estate, either. Pollo Campero signed a deal to replace McDonald's in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World. At 4060 N Armenia Ave., the first to open here is in the heart of West Tampa's Latino community. The chain is looking to expand next into Town 'N Country and eventually have five stores in Hillsborough County.

• • •

Underscoring studies that find no link between a down economy and retail theft, shoplifting and employee theft declined about 1.5 percent to $33 billion in the United States in the past year. That's a three-year low from $36.5 billion, according to national statistics compiled by the University of Florida. Shoplifting was 35 percent of the total.

Store detectives credit better technology and intelligence sharing with law enforcement.

"Retailers can use software now to detect unusual shopping patterns, match up video with repeat offenders and spot trends to break up theft rings," said Jeff Bean, vice president of retail for Boca Raton's ADT Security.

• • •

Studies show shoppers trust anonymous customer reviews more than signed critiques in the media. Now a consumer agency says even complaint websites that enable abused customers to just vent over shoddy treatment deserve credibility, too.

"If you have a problem you don't think will be resolved by consumer protection agencies or the Better Business Bureau, you should post your complaint on these websites, too," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington nonprofit.

His study of the most popular sites found consumer protection agency investigators and potential customers check sites before doing business with national companies. Sometimes even the source of a complaint notices.

The big free ones —, complaints,, and pissed — brim with unverified vitriol.

Missing is a defunct complaint site I found years ago, just before JCPenney shut down its Eckerd Drug chain.

By far the top source of complaints — over 8,000 — was Eckerd employees beefing about their bosses. That was telling.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Guatemalan chain Pollo Campero opens in Tampa in July 06/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    But it's replacement — Tampa Bay Next — will likely include many of the same projects, including express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  2. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]
  3. Leaders of Tampa Bay's top workplaces share insights, suggestions


    TAMPA — Nearly 300 people gathered at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday morning to hear tips and insights from leaders of the highest-ranked workplaces in Tampa Bay.

    Bays Florida associates (From left) Robert Patterson, Amanda Boser, and Kellly Banchak talk during the reception before the start of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces Live! program at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  5. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall


    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]