This story has been updated from 3:38 pm ET with closing stock price.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- El Pollo Loco (LOCO) shares surged 60% to $24.03 on its first day of trading following its IPO. The fast-casual chicken chain, which raised $107 million after pricing 7.14 million shares late Thursday at $15 a share. The stock opened on the Nasdaq at $19.
The price was at the upper end of the $13 to $15 a share range given in its Securities and Exchange Commission registration filing.
"The consumer is demanding higher quality products, but also demanding healthier products. People are trading up from the QSRs [quick-service restaurants] to fast casual," CEO Steve Sather said in an interview with TheStreet on Friday. "We call our positioning QSR-plus," referring to higher quality menu items at the "speed, convenience and value that you get at the QSR segment." That said, El Pollo Loco's prices are about 10% higher than typical fast-food chains but roughly 15% lower than Chipotle (CMG) or Panera (PNRA). "We think we're right on where consumers want to be in our QSR-plus position," Sather said. El Pollo Loco is targeting 2,300 U.S. restaurants for the long term. It plans to grow the number of restaurants by 8% to 10% annually, at first by adding company-owned stores, but also by developing franchisee relationships, according to the filing. It has hopes of becoming a national brand one day but for now will stick to a targeted expansion plan within the Southwest, Sather adds.
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