El Torito Picks 4 L.A. Finalists

El Torito Rest aurants has narrowed the search for its estimated $3 million account to four finalists.

Those still in the hunt are Italia/Gal & Partners, Campbell-Ewald and Kovel/Fuller, all in Los Angeles, and Perceive in Long Beach, Calif.

The review is being led by Mike Agate of con sultancy Select Resources International in Los Angeles. A decision is expected in late May.

It is unclear whether the media buying portion of the account will be bundled.

The client currently has a relationship with Initiative Media, according to sources. Executives at Initiative could not immediately be reached for comment; one source suggested the chosen agency may handle media strategy and planning, with Initiative remaining the buyer.

The client is expected to call on a shop with experience creating foot traffic in a retail setting.

The Mexican-style restaurant chain, based in Irvine, Calif., previously worked with Impiric, also in Irvine. Impiric vp, management supervisor Barry Gilbert said the agency was hired last year for project work by El Torito’s owner at the time, Prandium. That relationship lasted through December, Gilbert said. Work included developing a new positioning strategy as well as point-of-purchase materials, media planning and buying and some creative work.

Debt-ridden Prandium sold El Torito to Acapulco Acquisition Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., last June.

Prior to the ownership shift, El Torito’s ad budget was decidedly modest. Spending for all of 2000 did not exceed five figures, per Competitive Media Reporting. “The chain has not thrived,” said one source. “They do broadcast in spurts.”

But things may be looking up as El Torito moves to close some locations and open others. “They’re a growing retail chain with new management,” said one source. “They want to make things happen.”

The agency selected in the current review will likely be asked to reposition El Torito and its upscale sister chain, El Torito Grill, sources said. Work is expected to be mainly print, with perhaps some TV.

Once source speculated that work for El Torito could lead to assignments for other Acapulco properties, most notably Acapulco Mexican Restaurant y Cantina. The client downplayed that possibility.

Founded in 1954, El Torito has roughly 100 locations, primarily in the West and Midwest.