Portillo’s Hot Dogs LLC announced in July 2020 that the Chicago-based 62+-unit fast-casual chain would be creating its own delivery team for larger catering-sized orders, to complement existing relationships with DoorDash and Uber Eats. In the age of third-party delivery, investing in self-delivery is increasingly rare.
The following year, in July 2021, Portillo’s announced a new pick-up only store format with three drive-thru lanes—an off-premises focused design on-par with much larger brands.
Over the past year, Portillo’s grew its portfolio by more than 10% despite seeing a slight downturn in sales due to the pandemic. So how does a regional brand become such an off-premises technology powerhouse?
“Everyone is talking about digital this and digital that, but the people that are talking about that don’t have the drive-thru capabilities that Portillo’s has,” Michelle Hook, chief financial officer for Portillo’s said. “I do think that that multi-channel approach, particularly within fast casual, is definitely a differentiator for Portillo’s.”
Pre-pandemic, Portillo’s already had double drive-thru lanes and delivery capabilities so over the past 18 months, the company just had to make some smaller shifts toward digital, rather than completely pivot.
“We’re right up there with any QSR fast-casual brand in terms of our online ordering capabilities and our digital experience,” Hook said. “We’ll continue again to look at ways to enhance that, but it’s very robust today. […] We want to be wherever the guest is.”
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