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Portillo’s opens on a fast track in Joliet

Portillo’s opened its first modern to-go only restaurant on Tuesday in Joliet, a landmark moment that Mike Portillo said was in some ways a throwback to earlier days in the development of the company.

Portillo, son of founder Dick Portillo and vice president of restaurant support for the company, drove a 1970 Chevy Chevelle through one of three drive-thru lanes to mark the opening of the Portillo’s Pick Up at 1444 N. Larkin Ave.

Cars quickly line up for orders at the open of the new Joliet Portillo’s location on North Larkin. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Joliet.

Cars quickly line up for orders Tuesday at the opening of the new Portillo’s Pick Up in Joliet.
(Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

The year of the Chevelle symbolized the Joliet restaurant’s place as number 70 in the Portillo’s chain. The vintage model fit the race theme of the restaurant, which is designed to move food quickly to customers.

Michael Portillo (right) and Portillo’s contest winner Frank Ramsey, of Romeoville, wait in the drive-through for the open of the new Joliet Portillo’s location on North Larkin. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Joliet.

Mike Portillo (right) and Portillo’s contest winner Frank Ramsey of Romeoville reach the drive-thru window at the new Portillo’s Pick Up in Joliet. (Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

It’s a new concept, but Mike Portillo said he was reminded of his dad’s decision to put the first drive-thru at a new Portillo’s being built in Downers Grove in 1983. The building was in mid-construction when Dick Portillo noticed how busy his future customers appeared to be as they moved to and from their cars in the shopping center around the restaurant.

“He said, ‘We need to make this restaurant convenient for the customers,” Mike said, recounting a conversation between his father and the architect, who reminded him the building was already two-thirds completed. “My dad said, ‘I know. That’s why we need to get this drive-thru in now.”

Michael Portillo, Vice President of Restaurant Support, was first in line for the open of the new Joliet Portillo’s location on North Larkin. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Joliet.

Mike Portillo, vice president of restaurant support, tries out the drive-thru at the new Joliet restaurant. (Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

So, it was done.

The Downers Grove restaurant became the busiest in the chain. These days, the Shorewood restaurant on Route 59 is the highest volume restaurant, Portillo said.

Portillo’s became an innovator in drive-thru service, adding second drive-thru lanes and putting employees outside to process customer orders as quickly as possible, Portillo said.

The Portillo’s Pick Up in Joliet adds another innovation – a third lane for pre-order pickup designed to give customers their food as they arrive if they order ahead.

Known for their fast delivery, Portillo’s staff wear shirts resembling race car pit crews at the opening of the new Joliet Portillo’s location on North Larkin. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Joliet.

Staff wear shirts resembling race car pit crews at the opening of the new Portillo’s Pick Up in Joliet.
(Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

Customers on Tuesday included Frank Ramsey of Romeoville, who won a gift card giving him weekly free meals for a year.

“Absolutely, as long as I remember,” Ramsey said when asked if was a regular Portillo’s customer.

He grew with the Downers Grove restaurant, having formerly lived in Westmont, Ramsey said.

Portillo’s invited customers to drive vintage cars into the drive-thru on the first day, and the very first customers did.

Ed and Debbie Galvan give their order in the drive-through for the open of the new Joliet Portillo’s location on North Larkin. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 in Joliet.

Ed and Debbie Galvan give their order in the drive-thru lane at the opening of the Portillo’s Pick Up on Tuesday in Joliet.
(Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

Ed and Debbie Glavan of Joliet were in a light-blue, 1975 Oldmobile Cutlass Supreme right behind Portillo’s Chevelle as business began to roll at the restaurant.

Debbie said she liked the idea of the restaurant being devoted to carry-out orders.

“With all the COVID-19, it’s better not to go inside, I think,” she said.

Portillo’s, which started in 1963 as “The Dog House” in a trailer in Villa Park, now is in nine states, including Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Florida and Arizona.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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