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Portillo’s sets sights on 600 restaurants

The chain’s initial public offering is expected once the SEC reviews the company’s filing.

The Portillo’s Hot Dogs at 7308 W. Lawrence Ave.
Portillo’s intends to expand the restaurant chain into new markets with proceeds from a public stock offering, according to a new SEC filing.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

Hot dog and Italian beef lovers can rejoice as Portillo’s plans to pop up in hundreds of locations nationwide in the coming years.

Portillo’s, owned by private equity firm Berkshire Partners LLC, announced its plans to go public earlier this summer. The Oak Brook-based restaurant chain tentatively expects to raise $100 million, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange. The company did not specify how many shares it plans to sell or at what price range.

The company intends for its shares to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “PTLO.”

Most of Portillo’s 67 restaurants are in the Midwest, though there are a handful in California, Arizona and Florida. The chain plans to increase the number of restaurants about 10% each year to reach 600 restaurants in the U.S. in 25 years, according to the filing. This, the company said, will position Portillo’s to expand globally.

Backing that initiative, Portillo’s “established multiple new restaurant opening teams” to maintain the fast-paced growth it is projecting. The restaurant also crafted professional development plans to properly train managers to staff new Portillo’s locations.

While not immune to the pandemic’s devastating economic impact, Portillo’s has been quick to bounce back. The company’s sales fell 8.3% in 2020, especially dine-in sales, which fell from $4.4 million in 2019 to $1.9 million in 2020.

A successful first half of 2021 helped offset those losses, driven by increased drive-thru sales and mobile orders from the company’s app. Drive-thru purchases made up 63% of the company’s total sales in 2020, compared to 41% in 2019.

Portillo’s originated in 1963 when founder Dick Portillo sold hot dogs out of a trailer he named “The Dog House.” In addition to the highly popular Italian beef sandwiches, Portillo’s also offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and, in some locations, pasta. And for dessert, a Portillo’s chocolate cake shake blends an entire slice of chocolate cake into the milkshake.