Portillo's Restaurants

Portillo's Restaurants
Industry Restaurants
Founded 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois {[1]}
Headquarters Oak Brook, Illinois, USA
Number of locations
Key people
Dick Portillo, Founder
Keith Kinsey, CEO
Revenue US $300 million (2013)
Number of employees
About 4,600 {[2]}
Website portillos.com

Portillo's is an American restaurant chain that specializes in serving Chicago-style food. The company was founded by Dick Portillo in 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois under the name "The Dog House." Portillo's is located primarily in the Chicago metropolitan area, and also. has two locations each in Arizona, Florida & Southern California, and one location in Wisconsin. In 2014, Dick Portillo sold Portillo's to Berkshire Partners. The new owners are planning to open five to seven restaurants each year. Portillo has been buying the land for new sites, which he then leases back to the company.[2]


Portillo’s was founded in 1963 by Dick Portillo.[3] After returning from serving in the Marines, Dick gathered money from his savings and from an investment from his brother Frank to open a hotdog stand.[4] They bought a 12-foot trailer that had no restroom and running water. They named it “The Dog House”.[4] The Dog House operated on North Avenue in Villa Park.[5] At the beginning stages, the stand was losing money and Portillo needed to find a solution. Portillo went to do some research one day on how other competitors were operating and snuck in to one of the back rooms of a competitor and wrote down where they were purchasing their product.[4] He continued the process of learning by visiting different competitors. By 1967, The Dog House was in good standing, was upgraded to a larger trailer, and was renamed “Portillo’s”.[6] In 1970, Dick Portillo partnered with Harold Reskin and opened up his second location in a shopping mall that Reskin owned.[4] Between 1972 and 1989, In 1987 Dick opened up a second restaurant under the name “Barney’s” that specialized in BBQ meals. In 1983 Portillo’s opened up its first drive thru in Downers Grove, IL.[7] In the 90’s Portillo’s was profiting more than $50 million with 25 stores around the Chicago area.[4] In 1993, Dick experimented with a few ideas by combining his concept stores Barney’s and Barnelli’s with a Portillo’s restaurant. In 1994, the first Portillo's in Chicago opened up at the intersection of Clark and Ontario St.[4][8] In 1995, Portillo expanded Key Wester Fish & Pasta House in Naples, Florida.[4] In 1996, Portillo brought the Key Wester Fish & Pasta to Naperville. In 2000, Portillo opened up another concept restaurant called Luigi’s House.[4] The Portillo’s chain grew again in 2010 with Honey-Jam Café.[9] In 2016, Portillo's opened its first restaurant in Brandon, FL, a suburb of Tampa.[10] The Portillo Restaurant Group plans on adding more locations in Hillsborough & Pinellas counties in the future.[11]

A Portillo's Chicago-style hot dog

Outside Illinois

Portillo's first California location opened on October 11, 2005, at the Buena Park Downtown shopping center in Buena Park. The second California location opened in 2008 in the Inland Empire city of Moreno Valley. Portillo's also has two locations in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area in Arizona and one each in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield, Wisconsin and in the Northwest Indiana town of Merrillville, though the latter is still well within the firm's home market of the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Portillo's opened its first Florida location in 2016 in Tampa, and the second that same year in the Tampa suburb of Brandon.[10] The chain generated publicity with a tongue-in-cheek open letter on its website on June 16, 2015, the day after its hometown NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the 2015 Stanley Cup. The stunt received newspaper coverage in both cities. “It’s official. Portillo’s is coming to Tampa in 2016. Tampa residents spent years peppering us with requests to build a restaurant — you really put us in a pickle. So we’re thrilled we’re finally making our way to Florida,” Portillo's letter said, showing the chain's ironic humor. “Let’s be frank: No matter whose jersey you’re wearing, everyone will be welcome. We hope you don’t have a beef against us or our hometown team.” [12]

Portillo's had licensed restaurants in Tokyo, Japan, in the late 1980s and early '90s. The Japanese locations all eventually closed.[13] Portillo's also sells items from its menu by mail order in a partnership with Eli's Cheesecake and Lou Malnati's pizzeria.[14]

Portillo's desserts include chocolate cake and a chocolate cake shake that blends chocolate cake into a shake.[15]

Honey Jam Cafe

In 2010, Portillo Restaurant Group launched the Honey Jam Café concept.[16] Unlike the other three concepts which focus on fast casual food, Honey Jam is essentially an upscale pancake house similar to Walker Brothers Pancake House in both ambiance and menu. They feature unique pancake and waffle combinations and specialty items such as a baked apple pancake and white chocolate raspberry Belgian waffles, and offer patrons who order coffee a cup "to go" after receiving their check. The concept's name, according to the menu, is derived from the owner's pet name for his wife, "Honey", and the first letter of his three children's first names comprising the acronym "JAM". The concept is positioned as a breakfast and lunch cafe, thus it closes at 3 pm.[17]


  1. "Our Story | Portillo's". Portillos.com. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  2. 1 2 3 "Why Portillo's new CEO won't mess with success". Dailyherald.com. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  3. "A piece of Portillo's history can be found in Rockford". wrex.com. WREX. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "History of Portillo's Restaurant Group, Inc. – FundingUniverse". www.fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  5. "Portillo's - History, Tradition and .... Hot Dogs!". The Chicago El Stop Food Hunt Project. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  6. "Spotlight on Portillo's | The Dish | Tastes of Chicago". www.tastesofchicago.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  7. "History | Portillos". jobs.portillos.com. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
  8. "History of Portillo's". portillos.com.
  9. "How Dick Portillo built a hot dog stand into an empire". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  10. 1 2 "Portillo's First Florida Location". Portillo's. Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  11. "Portillo's planning second Tampa location". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  12. "Iconic Chicago restaurant consoles Lightning fans in Tampa location announcement". Tampa Bay Tribune. 17 June 2015.
  13. Portillo's Hot Dogs: Out of the dog house and living the American dream, frankfurter chain operator grows his business independently | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles...
  14. Portillo's Beef Kit & Pizza Combo
  15. Wickwire, Emily (3 March 2015). "Drink this: Chocolate cake shake". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  16. What's the big idea? Breakfast - Chicago Tribune
  17. Honey Jam Cafe menu introduction
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