Step foot inside any of Portillo’s more than 50 locations today and you are likely to be struck by the sheer size of it. Everything about it is large — the menu, the staff, the crowds, the energy. Given all this, it’s hard to believe that this iconic Chicagoland restaurant first opened in a trailer, with no bathrooms or running water, on North Avenue in Villa Park, IL.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Dick Portillo is no stranger to hard work. Born to immi- grant parents in Chicago, he spent part of his childhood living in public housing projects and watched his parents work hard to support their family. He enlisted in the Marines after high school, where boot camp taught him a whole different kind of hard work. After serving his country, Portillo married Sharon, his high school sweet- heart, and started a family in Summit, IL. Still, the hard work continued as Portillo worked 14 full- and part-time jobs in his first 18 months of marriage. It didn’t take long for him to come to the conclusion that if he was going to work this hard, he wanted to work for himself.

So in 1963, with the $1,100 that he and Sharon had saved up for a down payment, the couple opened The Dog House, a hot dog stand in a 6 feet by 12 feet trailer, with no restrooms or running water. Without a business plan or any prior cooking experience, the first few years of The Dog House were an uphill battle. Determined to succeed, Portillo combined his military discipline, proven work ethic and even a little corporate espionage to get the job done. In order to learn about running a restaurant, Portillo would regularly visit successful area businesses to learn about operations and gain important industry intel.

PORTILLO’S FEEDS THE NATION In 1967 The Dog House was renamed Portillo’s and moved out of the trailer and into a real building, complete with running water and restrooms. Carefully building a brand and fostering lifelong Portillo’s customers, the restaurant expanded slowly and intentionally, with the first drive thru opening in Downer’s Grove in 1983 and the first Chicago location opening in 1994. After estab- lishing itself within Illinois for several decades, Portillo’s

After establishing itself within Illinois for several decades, Portillo’s grew to include locations in Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana and Wisconsin — each restaurant carefully decorated in a specific theme, with walls adorned in framed photos and memorabilia.


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48