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How Portillo’s is Streamlining Operations with Pickup Racks

Learn how this fast casual chain is rewriting the delivery process with self-serve pickup racks.

6 min read
Portillo's pickup racks with Dino

About Portillo’s

Portillo’s is an American restaurant chain known for their incredible menu and their industry-leading average unit volumes. What started as a small hot dog stand in Villa Park, Illinois in 1963, has since grown into a multi-location offering where every item served—from their Chicago-style hot dogs to their Italian beef sandwiches to the house-made chocolate cake—is carefully crafted to meet their standards of “unrivaled Chicago street food.”

“We have a little bit of something for everyone,” explains Dino Northway, Director of Off Premise Dining at Portillo’s. “We use only the best ingredients and focus on delicious recipes to make sure each menu item is worthy of a cult following.” They have the customers—and the volume of customers—to prove it. “With the highest sales volumes in the fast-casual industry, our restaurants are incredibly busy, but we still make them feel like home,” says Nick Scarpino, SVP of Marketing & Off-Premise Dining at Portillo’s.

Visiting a Portillo’s is an experience. Every aspect of dining in or getting food delivered is carefully vetted to be a delightful process that makes the customer feel welcome. “Portillo’s is a place to be,” Dino says. “But people also love it enough to get it delivered. We have 70 restaurants across 9 states, but we ship to all 50 states.”

Portillo's Exterior

Designing the ideal pickup experience

Dino and his team recently turned their focus to the pickup process for local deliveries to see if there was a way to optimize this part of the guest experience. After enjoying a delivery partnership with DoorDash for years, they decided to launch a pilot with DoorDash to test out in-store delivery racks.

“We wanted to see what would happen if we empowered drivers to move as fast as they want,” Dino explains. “Allowing Dashers to pick up delivery orders without having to interact with our team could help them get back on the road faster and get food to guests faster. This is especially important because our stores are so busy.”

Dino Northway

With the pickup racks for DoorDash orders, we're seeing a reduction in overall delivery time, and Dashers are happy with the time they save.

Dino Northway, Director of Off-Premise Dining, Portillo’s

Testing in-store pickup racks with a pilot

Portillo’s launched the pilot for the in-store pickup racks in summer of 2021. Given Portillo’s high standards for the guest experience, it should come as no surprise that they decided to test every aspect of the racks, from the shelf height to how orders are organized, before launching at scale. “No detail was left unturned,” says Dino.

The pilot lasted for a couple months, as Dino and his team reviewed timelapse footage, tested different shelf configurations, and compared results with Dasher and customer feedback. 

By fall of 2021, Portillo’s was ready to launch the pickup racks in all of their stores, ensuring the experience was up to the brand’s high standards. 

Dino says, “We had a hunch that pickup racks would be a hit, but we worked with DoorDash to validate the data and bring a great experience to market. Taking an analytical approach in the pilot helped streamline things when we went live.”

Portillo's Pickup Racks

Building a streamlined customer experience

Today, Portillo’s-branded pickup racks are available in Portillo’s locations across the country. Dino and his team settled on a few specifics that worked for them: four shelves per rack, and at least two racks per location (though some stores have up to four racks due to their takeout volume); orders arranged alphabetically by first name; and eye-catching signage that helps direct Dashers and customers to the right place to pick up an order.

“The racks are a natural solution for both Dashers and guests,” explains Dino. “We’re seeing that they help drive greater efficiency all around.” Since launching, Dino and his team have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the racks. They’re a simple update to Portillo’s locations, but they’re certainly making an impact.

What’s next for Dino? Turning his eye to yet another exciting customer experience project that could use his analytical approach. He says, “Our industry is constantly changing. We want to constantly evolve based on what our guests are looking for. We’re creating cutting-edge solutions and experiences for our guests, and that’s what excites me.”

Follow Portillo’s on Instagram or Facebook.

Portillo's Picking Up

Ready to grow your delivery sales? Sign up for DoorDash today. Already a partner? Email if you’re interested in a chance to get a free pickup rack for your store. This is a limited-time offer; only select merchants will be chosen to participate.

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