Portillo’s announces new Champaign location


By Ashni Gandhi, Staff Writer

The rumors and speculation are true — the Portillo’s food empire is officially expanding to Champaign, Illinois. The Portillo’s will be located at 2306 N. Prospect Ave., near the Binny’s Beverage Depot.

They expect to start demolition of the existing building in the next 10 days and are projected to open its doors during the first half of 2017, depending on the weather.

The restaurant will be 9,850 square feet, with the ability to accommodate 200 guests. It will also feature a drive-through and seasonal patio.

Keith Kinsey, Portillo’s CEO, said the location appeals to people not just situated in Campustown, but closer to the residential area.

“I am very excited. I think it is going to be amazing,” said Mitch Borrowdale, senior in ACES.  “Whenever people go home after college, they always go and get Portillo’s. It is a big deal. I think that it is a good location because it caters to college kids while also being close to the highway and city part of Champaign. You can’t expect the business to survive just off students — especially in the summer.”

Kinsey discussed his desire to strengthen the Portillo’s fanbase, drawing on the strong brand awareness in markets and areas like Champaign, Normal and areas in Wisconsin.

“With Dick Portillo, the founder, he drove authenticity home with the culture and with the people. One of the things that is nice about us is that we have a lot of long-term people,” Kinsey said. “With that, we are able to keep the pride, the integrity, and the passion around the food. We train for 14 weeks on the management side and talk about the food and what makes the meat so special and the hotdog so different.”

Beyond the staff maintaining the authenticity of the Portillo’s feel and aesthetic, Kinsey also mentioned that in expanding to markets in places like Champaign, Normal and Wisconsin, they are drawing upon a crowd that recognizes the Portillo’s brand. These individuals help establish Portillo’s in the locations in Florida, Arizona and California.

“Portillo’s has such a strong brand; it has the right food, with friendliness and an environment that is very special,” Kinsey said. “We want to continue that with the Champaign restaurant and wherever we go next, and continue on that path to making Portillo’s a special place that everybody wants to be.”

This Champaign location will feature a nostalgic ‘50s and ‘60s diner theme and décor, drawing inspiration from the local Chanute Air Force Base built in 1917.

Like all new franchises, Portillo’s aims to keep the culture and the quality of the food while expanding the brand to other locations.

“I am experiencing nothing but pure bliss. I am just happy that something that is part of my childhood can follow me to my college life,” said Jon Wallace, sophomore in Media. “I can’t go wrong with the classic hot dog.”

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