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Portillo’s Hot Dogs, Suburban Chicago’s Much-Loved Street Food Chain, Eyes IPO

The 58-year-old Chicago street food chain is eyeing expansion

A smattering of Portillo’s foods.
Portillo’s is going public.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs [Official Photo]
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs, the suburban Chicago chain that’s pushed the city’s street food culture through hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, is planning an initial public offering between $2.5 billion to $3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. The IPO should take place by year’s end.

Now at 68 locations, the chain was founded in 1963 and built a rabid following with tourists flocking to the Downtown Chicago flagship in River North, and locals fiercely lobbying the chain to open a location near them. Beyond the Midwest — where the chain has locations in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — Portillo’s has shops in Southern California, Arizona, and Florida. The WSJ notes that the company recently hired executives from Starbucks and Domino’s which may hint to expansion plans. While still bearing the name of founder Dick Portillo, private-equity firm Berkshire Partners took control of the chain in 2014. Portillo remains involved as he owns property, serving as a landlord for some of the locations.

The suburban Oak Brook-based chain has amplified the quaint Chicago hot dog stand with large build outs and dining rooms, finding space in strip malls across the suburbs. As the restaurant industry as a whole suffered challenges due to COVID-19, the Journal reports Portillo’s brought in $455 million in sales in 2020. Comfort foods continued to sell well as governments suspended on-premise dining during the pandemic; hot dogs and burgers travel well for takeout and delivery. Portillo’s was already well positioned for takeout; it struck a deal with DoorDash in 2017 and most locations have drive-thrus.

The announcement comes three months after news from another Chicago food icon. Lou Malnati’s, the deep-dish pizza specialists, have hired an advisor to explore a sale. The company, owned by the Malnati family and BDT Capital Partners, could be valued at $700 million, according to reports.

  • Portillo’s Aims to Go Public This Year [Wall Street Journal]
  • Lou Malnati’s Backers Exploring Sale of Deep-Dish Pizza Maker [Bloomberg]