by Dan Rafter
The temperatures were frigid. The snow was falling. But that didn’t stop burger-and-hot-dog chain Portillo’s as it celebrated milestone ground-breakings earlier this month.
Novak Construction led two ground-breaking ceremonies for a pair of new Portillo’s restaurants that the contractor is building: one in Woodbury, Minnesota, and one in Champaign, Illinois. The future restaurants — each 9,000 square feet — are important ones: The pair of ground-breakings means that Portillo’s will soon boast 50 restaurants across the country.
Keith Kinsey, chief executive officer of Portillo’s, spoke at each ground-breaking, telling the crowd gathered at each that these two new locations will serve as launching pads for further expansion in both regions.
Portillo’s is certainly a retail success story. The chain, which got its start in the Chicago region, has already expanded to Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Woodbury location will be the first in Minnesota.
Portillo’s hits that sweet spot in the restaurant industry: fast-casual. The chain is a definite step above the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King in the eyes of many consumers. It’s also more affordable than the typical sit-down restaurant. Portillo’s restaurants are well-known for their efficient service, too, employing a busy kitchen staff to assemble meals quickly.
Novak will handle demolition work at each four-acre site. Novak will also oversee the installation of new site utilities, curbs, asphalt paving and any additional site improvements. The restaurants themselves are pre-cast structures with full-brick exteriors, patios and steel architectural elements.
Champaign’s Portillo’s will resemble a 1950s diner decorated with items from the decommissioned Chanute Air Force Base in nearby Rantoul, Illinois. The Woodbury location will feature a 1920s prohibition-era theme.
Dan Moriarity, project director and vice president of Novak’s restaurant group, said in a statement that he and the company are ready to help Portillo’s continue its expansion.
“We meet the deadlines no matter what the weather,” Moriarity said. “Our shared goal is to contribute to Portillo’s success, and have new customers become as addicted to this menu as we are in Chicago.”