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Portillo’s says it is going public

The fast-growing hot dog chain confidentially submitted documents to begin the initial public offering process.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Portillo’s, the drive-thru hot dog chain that started near Chicago in 1963 in a trailer without running water, confidentially submitted documents to begin the process of becoming a publicly traded company Monday.

Neither the number of shares to be offered under the initial public offering nor their price range have been determined, Portillo’s said in a statement.

In submitting its IPO documents, Portillo’s joins a large number of restaurant chains planning to go public in recent weeks. Early this month, Krispy Kreme raised $500 million in its IPO, selling 29.4 million shares of its stock to investors.

Drive-thru coffee chain Dutch Bros announced its intent to go public last month, as did fast-casual salad concept Sweetgreen. Several other restaurant brands are rumored to be considering filing their IPOs, and Portillo’s was among them—until Monday.

Portillo’s began with Dick Portillo’s $1,100 investment in a 6-foot-by-12-foot trailer and was initially known as “The Dog House.” By 1967, it had renamed itself to Portillo’s and opened in a more permanent location.

In 2014, the chain—which then had 38 units in four states—was purchased by private equity firm Berkshire Partners. That deal was valued at nearly $1 billion. Six months after that transaction, Portillo bought back some of the chain’s real estate, acquiring 18 of his namesake restaurants and two food commissaries under 20-year leases, according to media reports at the time. Leases for the other 20 restaurants were held by other entities, according to reports.

“I’m a landlord for Portillo’s,” he told Crain’s Chicago Business in 2014. “I own the majority of the real estate and they pay me rent.”

Today, there are 68 Portillo’s restaurants in seven states, all of which include drive-thrus.

Earlier this month, the chain said it was rolling out a new store design—minus a dining room—called “Portillo’s Pick Up” that will feature three drive-thru lanes. The new prototype, slated to open this winter in Joliet, Ill., will be about 3,750-square-feet—about half the size of a traditional Portillo’s.

With a menu of Chicago-centric dishes like hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, the majority of Portillo’s locations are in Illinois. But Randy Guse, the chain’s VP of real estate, told Restaurant Business earlier this month that the pared-down prototype would unlock lots of real estate potential for the brand.

“It opens up a lot of new avenues for us with a smaller footprint,” Guse said.

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