Portillo’s to go cashless in drive-thrus

Speed and safety are the goals. Cash is still welcomed inside the chain’s restaurants.
Portillo's Drive-thru
Portillo's says its average drive-thru does $3.9 million in sales, or three times a McDonald's drive-thru./Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Portillo’s is going cashless in its drive-thrus, starting Jan. 16.

The Chicago-based chain said the new policy will be applied at all 71 locations across nine states.

“We are going cashless only in our drive-thrus,” the company said in a statement. “This creates a faster, smoother service for our guests and is safer for our team members.”

Guests that want to use cash, however, are still welcome to pay inside the restaurants.

“We’d be happy to accept credit or debit cards outside, or serve cash guests inside,” the company said.

The drive-thru is big business for Portillo's. At a recent investor day, the President and CEO Michael Osanloo said the average Portillo's drive-thru does $3.9 million in sales, which is three times that of a McDonald's drive-thru.

Restaurants have been creeping toward going cashless for years. Some chains have gone cashless by default by increasing the use of digital kiosks, which only accept card payments.

But a growing number of jurisdictions have adopted laws preventing retailers from establishing no-cash policies. Such laws are designed to protect the “underbanked,” or those who may not have access to credit or debit cards.

In New York City, for example, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream last year agreed to pay $33,500 to settle complaints that its shops refused to accept cash. Similar laws have been adopted in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and elsewhere.

Sweetgreen tried to go cashless but reversed the policy in 2019, saying it excluded some potential customers.


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