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News and Events

Accounting alumnus bring Portillo’s to Champaign

Dec 9, 2016, 02:53 by Gies College of Business

Portillo's to open new restaurant in Champaign

by Greg Trotter, Contact Reporter, Chicago Tribune PortillosThe Fighting Illini just got a recruiting boost from an alum: Portillo's is coming to town. "It's nice to go back to a place where you have some good memories," said Keith Kinsey, Portillo's CEO and class of 1976 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For Portillo's, the Oak Brook-based chain known for its Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and cake shakes, Thursday's announcement of a Champaign location represents yet another outpost in a steady expansion since founder Dick Portillo sold the company to a private equity firm in 2014. The 9,850-square-foot restaurant at 2306 N. Prospect Ave. in Champaign would represent the chain's 48th location when it opens, which is scheduled to happen in late April or early May. The Champaign Portillo's, scheduled to begin construction soon after demolition of the existing Home Town Buffet, will have an outdoor patio that seats 60 people. Beer will be served, but no liquor. The decor, to be styled as a diner from the '50s and '60s, will also pay homage to the decommissioned Chanute Air Force Base in nearby Rantoul. The downstate restaurant will come after an opening next month in the Chicago suburb of Harwood Heights and precede another in Greenfield, Wis. Portillo's has also announced an opening in Normal, Ill., home of Illinois State University, which is planned for August or September. If everything goes according to plan, that would make 50 Portillo's restaurants total and 10 new locations since Kinsey, formerly president of Noodles & Co., took the helm last year. The plan is to continue growing the number of restaurants at a rate of about 10 to 15 percent each year, Kinsey said, building in the Chicago market but also in other areas with a fondness for the brand and a strong connection to Chicago. Portillo's expansion used to mean new locations in the Chicago suburbs; now it means opening in states such as Florida, Arizona and Wisconsin. "You keep seeing that circle grow," Kinsey said. "It's using the Chicago model in other locations." In 2014, Portillo sold the chain to Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, to help grow the company with outside financing. Kinsey said Portillo continues to remain involved in the expansion, weighing in on future locations.ct-portillos-20161207   Click here to see link to original article from Chicago Tribune »