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This Beloved Regional Chain Is Opening Its First Location Without a Dining Room

The first-of-its-kind restaurant will be smaller and more efficient.

Phasing out dining rooms in favor of bigger and better drive-thrus is a trend that's sweeping the fast-food industry. And the latest chain to unveil a new restaurant design that skips on-premise dining altogether is Portillo's.

The Chicago-based chain recently announced it will be opening its first Portillo's Pick Up location in Joliet, Ill. on February 1. At 3,750 square feet, the restaurant will be about half the size of a regular Portillo's and will feature the brand's recently upgraded drive-thru with three lanes. The third lane is specifically designed to fulfill pick-up orders placed ahead of time via the chain's website and phone app.

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The chain just debuted the new drive-thru design not long ago in West Madison, Wis.

"If you're a mom with three screaming kids in the back, you don't want to wait in line," said CEO Michael Osanloo. "You've ordered ahead on the app and you've paid. You just want to pick up your food. We've made that super easy and we're going to see how that performs in West Madison. And we'll see how that performs in Joliet when we open that up in the first quarter of '22."

Portillo's, which recently became a publicly-traded company, is battling staff shortages exacerbated by a recent surge in Omicron cases. So the new restaurant setup, which requires fewer employees, seems to be the perfect solution for future labor woes.

"We now have twice as many people out because of omicron than during any other time of the pandemic," said Osanloo. "That's a big deal."

Additionally, the chain has announced it will be investing major dollars into tech upgrades in 2022. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Osanloo said Portillo's will be rolling out a new point-of-sale system, digital menu boards, and more robust WiFi capabilities, which will benefit both employees and customers.

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Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more