Portillo’s Inc., the 70-unit fast-casual brand, exploited its multi-channel sales approach for a strong fourth quarter and in February opened its first three-lane off-premises-only Pickup unit in Joliet, Ill., with sales exceeding $140,000 a week, executives said Thursday.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company, which went public in late October, reported same-store sales for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 26 were were up 10.3%.
“Our multi-channel model proved yet again to be a competitive strength even in the face of the Great Resignation, continuing COVID restrictions and ever-changing commodities costs,” said Michael Osanloo, Portillo’s CEO and president, on a fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts.
Portillo’s launched the third drive-thru lane for rapid pick up of orders placed on the website or through the smartphone app in Madison, Wis., and extended that to the Feb. 1 opening of the location in Joliet, which is for off-premises sales only. The 3,750-square-foot restaurant is also used for delivery and catering and offers an inside pickup area for third-party delivery drivers.
“It's a fraction of the size of our typical restaurant and it still serving an unbelievable amount of food for drive-thru, takeout, third-party delivery and catering,” Osanloo noted, saying that in was doing more than $140,000 in sales a week despite some severe winter weather.
“Due to the smaller size and format,” he said, “this new model has the potential to unlock whole new real estate options for us and help infill existing markets to better serve our guests.”
Osanloo said the Joliet Pickup restaurant is about five miles away from an existing Portillo’s restaurant and was expected to relieve some sales pressure.
“We're not seeing much pressure release,” he said.
Portillo’s opened six restaurants in 2021, including units in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Restaurants are scheduled to open in St. Petersburg, Fla., in early April and five more in the first three quarters, Osanloo said.
The company has announced plans to enter the Texas market with a unit in the Grandscape development of The Colony, north of Dallas.
“This restaurant is going to be a show-stopper,” Osanloo said. “It is our garage-style theme with a Texas twist.”
Michelle Hook, Portillo’s chief financial officer, said sales and staffing were both hit by the omicron COVID variant infections in the December.
“We did see a dampening as a result of omicron in both our sales and staffing levels in the fourth quarter,” Hook said, “particularly during the last few weeks of the quarter.”
Those omicron impacts continued into January, she said, “however trends in both our sales and staffing levels have since improved and sales trends and transactions improved from January to February.”
Hook said same-store sales in the first quarter of 2022 would likely be in the range of 7.5% to 8.5%.
For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 26, Portillo’s net loss was $18.6 million, or 52 cents a share, compared to a loss of $392,000, or 1 cent a share, in the prior-year period. Revenues increased 17.2% to $138.9 million from $118.5 million in the same quarter last year.
As of March 10, Portillo’s, which was founded in 1963, had 70 unit across nine states.
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