August 21st, 2018 by Mike Fulton

Portillo’s makes great hot dogs and a variety of other items.  While based in Chicago, they have locations here and there around the rest of the country, including one in Buena Park near my current residence.

I am very impressed by their food, but rather disappointed in how they operate otherwise.  I can’t help thinking that there is an attitude of “good-enough” in much of what they do.

The trigger for these observations was my latest visit.  As they’ve done on many occasions, they got my order wrong.  I stopped to think about it and realized that they get my order wrong more often than they get it right.

Tonight, i was standing in line to place my order when a young lady wearing a Portillo’s uniform approached me and asked what i would like to order.  I told her, and she wrote it down on the back of a take-out bag.  When she was done, she handed me the bag and told me to give it to the cashier when i reached the front of the line.

My reaction to all this was, what was the point?   My order didn’t get into the queue any faster as a result, and we’ve added an additional potential failure point.

When I got to the front of the line, the cashier took the bag and entered the order into the register.  The register has a display screen facing the customer that’s supposed to show what’s being ordered, and in fact shows a message advertising that idea, but which doesn’t actually show such information.

When she told me amount, i knew the order had to be wrong.  I pointed this out and she read the order back to me.  I pointed out the error and she corrected it, but by this time it had taken about twice as long to get my order in the system as it should have.

Moving on to the next stage, Portillo’s doesn’t bring your food to the table.  Instead they have a pickup window where they call out the order number of your receipt.  That might not be so bad, but they regularly have orders coming in faster than they can make the food, so people have a tendency to pile up in front of the pickup window.

Portillo’s offers refills on your drinks, which is good, but you’ve got to leave your table and walk all the way to the pickup window, where you’ll likely have to make your way through a bunch of people standing at the counter waiting for their food.  I dunno why they don’t just have a soda fountain out by the napkins and ketchup dispensers.

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