Portillo’s is hiring hundreds of drivers, building its own delivery fleet

You don’t need to pull up Uber Eats to order these dogs.
You don’t need to pull up Uber Eats to order these dogs.
Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post (Getty Images)

As delivery apps like Uber Eats continue to push their restaurant-killing participation fees and try to find ways to circumvent government-mandated fee caps, a recurring question from many customers is, “Why the hell don’t restaurants just hire their own delivery people like they used to?” Now, beloved Chicago restaurant chain Portillo’s is doing just that.

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According to Restaurant Business, Portillo’s will be hiring hundreds of drivers so that the chain can engage in what it’s calling “self-delivery.” Several drivers will be assigned to each of Portillo’s 62 locations and will earn a base wage in addition to tips. The drivers will also be trained to set up large catering orders, which we can only hope is Portillo’s hedging for the future and does not indicate that people in Chicago are currently having enormous Italian beef and hot dog parties (if you’re about to comment below with a joke about “sausage parties,” just know that The Takeout has already had that conversation today).

While offering delivery is hardly groundbreaking, Portillo’s move is an interesting one. The chain has made it clear that it plans to continue to partner with third-party delivery services, meaning that customers will have the option of ordering either directly from the restaurant or from the apps they’ve already been using. And, given how easy those apps are to use, presumably Portillo’s will need to either tempt people to its own platform with deals or create an app on par with delivery competitors, which in itself would be no easy feat.

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Sadly, the reason Portillo’s seems willing to roll the dice on hiring its own fleet of drivers isn’t just because customers, more than ever, are ordering food to go; it’s also because the astronomical unemployment rate has resulted in more people willing to take on delivery jobs.

“A year ago, with the labor market, it was impossible to do self-delivery,” Nick Scarpino, Portillo’s senior vice president of marketing and off-premise dining, told Restaurant Business in April. “Now we’re saying we can do this, and we can get a decent amount of sales from it.”

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

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Good for them, hopefully it means they’re doing enough business that they can justify the expense, and expect to continue to do so.

I have still not really felt a craving for a hot dog since this all began, which is odd since I do like hot dogs. How much do I like hot dogs? Sometimes I eat the garbage kind from 7-Eleven and movie theaters PLAIN. I know, I’m a monster.