Portillo’s drive-thrus go cashless to avoid robberies


Dive Brief:

  • Portillo’s, which has over 70 units across nine states, will stop accepting cash payments at its drive-thrus beginning Monday Jan. 16, CEO Michael Osanloo said at the ICR Conference Wednesday.
  • This shift is intended to improve staff safety, and it speeds up the payments process too, Osanloo said. Workers across the restaurant industry have been robbed or threatened at gunpoint or knifepoint.
  • Portillo’s drive-thrus will accept all credit cards, and the company is in the process making Apple Pay and Google Pay available as well, Osanloo said. Cash will still be accepted inside the restaurant.

Dive Insight:

While the stated impetus for cashless payments was to increase employee safety, the chain noticed in a test that drive-thru times also improved when only non-cash payments were accepted, Osanloo said. They also improve the staff experience, he said. In cold weather, many employees had to take their gloves off to handle cash. 

“It’s good for us,” Osanloo said. “We get more people through faster.”

This shift comes at a time when Portillo’s is seeing a higher mix of drive-thru sales compared to pre-COVID-19 business. Previously, dine-in represented about 50% of sales, with 40% coming from drive-thru and the rest from delivery and catering, Osanloo said during Portillo’s ICR presentation.

Currently, drive-thru makes up over 50% of sales, dine-in represents 35% of sales and the rest comes from third-party delivery, self-delivery and catering, he said.

Osanloo is particularly concerned about shielding Portillo’s teenage drive-thru employees from potential violence.

“I don’t want to put these kids in harm’s way,” Osanloo said. “God forbid, somebody gets seriously hurt.”

Portillo’s double drive-thru model is similar to that of Chick-fil-A, which also stations some drive-thru employees outside near menu boards to take orders. Portillo’s employees also help diners customize their meals, he said. 


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