Meet Joe Kahn: The Man Who Helped Bring Portillo’s to Gurnee, IL

October 21, 2015

Joe_KahnJoe Kahn really wanted Portillo’s to build a restaurant in Gurnee, Illinois. So he created a Facebook page called “Gurnee Wants Portillo’s” and recruited people to join the movement. Years later, Joe’s Facebook group has grown to nearly 5,000 members – an impressive feat for a city of 32,000 residents. The fruits of Joe’s labor are paying off next month, when Portillo’s opens its Gurnee restaurant on November 10th.

We reached out to Joe to tell his story. Here is what he had to say:

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Q: Tell us about your history with Portillo's. When did you first start going to Portillo's?

Growing up, my parents held annual New Year’s Eve parties and it was tradition to serve Portillo’s Italian beef sandwiches at the stroke of midnight. That tradition continues today at my house. I guess that’s how I got hooked. When the Skokie Portillo’s opened, a friend and I ate lunch there every day for two weeks.

Q: Tell us about the “Gurnee Wants Portillo’s” Facebook page. What made you start the page and how did you grow the community to close to 5,000 people?

Portillo’s opening in Gurnee has been a hot topic as long as I’ve lived here. Every time a new parcel of land would open up or a new building was started, there were rumors that it was going to be a Portillo’s. But it never was. I got the idea to start the Facebook page as a way to not only be a central source of information, but as a way to get support for what I truly believed was a solid location for a new store.

I thought we might get a few hundred likes, but we hit 1,000 on the first day. Admittedly I threw in a few bucks of my own for Facebook ads, but it really had organic growth after that. Getting the likes was the easy part, though – it was keeping the fans excited and engaged that really helped us gain momentum.  Using Facebook to organize our efforts, we generated several hundred emails to Portillo’s asking for a restaurant, and I was very proud of the group’s effort on that.

It was also a lesson in local government, and the work of Mayor Kovarik, the Village of Gurnee and Simon Property Group was fantastic.

Q: What are your favorite menu items at Portillo's?

I generally alternate between a big beef with hot peppers and a Maxwell Street Polish sausage with a tamale on the side. And of course, a Chocolate Cake Shake.

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The Gurnee Portillo’s opens on November 10th, 2015 at 10:30 am. We look forward to welcoming Joe, Mayor Kovarik, and everyone who helped bring our restaurant to Gurnee.

Portillo's is still hiring for all restaurant positions in Gurnee. Apply in person Tuesday - Thursday, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm at our temporary hiring center inside Gurnee Mills Mall - Entrance F. Management candidates may also apply online at jobs.portillos.com.

Portillo’s fans can register now to receive a free piece of chocolate cake on their birthday from any Portillo’s restaurant. Head to portillos.com/freecake to sign up.

Do you know a Portillo’s super fan? We love to tell the stories of our biggest fans. Email​ us to nominate a fan (or yourself!) and we will consider posting an interview on our website and on our social media channels.

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