Tom Dennis and his daughter Sara are some serious Portillo's superfans! They waited in line at our Brandon location for more than 24 hours to be the first customers at our new Florida location.
We caught up with the father and daughter duo to find out what fuels their Portillo's passion.
Q: Why are you and your daughter such big fans of Portillo’s?
Tom: I grew up eating Portillo’s in Bolingbrook, IL during the late 70’s. Food was fantastic and unlike anything I had ever had at a fast food restaurant.
Sara: My dad takes me there every time we go back to Chicago to eat. The food is really yummy!
Q: Why did you want to be the first people in line at our Brandon, FL location?
Tom: I’ve been a huge fan of the food for over 40 years and have been soliciting the Portillo family to open a store in Florida for 20 years via the Portillo’s website. When we visit Chicago, we usually stop at Portillo’s as soon as we arrive (yes, before visiting family). Portillo’s has always been a way for me to identify with the city I love. When I was 19, I enlisted in The Air Force and traveled the world, never finding anything as delicious as a Portillo’s Italian beef or Chicago-style hot dog. I’ve been in several Portillo’s stores and know the history of Portillo’s and have seen the hanging photos of celebrities in the store. We felt spending the night to be the first customers would be a great father-daughter bonding experience and it would be really cool if we got our picture up as first customers so all of our future families could see for years to come.
Sara: My dad and I first talked about this when we saw the full page ad after the Blackhawks beat the Bolts in the Stanley Cup Finals. It started as just a joke but I thought it would be great to do this with my dad so we did it.
Q: What did you do to pass the time while waiting for the opening?
Tom: I was supposed to fly home for the Chicago Cubs home opener on Monday April 11th and then we received the notification from Portillo’s they would be opening the new Brandon Florida location on Tuesday April 12th. I asked Sara if she still wanted to do the camp out to be first and she responded quickly with and enthusiastic YES! We spent time talking to employees, people passing by, news and media and ended the night by streaming the Chicago Cubs home opener on my iPad.
Sara: We talked to a lot of people! My mom brought us dinner and we watched the Cubbies.
Q: What are your favorite items at Portillo’s?
Tom: Beef with sweet peppers, Chicago-style hot dog (Ever!) and fries.
Sara: Beef, fries and strawberry milkshake.
Q: What would you tell someone who has never been to Portillo’s about our food and restaurant?
Tom: You MUST try this restaurant! The food is outstanding and they really excel at the three P’s: people, process and product. The customer experience is first rate and they go out of their way to ensure the customer is taken care of while at the store (lots of smiles!). Because the food and experience are first rate they are often busy, but don’t be fooled if you see a long line inside or at the drive through. Their processes to handle both lines are outstanding and lines typically move VERY fast! Go ahead, try a beef or dog!
Sara: The food is SO GOOD and you’ll want more if you try it. They have some of the best Chocolate cake!
You can now find Tom and Sara's photo hanging in our Brandon restaurant.