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A Q&A with Gina Shea, Construction and Facilities Administrator, Portillo’s

First, give us a brief history of Portillo’s.

Gina Shea: In 1963, Dick Portillo invested $1,100 into a small trailer to open the first Portillo’s hot dog stand in Villa Park, Ill., which he called “The Dog House.” Now, Portillo’s has grown to include 67 restaurants across nine states. Portillo’s is best known for its Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, char-grilled burgers, fresh salads, and famous chocolate cake (which we make in-house daily). We also have a large catering business, Portillo’s Home Kitchen, and we ship food to all 50 states via

Catering is also a major part of your success, correct?

GS: Yes! Portillo’s Home Kitchen is a great part of our business. We offer three different types of catering: buffet-style, take and make, and fast packs (ready-to-eat, grab-and-go options). We have a lot of obsessed fans who want Portillo’s as part of their big life events, so we even offer a Late Night Bites package for weddings.


You’ve been using refrigerated units from Polar Leasing for quite some time — since the early 2000s. First, can you tell me how you’re using them? 

GS: Portillo’s currently uses Polar Leasing for our increased catering sales during the holiday season. We house our catering dishes, along with other refrigerated or frozen food products, for the extra storage that is needed during this time. We also rely on Polar Leasing units when we decide to remodel our restaurants or if our interior walk-in units are being serviced.

Why did you decide to go with refrigerated units from Polar Leasing, as opposed to other companies?

GS: In the past, we have used other portable refrigeration companies as well as refrigeration trucks. At times, we found units to be either ineffective, damaged, and even unsanitary. Once we started using Polar Leasing, there was no turning back. Their units are delivered in working condition, well-maintained and spotless. In the rare event a unit may need service, Polar Leasing is ready with service technicians on call.


Can you talk a little about the delivery of the Polar Leasing units – is it a smooth process for you?

GS: There is some time invested in the initial coordination: what size units we need, dates and drop areas. After that, Polar Leasing takes control and makes it happen.

Anything else we should know about the Polar Leasing units?

GS: The Polar Leasing units are equipped with a digital thermostat so we can control the temperature for our restaurant’s needs. Some of our restaurants use their units as coolers and others as freezers.  Polar Leasing monitors temperatures for each unit and sends a daily report showing the unit’s temperatures and notifying us if we need to lower or increase the temperature. They will even let us know if they think a door was left open!