Stop a local in the Chicago area, inquire about the closest Portillo’s restaurant, and you’re almost certain to get directions to the Chicago-based chain’s nearest location (alongside some ordering suggestions). With its signature Vienna beef hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, Portillo’s is a Windy City icon, a beloved local favorite that many current and ex-Chicagoans speak about with reverence for its quality food, efficient service, and lively atmosphere.
Gordon Muir had an epiphany while looking through old photos of The Varsity, an Atlanta-based quick-serve chain established in 1928 by his grandfather Frank Gordy. In the photos, he saw in-store banners and buttons advertising the brand’s noncarbonated beverage, Varsity Orange.
“And I thought, ‘Man, we’re not doing that,’” says Muir, president of The Varsity. “We were really missing the boat. Our gross profit is so much higher on that product because we make it in house every day and have for 80 years.”