The hotdog chain Portillo’s is known throughout Chicagoland for its assembly line of service that allows the restaurant to process hundreds of orders in a short time period. With indoor dining prohibited, they have adopted their methods to accommodate drive-through lines, allowing them the ability to process my family’s long and complicated order practically without my vehicle slowing down.

Portillo’s has someone in the parking lot directing traffic to distinguish the pick-up line from the order-here line. Someone takes your order on a tablet and you pay at the same time. They place a colored Post-it on your windshield with a pre-printed order number. When you pull ahead, one of the many “Speed Team” members brings your order to your car as soon as it’s ready – regardless of whether you are next in line – and the setup allows you the ability to pull away and leave without waiting for the inevitably slow person in front of you. I barely had my Visa put back in my purse before the order was at my window.

By emblazoning the branded outdoor wear with “Speed Team” it not only helps to keep their workers warm, but it also sets clear expectations and elevates the importance of an otherwise mundane role. It is up to these employees at the end of the line to keep the traffic flowing and to make the experience quick enough that customers are undaunted by the long lines in the future. Their mission is speed, not just meal delivery.

Portillo’s provides not only great food but also valuable lessons in how to adapt to the current environment and to clearly remind employees of the role they play. Review your processes with similar rigor and intention.

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