If you’re from Chicagoland, you likely know Portillo’s — the home of famous Chicago Dogs and roast beef. Portillo’s is always busy, with multiple drive-through lanes, advance order-takers to expedite the process, crowded restaurants, and lines. The hectic nature of the restaurant is part of the experience and subliminally reinforces the popularity of the brand.

I recently ate at a franchised Portillo’s location in another city and while the food was spot-on, something seemed off about my visit. Then it hit me: the restaurant was too big. This location was designed to accommodate 315 people — and only a fraction of that number were dining that day. There was no hustle, no lines, no scramble for a table. While the food was excellent, the restaurant experience was ordinary.

I think cozy conditions are desirable in many situations. Having people stand as part of an overflow crowd at an event adds more caché. Office desks that are in close proximity have been shown to enhance the culture and create a greater sense of camaraderie. Stores that are bustling generate more energy among shoppers than when they are alone in the aisles.

When allocating space, it is counterintuitive but more beneficial to think small. Closeness is not just a physical attribute but an emotional one as well.

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