The Counter was great, but I think they had the same problem of the customer choosing poorly and it reflecting back on their restaurant. Most have closed, and worse due to bad marketing many people did not recognize that they were the pioneers of this excessive customization trend. Every time I went there I would hear someone visiting for their first time and thinking it's a knock off of some other concept when it was very much unique - top quality meats, produce and cheeses. But if you make bad choices then you've basically got an expensive McDonald's burger.rwsandiego wrote: ↑September 21st, 2023, 1:44 pmAgree 100%. A group of colleagues (who were enamored w/the ipad ordering concept) and I almost went there and then went somewhere else for the very reason you mentioned - a large group was a nightmare. Also, it had to be a pain in the (ahem) to keep the tablets clean. Blech!ClownLoach wrote: ↑September 20th, 2023, 9:01 pmWhen I went to Stacked in HB about 6 months ago the tablet ordering was basically gone and they had traditional service with a printed menu and servers. The menu is now like Red Robin or Islands, predetermined burgers and sandwiches.rwsandiego wrote: ↑September 20th, 2023, 1:57 pm
Stacked, which had several locations pre-pandemic, had exactly that model. You ordered and customized your food at a tabletop kiosk and the server brought the order. Not sure whether they still do that.
FWIW, their food was good, but not amazing. They re-opened their San Diego and Huntington Beach locations after the pandemic, but closed San Diego in 2022. The San Diego location was at Fashion Valley Mall tucked in back of several stores on the Friars Road side. It was very hard to find. Doesn't surprise me that business didn't bounce back.
The fundamental failure for this chain was the iPad. The larger the party the longer it took for everyone to order. I went with a group of 6 and it took us almost half an hour to order. The iPad became the bottleneck. I tried their huge flagship in Cerritos a few times and recognized the problem. Orders came unpredictably to the kitchen who either would be waiting for orders or flooded with them. They probably had less than half the restaurant actively eating at any given time, and I'm sure they turned tables at less than half the rate of any normal restaurant. This created long waits for a table and ultimately torpedoed their chances of getting a consistent crowd of repeat business in a very competitive area with hundreds of food choices within a couple miles radius.
The other problem with the "build your own" model of choosing your own food ingredients and having it assembled is that frankly chefs are better than you and I at determining what flavor combinations are good, or bad. This is why the express pizza chains like Blaze are struggling, too many people want to load the pie with ten toppings and it turns out to be bland mush when it comes out of the oven. With the burgers it was the same problem, people choose bad combinations like Bleu cheese and barbecue sauce with garlic and roasted bell peppers on wheat roll with arugula and mustard. The common thread being that the bad chef, aka the customer, orders a bad meal and then says the restaurant sucks. Restaurants need to let the chef write the menu and surprisingly most of the time guests will be happier with the food.
The revamped Stacked in HB is doing well in a low rent converted Dennys, but I doubt they'll ever be able to recapitalize and expand past that. I should mention that the food quality is exponentially better than it was in the iPad days, probably because the restaurant can use good management techniques of spacing out seating and ordering so the kitchen can operate well. And it had a massive beer list with some great stuff on it. Solid restaurant and if I still lived in OC I'd definitely eat there on a regular basis.
The Counter seemed to have done well with the "build your own" concept, but that's what they do and what they are known for. They also have (or had - it's been a while) servers who took the customer's order sheet, reviewed it, and could make suggestions. Plus, their food was much better than Stacked.
Just like Stacked, last time I visited The Counter they had a full menu and only put one clipboard for DIY on the table without comment. They would prefer you select from their recommended burgers now.