Don't expect a waiter to come take your order at STACKED. This casual dining restaurant has no waiters.
STACKED: Food Well Built expanded its technology-driven brand Nov. 17 with the opening of its third location in Cerritos, California. With an iPad secured onto each table, guests become chefs, building their own meals from base options, topping food to their personalized delight.
"A lot of casual restaurants have some things on menus that are good, some things that are OK, and some things that are not so good," says Paul Motenko, co-founder of STACKED. "We really wanted to do something different and very focused. We wanted to allow our guests to create flavors that they wanted the most."
STACKED founders quickly threw the idea of a rigid menu out the window.
“Our first thought was, we wanted to do a more traditional concept, but we pretty quickly realized with what we were trying to accomplish, that wouldn’t work,” Motenko explains. “People going up to a counter and seeing a menuboard that had literally dozens of choices in each category—it’s too difficult and puts too much pressure on our guests.”
Instead, The STACKED menu offers about 10 prebuilt categories—pizza, burger, salad, soup, and sausage—and if none of those sound appealing, the brand gets personal.
The personal approach is horizontal: In the burger category, for example, guests decide everything from buns, patties, and lettuces to cheeses, toppings, and sauce. They visualize their meals as they build them with a few simple tap on an iPad.
Motenko emphasizes that he wanted guests to order in a comfortable manner. “We had the idea of, what about letting guests order at a touch-screen device at each table, and not have to worry about a server standing over them,” he says. “The iPad answered all these challenges we were facing.”
Heralding a relatively untapped ordering strategy, the STACKED crew still had to deal with iPad pessimists.
“Some people said it sounded like a gimmick, like, ‘I don’t want to deal with an iPad, technologically,’” Motenko recalls. “Others would say, ‘Yeah, I understand what you’re saying,’ but they’d roll their eyes. We were nervous in opening our first restaurant [about] how our guests would respond.”
Customers, luckily, loved the iPad concept.
“Our guests are really appreciating the control they have over the experience, the ability to customize, and the fairness of the pricing,” Motenko says. “That’s something that virtually no other restaurant does.”
By Sonya Chudgar