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Completely Custom Menu restaurant Concept. Genius? Madness? or Both?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

After several years of building up his brand in catering and running a few local mom and pop kitchens for other people, my friend was able to set up his concept and get it up and running a little over two years ago.  He now has two locations.  It is going very well, but he has a business model that goes against the grain of how most places are run. (There are some similar successful chain concepts, but are not nearly as diverse in their offerings)

 

They don't have a menu so to speak.  You walk in and decide if you want a Po Boy (Sub), Burrito/Wrap, Salad, Bowl, or Tacos.  You then pick your protein (Steak, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp, Lobster, Fish, Crab, Tofu)  add your toppings of which there are about 100 choices,  add sauces (about 20 different kinds), and pick a side to go with it.  Everything is made with top quality ingredients and cooked fresh on site.

 

With people today being very sensitive to what they eat, having more food allergies (real or perceived), and other dietary restrictions,  It seems like a good concept to let people customize specifically to their tastes.  However, The downside I have seen is that people can get very confused and overwhelmed when ordering.  They might also decide on a flavor combination that does not work or forget to include a key ingredient that really makes the dish and hold it against the restaurant as bad food.

 

So, what say you?  Is this the future of dining? or a flash in the pan fad? 


Edited by Planethoff - 6/27/16 at 6:55pm
post #2 of 21

I agree with you, the problem is people don't know what they want. I remember going to a Mongolian barbecue, the main vegetables and meat were ok but what the hell did I know about the sauces. I just wanted to hand it to the guy and say, you figure the sauces out. I think you need to get the concept as easy as possible to make it easy for the customer to feel comfortable when ordering. I could sit with a party of 6 people at a table and no one know what they want and they have the menu in front of them. People aren't that sharp about know what goes with what. Like you said what if they put all these things together and the food sucks.

post #3 of 21
I remember reading about a very high end and exclusive members club in London where there was no menu. The rich kids just walked in and asked for whatever they wanted.
Cheese toasties at 2am, no problem.
Lobster Thermidor at 7am, sure.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
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post #5 of 21
I'm fairly intelligent and good with what foods go together, but this concept frustrates me and the proliferation of this concept worries me. I'd much rather a small selection of highly curated menu choices. My favorite restaurant of all times was in the UK and it had no menu... The chef cooked and the diners are what he cooked.
post #6 of 21
I'm hoping it's a flash in the pan... And the flash is nearly over. But I might be wrong. I said that about reality television about 15 years ago. I was very very wrong.
post #7 of 21

Why so many choices? Chicken, lobster, steak, pork, etc. plus twenty sauces and 100 toppings? That's not a menu. 

 I may be a stick in the mud but I don't get it. I'm great at mixing and matching foods and creating dishes, etc. I've been doing it for years now. But that is not why I go out to eat.  I want to sit down and enjoy a meal some one else put together based on their talent and expertise. If I have to do all that thinking about how to put a meal together, I'll just stop by the supermarket. 

     I had a similar experience to Chef Billy at a Mongolian grill. I put the meat and veggies together but when we sat down and ate, I said it wasn't very good. My dining companion laughed and said "Well, whose fault is that?" What do I know about Mongolian cuisine? 

      This arrangement also reminds me why I don't like large menus and am not too fond of fusion cuisine. Too many disparate ingredients, not always combined successfully or thoughtfully. I know from doing sales analysis that not everything sells equally well. So how can they keep so many different ingredients at the peak of freshness. Some aren't moving at all or very little while others are selling out. Which is which when I'm trying to put my meal together? 

I'm also one of those who prefer a small curated menu. Something I can believe that chef and staff put time and effort into and can keep control over the quality. 

     You say he is successful with two locations so obviously I have something to learn on the  business end of it but as a customer I'd take a pass. I certainly hope this isn't the future of the industry. 

post #8 of 21

Sounds like any number of fast casual concepts like Chipotle or Subway or whatever. I don't see what the big deal is? Other than having expanded choices...I'd bet a week's pay this is not a sit down place but a "order at the counter" place. 

 

My experience is that if you do too many things, you'll do none of them great. You might do them OK but not great. Probably better to focus on doing a few things great, but whatever, if it is working for them so be it. 

 

There is no genius or madness it's very common :rolleyes: 

post #9 of 21

This place sounds pretty amazing. For a foodie. I would love the place, absolutely.

 

But yeah, most non-foodies aren't going to know what will go with what. You'll have people piling a cheddar, black olives and soy sauce mixture on top of halibut. And then, even though it was their own doing, they'll think, "That place wasn't very good."

 

If I may make a suggestion? Maybe there could be a couple of signs on the wall saying "We recommend these delicious combinations!" And then list a few nice suggested combos as a go-by. Just a thought. :)

post #10 of 21
I am with @Someday on this one.
It is a good solid model but other than a huge prep list nothing new about it.
I already have problem with choices so try to steer clear of places like this.
Edited by flipflopgirl - 6/28/16 at 9:37am
post #11 of 21

I understand the concept as presented by Subway, Chipotle and others but they have their offerings under a central theme. Quick sandwiches for Subway, Southwest for Chipotle. So at least I can see what the idea is from the start. From the original post, I don't see the central theme. It just seems to be all over the place. 

post #12 of 21

The concept, to me at any rate, seems to mirror my experience working at restaurants that actually had a menu....(guest ordering) I want the NY with mushrooms and baked potato; but can you sub chicken for the steak and instead of mushroom could you use red bell peppers and can I get sweet potato fries instead of the baked potato.

Completely Custom Menu restaurant Concept. Genius? Madness? or Both? The reality of guest experience... stays the same,... my genius (tongue in cheek)... is ignored,... the madness...depends upon my reaction :~)

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #13 of 21

Funny but true, Cheflayne. I never put those together before but you're right. No menu= no clue. Menu= sudden inspiration for endless substitutions. 

post #14 of 21

Same thing,only different!. Deja vu, all over again! I call my new invention... the wheel! :lol: 

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #15 of 21

Actually a few years back I came close to unveiling my own wheel. It was on a a small Caribbean island with no cars, enough tourist (but not too many), enough expats (but not too many), not too many legal restrictions or hoops to jump through. I was going to hook my 6 foot catering  grill up to a bicycle or golf cart and every day around sundown I would ride to the beach in town. I would offer fish, pork, chicken. All grilled of course. Choice of 3 maybe 4 sauces. Choice of 2 maybe side salads. Choice of 2 maybe 3 side starch. That's it, take it or leave it.....Still might do it one of these days.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Actually a few years back I came close to unveiling my own wheel. It was on a a small Caribbean island with no cars, enough tourist (but not too many), enough expats (but not too many), not too many legal restrictions or hoops to jump through. I was going to hook my 6 foot catering  grill up to a bicycle or golf cart and every day around sundown I would ride to the beach in town. I would offer fish, pork, chicken. All grilled of course. Choice of 3 maybe 4 sauces. Choice of 2 maybe side salads. Choice of 2 maybe 3 side starch. That's it, take it or leave it.....Still might do it one of these days.

That would be ideal for me. Great idea, I hope you get to do it. I agree with the subway and chipotle comparison, but chefwriter is correct that the diversity and quantity of options put it in a new league. It is not exactly 100 toppings any 50 sauces. Slight exaggeration but wanted to make the point. But imagine someone eating an ahi Thai glass noodle salad, next to someone eating a chicken burrito, sitting next to somone with lobster roll, next to Philly cheesesteak, you get the point.

Someday, you are correct, it is counter service. Nothing wrong with that IMHO. The food is on point and they developed a prep system where it is a constantly going on vs the restaurant that prep so all morning/afternoon for lunch /dinner service and prep cook go home early. The prep kitchen there is always going. I mentioned, but did not highlight that he still runs a very successful catering operation, and does market deli take out from the restaurants.

Here is website, I believe admin approved this.
http://chivevero.com/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwwMi7BRDGptbvwOCDj8oBEiQAIALyDAA4q6RlJ7b6PlXfJhAeDTnDMB6hAYe1uRrgOy9rwkoaArwL8P8HAQ

If you look at the menu, the toppings and sauce lists are outdated. There is a lot more offered now. ( I will tell him to update his site)
Edited by Planethoff - 6/28/16 at 3:59pm
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post

I'm hoping it's a flash in the pan... And the flash is nearly over. But I might be wrong. I said that about reality television about 15 years ago. I was very very wrong.

In a lot of ways, I'm with you there. However,. I want my friend to kill it, but it would never be something I would do.
post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Planethoff View Post




Someday, you are correct, it is counter service. Nothing wrong with that IMHO. The food is on point and they developed a prep system where it is a constantly going on vs the restaurant that prep so all morning/afternoon for lunch /dinner service and prep cook go home early. The prep kitchen there is always going. I mentioned, but did not highlight that he still runs a very successful catering operation, and does market deli take out from the restaurants.

 

 

I didn't say there is anything wrong with it. You just make it sound like this guy is re-inventing the wheel and this is a common, tried and true concept. I guess his twist on it is the large variety of ingredients, but this is hardly any type of "genius" or "mad" concept. 

 

There is no issue with food combinations because people don't go to CSR's like that to experience a particular chef's vision on creativity food wise, they go to get a sandwich, burrito or bowl customized with the ingredients they want. 

 

It actually can be a good business model if you can be busy because of  lower overhead, staffing and whatnot. Can be a decent moneymaker, especially when up against more traditional, full service restaurants. I usually go to places like this to eat on my day off. 

post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

@Someday  I see your point and mostly agree with you.  Chipotle and Subway both have very customized offerings, but like @chefwriter said they have more of a theme.  I was mostly trying to make the point of chef inspired creations versus customer creation.  Given the rise of more "foodies", more dietary restrictions, and "allergies"   People have become much more involved with what they eat.  Twenty years ago people would just eat what was put in front of them without giving a second though to the ingredient list.  I know his idea is not the most radical thing ever and there are others like it.  I'm trying to figure out how much this "educated" consumer is going to change the restaurant game going forward.

post #20 of 21

There used to be a pasta place kind of like this in New Orleans.  You chose your pasta (from 8-10 types), you chose your sauce (from 10-15 types) and you chose your toppings (lots and lots).  The one thing they did (and other places that run on this similar model that are successful do the same thing) is that they also offered the guests suggestions for great combinations.  This way you cover all bases; those that want to completely customize their food and those that get decision paralysis when faced with so many choices.  Come to think of it, there was also a mashed potato restaurant concept that worked along these same lines.  It was in Chicago.

 

Personally, I think there is a place for these kind of places.  Sometimes I enjoy them and other times I want something that a chef worked at creating, making sure that everything that goes on the plate works.  Which brings me to my question for these places; so if I choose to order the lobster tail with mole sauce and daikon radish whose responsibility is it when it tastes terrible and I want to send it back.  Am I, the guest, still financially responsible for paying for it, or like other places, with set menus, if I feel that the meal was bad the expectation is I don't pay for it?

post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

The concept, to me at any rate, seems to mirror my experience working at restaurants that actually had a menu....(guest ordering) I want the NY with mushrooms and baked potato; but can you sub chicken for the steak and instead of mushroom could you use red bell peppers and can I get sweet potato fries instead of the baked potato.

Completely Custom Menu restaurant Concept. Genius? Madness? or Both? The reality of guest experience... stays the same,... my genius (tongue in cheek)... is ignored,... the madness...depends upon my reaction :~)



Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Actually a few years back I came close to unveiling my own wheel. It was on a a small Caribbean island with no cars, enough tourist (but not too many), enough expats (but not too many), not too many legal restrictions or hoops to jump through. I was going to hook my 6 foot catering  grill up to a bicycle or golf cart and every day around sundown I would ride to the beach in town. I would offer fish, pork, chicken. All grilled of course. Choice of 3 maybe 4 sauces. Choice of 2 maybe side salads. Choice of 2 maybe 3 side starch. That's it, take it or leave it.....Still might do it one of these days.

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Been working on a signature boozy collection.

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