Hoping to succeed where restaurants like uWink have failed, the founders of BJ's Restaurants are launching a new fast-casual restaurant chain, Stacked, which will try to lure consumers with the novelty of ordering by iPad. The first outpost will open in Torrance in May, with additional locations opening in Cerritos and San Diego by the end of 2011.
iPads mounted at tables will allow guests to order items like hamburgers, pizza, salads and sausages, then customize them by choosing various buns, toppings and sauces, reports NRN. Beer, wine, milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches are also on the menu. Try not to splatter ketchup on your electronic waitress.
If Stacked serves decent food and can improve on the uWink business model, it could be a trendsetter for the fast-casual sector. Otherwise, it will be just another forgettable chain with a lame technology gimmick. That was the problem with uWink, a hideous wreck of a “restaurant” that finally closed it's doors this autumn.
The ambiance was awful. The food was mediocre. The much ballyhooed tabletop computers were filled with the lamest computer games ever. On top of that, the electronic ordering process actually took 20% longer than in a standard restaurant. Human servers still brought food to customers, but if you wanted a refill on that soda, you had to …sigh… order it via a wonky touchscreen. uWink only survived as long as it did because of the tourist trade filtering through Hollywood & Highland. For people who prefer restaurants to “restaurant concepts,” the novelty of ordering by computer quickly dissipated, replaced by annoyance and tedium.
That's the rub with modern computing and social networking technologies: their rate of obsolescence. Sure, the iPad is the coolest thing since sliced bread — right now. Friendster was cool once too, only to be replaced by MySpace, which was in turn replaced by Facebook.
Great burgers and Angry Birds? It could work, but not without the human touch, which will outlast any technology.