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At Stacked, diners use a tablet to customize food, drinks, calories and price

Touch-screen tablets let customers order food as well as drinks, such as this Bloody Mary at the new Stacked in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Weekend)

A restaurant opening in Huntington Beach will allow customers to get crazy creative with their food choices through a digitalized menu on a tablet.

Shrimp and beef sticks in a Bloody Mary? Macaroni and cheese atop a bacon burger? Customers can have it their way at Stacked: Food Well Built.

The restaurant, which opens Monday, is the company’s fifth location and first in Orange County.

Using an iPad at their tables, diners will be able to customize regular dishes — Don’t want pickles or tomatoes on your burger? Use a finger to drag them from the picture — or build their own creations.

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With the stack-your-own option, customers can start with a simple burger or other dish and drag ingredients from the right side of the menu onto the picture of the food. About 60% of guests use this option, said Paul Motenko, who with Jerry Hennessy both function as CEO.

Drinks are also customizable.

The orders are then sent to the kitchen with the push of a button.

“This unlocks the inner picky eater in everybody,” said Hennessy.

Hennessy and Motenko, who both previously opened BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, believe their business model at Stacked offers guests complete control of their food.

Prices are also easily controlled, the owners said. As customers remove ingredients from dishes, the price of the overall item is lowered. For vegetarians, gone are the days of removing the meat from a Chicken Caesar Salad and still having to pay the full price.

Burgers can range from around $7 for a simple angus beef burger on a brioche bun to “into the teens” for burgers with add-ons, like barbecue pulled pork, jalapeño bacon and sautéed mushrooms, Motenko said.

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A calorie counter helps health-conscious guests stay focused as the number goes up or down when items are added or removed.

The owners said they came up with the idea for digitalized menus in 2009, but were waiting for the right technology to implement it. The release of the iPad answered that need when it came out the following April. Motenko and Hennessy developed the idea further and then worked with a team of software engineers.

Stacked opened its first three restaurants in 2011. It has locations in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties, and now Orange County.

Red Robin and Chili’s in recent years have allowed guests to order food on tablets, but Motenko and Hennessy said Stacked goes a step further with the use of the technology for customization.

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“It was very important for us to use the technology to enhance the dining experience,” Hennessy said, adding that the restaurant is still full-service. “When other restaurants use tablets, they’re pretty much taking their paper menu and putting it onto a tablet, and that’s fine. What we’re doing at Stacked is a fundamental change in ordering, because you choose what you want and only pay for what exactly you want. It creates a spectrum.

“For my 21-year-old son, Stacked is a decadent, expensive triple-stacked burger. For my wife, Stacked is about healthy minimalist eating, so she eats less expensively.”

While all Stacked locations offer customizable lunch and dinner options, including burgers, salads and burritos, Huntington Beach will be the first with a breakfast menu.

Guests will be able to indulge in dishes like peanut butter and banana French toast, blueberry ricotta pancakes and honey-smoked salmon with scrambled eggs — and customize or build their own breakfast as they wish.

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“The concept is all about getting what you want,” Motenko said. “That applies as much to breakfast as it does to any other meal.”

He said everything comes down to giving what the guest exactly what he or she wants.

“Most casual restaurants look down on substitutions, but we created Stacked because we wanted to give guests the opportunity to truly control their experience,” Motenko said.

Stacked is at 7490 Edinger Ave. in Huntington Beach. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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