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South Bay Food & Drink Diary: STACKED: Food Well Built

Today we’d like to introduce you to Torrance, Cerritos, Thousand Oaks, Huntington Beach, San Diego’s STACKED: Food Well Built.

How did you end up in the restaurant business?
I always wanted to be in my own business – that was my ultimate goal. During college, I became intrigued with the restaurant business because of my obsession with food. I grew up in Chicago, and like many in the Midwest, I definitely live to eat. I decided I was going to take Chicago-style pizza to other areas of the country.

I majored in accounting, because it was a great background for business. After graduating, I went into public accounting to get some business experience. I moved to California, still dreaming of opening a pizza restaurant, but staying in public accounting in the meantime. I started my own accounting firm, but still plotted to one day realize my true career goal.

Searching for good pizza in California (this was in 1979) I ran across a small pizza joint called BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria. I enjoyed BJ’s and appreciated being able to have my favorite style of pizza in Southern California. Several years later, I had the opportunity to get BJ’s as a client of my accounting firm. I literally begged for the chance, explaining my passion for the business and my desire to one day open a franchise or, at least, develop a menu item for them. I wanted to live vicariously through them. I got BJ’s as a client and in 1991 the owners came to me for advice about an offer they had to buy the business. Once again, I begged them for an opportunity – this time to come up with a counter-proposal. They said ok. I ran back to my accounting office and told one of my partners about the opportunity. I asked him if he had every worked in a restaurant and, sure enough, he had worked as a busser at a restaurant during high school. I asked him to join me in presenting a proposal to purchase BJ’s, since he had more experience than me.

For some still unknown reason, the owners of BJ’s chose our offer, and finally, after 16 years in public accounting, I had realized my ultimate goal of owning a restaurant. My partner, Jerry Hennessy and I took that 3 unit collection of small pizza restaurants and grew it into a very successful national restaurant brand, now operating almost 200 restaurants.

After 18 years at BJ’s we felt it was time to put the company into the hands of more “professional” management, as the company had become very big and corporate. We were more the entrepreneurial type. So, in 2009 we retired from BJ’s in order to develop another restaurant concept that we called STACKED: Food Well Built. STACKED is a very unique concept. It is a full-service restaurant with a create-your-own menu format where guests get to choose their favorite ingredients in 5 major menu categories: burgers, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and mac ‘n’ cheese. This virtually unlimited customization enables our guests to enjoy their favorite flavors – not just what is offered to them at traditional restaurants. In order to facilitate this level of customization, we developed a guest-facing ordering system where our guests can visually create their meals on an iPad at their table before sending their order to the kitchen. This system not only enables our guests to customize their meals, but also to control when they order and when they pay. The result is a very personalized, fun experience for each guest in the restaurant.

Once we developed the STACKED concept and the technology we opened our first restaurant in 2011. We now have 5 restaurants in Southern California with the ultimate goal of creating another national restaurant brand.

We’d love to learn more about the struggles you’ve had along the way.
No business is easy – especially the restaurant business. Getting into the restaurant business, for me, took a lot of luck and a lot of persistence. Once in the business, I realized how challenging it really was. Having very little experience ourselves, my partner and I had to surround ourselves with great restaurant industry professionals who could execute well on our vision. We made many mistakes on our way to assembling a team capable of doing that. And, being a very capital intensive business, some of our biggest challenges to date have been gaining access to the financial resources necessary to grow. There are so many elements to the restaurant business that it is hard to identify just a couple of biggest challenges, but access to the right people and to financial resources are certainly among the top few.

We overcame these challenges by having a very clear vision of what we wanted our restaurants to looks, feel and taste like – adapting that vision as appropriate, but always heading in a specific direction. And, by never considering failure as an option.

Tell us something interesting or unique about STACKED: Food Well Built.
The unique nature of STACKED is in its completely customizable, create-your-own menu format. I am not aware of any other full-service restaurants that offer the degree of customization in multiple menu categories like STACKED. That is why we had to develop and implement our iPad ordering system. We felt enabling our guests to visually create their meals on a tablet at their table was the only way for them to customize in a comfortable, uninhibited way. Others seem to agree that STACKED is unique – in our first year of operations we won the Technology Innovation Award by the National Restaurant Association and we STACKED was designated as a Hot Concept by Nation’s Restaurant News.

Most Popular Items

Mac ‘n’ Cheese Burger

Fresh, Angus beef topped with toasted parmesan crisp, STACKED Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, Roma tomato and an onion ring on a brioche bun.
Cranberry Walnut Salad

Fresh spinach with grilled chicken breast, Applewood smoked bacon, avocado, red onion, dried cranberries, walnuts and Point Reyes bleu cheese tossed with our house-made cranberry walnut dressing.

Cajun Shrimp Mac ‘n’ Cheese

We start with our STACKED Mac and kick it up with Cajun shrimp, pepper jack cheese, roasted red peppers and chopped green onion.Parking Advice:
All our restaurants have plentiful, convenient parking

Happy Hour:
Monday thru Friday 3:30pm to 6:30pm
Sunday thru Thursday 9pm to close

Average Entre Cost:Around $10

Address: Del Amo Fashion Center
3525 W. Carson St.
Torrance, CA 90503



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