After Features in GQ and on Oprah Naming The Counter one of the Best 20 Burgers of All Time, Demand Soars for Locations Nationwide. Jeff Weinstein’s original premise for The Counter was simple. He wanted to create a laid-back, family-friendly hamburger joint, but with a modern look and ambiance. He wanted it to be close to his home in Santa Monica, Calif., the kind of place where he and his wife, Kelly, could go for a casual lunch or dinner.
Weinstein accomplished his objective in December 2003 with the opening of The Counter in Santa Monica – the 21st century’s bold answer to the classic burger joint with its industrial decor, today’s music and most importantly, more than 312,000 premium burger options, each more creative than the other.
The Counter opened about 10 blocks from the couple’s home. Mission accomplished on all ends it would seem. The story could have ended there and been nicely wrapped with a red ribbon.
But in July 2005, GQ magazine columnist Alan Richman traveled across the country sampling 162 burgers in search of the “20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die.” The Counter – not even two years old – was ranked No. 15.
The mention in GQ followed a glowing review by venerable Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila less than six months after The Counter had opened. How much better could things get? Well, when Weinstein saw Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, Gayle King, dining at The Counter, his heart should have been beating through his shirt. But it wasn’t.
“We just thought she was there for a burger,” Weinstein recalled. King was there for a burger no doubt, but she was also there to feature The Counter as part of a February 2006 “Oprah Winfrey” show in which King sampled every all-beef patty on Richman’s GQ list. A favorable mention on the “Oprah” show is worth, well…. Boom! The Counter had monthly sales of $44,000 when it opened in December 2003. Ever increasing, they soared to $245,000 after The Counter was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the buzz continues to grow louder.”
“To this day, I still haven’t spent one dollar on advertising, but it was nice to see that people have responded to what I created and built and what we as a team have continued to build,” said Weinstein, the 31-year-old founder of The Counter, where customers can build their own beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, salmon or ahi tuna burger with a list of mouth-watering ingredients that includes 10 cheeses, 26 toppings, 17 unique sauces and eight types of buns.”
Now, The Counter is poised to spread its wings in a big way from the Santa Monica strip shopping center where the original began. In early 2006, The Counter launched its franchising program in conjunction with Craig Albert.
The development rights have been sold to 60 restaurants scheduled to open throughout California over the next three years. National growth is also on the docket, with Florida, New York, Arizona and Nevada expected to be the initial growth areas outside of The Counter’s home state of California. Four to five restaurants are expected to open in 2006, followed by 12 to 15 in 2007 and increasing to between 20 and 25 locations in 2008. Long-range projections call for 400 to 600 U.S. locations.
The Counter is a bold, innovative, upscale entry into the casual-dining food segment, one of the restaurant industry’s strongest growth areas with sales expected to exceed $70 billion in 2006, according to industry publication Fast Casual magazine.
“We are going to be the best out there and the industry leader in this segment,” said Weinstein. “There are not a lot of players in the premium-burger segment. The idea behind The Counter is to serve great food at a fair price.”
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