Marketing campaigns and research and development efforts are often two of the most important elements driving a quick serve’s success, and Culver City, California–based burger chain The Counter found it could combine both in its new Market Selection program.

The program, which began in January in a few stores and expanded to all in February, allows each of the 21 Counter units to develop new burger options using locally popular, and often locally sourced, ingredients.

“We devised this program to get more customer feedback, to get more feedback from our kitchen managers and our chefs in the field, to get more feedback from our franchisees and general managers and our company-owned stores, so that we could all be playing on a level playing field,” says Jeff Weinstein, founder of The Counter.

Weinstein says that each unit can choose from 10 proteins, 12 cheeses, eight sauces, 10 toppings, and “four or five” bun choices when developing its Market Selection burger.

Creations have included a Bison burger in Denver; a Salmon with Fine Herb burger, featuring fennel and orange slaw on top of an artisan ciabatta bun, in California; and a Bacon Cole Slaw burger in Chicago that’s piled on a pretzel bun.

“This Market Selection allows us to get more local, use more locally sourced ingredients, really delve into what’s popular in a certain region or a certain market, and let the stores and the customers and our frontline employees make the choice, instead of us here at the home office,” Weinstein says.

The Market Selection program evolved from Burger of the Week and Burger of the Month programs at The Counter, Weinstein says. The programs were devised to give customers the choice of a pre-designed burger, as opposed to the build-your-own-burger option that the concept is known for.

Weinstein says the program is helping The Counter test ingredients that could later end up on the menu nationwide. For example, an onion bun that was popular in one market will now roll out nationwide as a bun option.

“The feedback has been tremendous, it’s allowing us obviously to experiment more,” he says. “We’ve already started adding things to the menu permanently that were really popular with customers.”

“Because of [the program’s] popularity … we’re really understanding this marketing vehicle and this research and development vehicle, and we’re really able to give the customers what they want,” Weinstein says.

By Sam Oches

Burgers, Menu Innovations, News, The Counter