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Talk of the bay

Cheeseburger with everything, including the wait

Published June 21, 2004

Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel recently suggested another name for Cheeseburger in Paradise, the new Outback Steakhouse Chain:

Cheeseburger in Purgatory.

"Don't get me wrong," he says in a review this month. "I actually like this place." He compliments the restaurant's upbeat decor and staff, its prices and its "big, meaty and juicy" cheeseburgers. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., location he eats at has "scads of happy customers."

The problem, he says, is the two-hour wait for a table on a Saturday night, a long time to cool one's heels for even the best cheeseburger.

It's precisely the dilemma Outback's flagship chain faced for over a decade before it introduced "call-ahead seating," which allows customers to phone themselves onto a waiting list for tables. Some consumers are intrigued by long lines - popularity equals good food - and are apt to get in them. Others simply won't wait that long.

Whether Outback eventually will introduce call-ahead seating at its Cheeseburger chain isn't clear. Since the fledgling chain is still in its early, buzz-building phase, however, it seems likely the company will let the purgatorial lines last a while longer.

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 19:29:04]

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