After serving up custom-made gourmet burgers in Palo Alto for 15 years, The Counter is closing its doors at 369 California Ave.
Peter Katz, a managing partner at Counter Intelligence, which owns the northern California franchise of The Counter, told this news organization on Monday that the Palo Alto site will shutter by the end of this month.
The business experienced a lot of hardship after being limited to takeout and delivery service during much of 2020, Katz said.
When it came time to renew the California Avenue lease with Premier Properties, Counter Intelligence initially declined, given the high overhead costs and challenges of the moment, Katz said.
"There was a lot of uncertainty," Katz said. "We were unable to make that commitment at the time."
As business stabilized, Counter Intelligence tried to renew the lease for the 2,675-square-foot restaurant, according to Katz, but the landlord had already found a new tenant. (Katz could not disclose further information about the new tenant.)
The Counter's Palo Alto site was the second to open and the first franchise after the restaurant was founded in Santa Monica by Jeffrey Weinstein and Craig Albert in 2003.
Katz, who was a sales and marketing executive looking to reroute his career at the time, was introduced to Weinstein. Katz said he saw potential in a restaurant that emphasized customer choice and premium quality burgers.
"I got introduced to Jeff, had a burger at the Santa Monica restaurant with him and his partner, and we did a deal on the back of a napkin," Katz said. "At that point, they hadn't even received the approval to franchise."
Katz attained the rights to build out franchises throughout northern California, creating Counter Intelligence in 2005 and later opening The Counter's first franchise location in Palo Alto in August 2006.
"There were lines up and down the block," Katz said about the restaurant's opening.
Katz's firm eventually expanded the restaurant into seven locations and one subfranchise in Fremont. (Currently, The Counter's website lists five locations in the Bay Area and one opening soon.)
Katz said his firm has already signed a lease in San Francisco to open a cloud kitchen, also known as a "ghost kitchen" version of the restaurant — a growing trend that allows restaurants to operate as an online delivery-only service while avoiding the high overhead costs of a traditional brick-and-mortar location.
Katz said he hasn't given up on opening another indoor-dining location for The Counter. In the meantime, The Counter's closest location to Palo Alto is at 2580 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View.
"Our preference would be more brick and mortar, but the economics have to be right," Katz said.