The Burger Bar by the Fatboys
#01-16A/B Far East Plaza,
14 Scotts Road
Hours: 11.30am-10pm daily
IF you're the kind of food pedant who likes to hold up the queue at fast food joints by insisting on having your burgers upsized, with a medium doneness, no onions, extra cheese, more tomatoes and pickles on the side please, then you'd feel right at home at The Burger Bar.
For it's not just tweaking you do at this two-month-old burger joint in Far East Plaza - you get to build the burger of your dreams from scratch, and best of all, while shielded from the judgmental eyes of confused cashiers and impatient fellow queuers.
The do-it-yourself ordering process at The Burger Bar is automated through two iPads by the side wall of the 12-seater, largely-takeaway nook of an eating space. You first select from a choice of four buns (sesame, wholemeal, honey oat and a buttery brioche) and four meat patties (Australian beef chuck, lamb shoulder, pork shoulder and grilled chicken) for a base price of $6.50 for a hamburger and $7.50 for a cheeseburger. (You get another four options for cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack or Provolone cheese for the latter option.)
Then comes the fun part: for an additional 50 cents to $1, you can opt to add special sauces such as garlic aioli, honey mustard or truffle mayonnaise and blue cheese. Or pad up your creation further with 15 different types of extra fillings such as bacon, beetroot, jalapeno peppers or a fried egg for $1 to $3.50 extra.
On a visit last week, we got particularly trigger-happy and tapped through several radio buttons to get a beef burger with Swiss cheese, grilled shiitake and blue cheese toppings in a brioche bun, along with a lamb burger with avocado, jalapeno and garlic aioli dressing.
Both burgers combined came up to about $26, and given their generous heaps of both ingredients and meat, offered decent value for money.
Pair the burgers off with sides such as chilli cheese fries, regular fries or the disco fries (a poutine-like combination of fries covered with gravy and cheese) and tiramisu sold in jars ($7.50) by online baker, Tiramisu Hero.
According to The Burger Bar's co-owner Bernie Tay, 40, who also runs the Fatboy's three-outlet burger chain, the idea for a fully customisable burger bar came about when he introduced a mix-and-match burger option in his full-service Fatboy's diners, which quickly became a popular choice among customers.
He had also been looking to launch an offshoot quick-serve brand that can be easily replicated in downtown shopping malls to cater to a wider audience. His existing three outlets in Upper Thomson, Katong and Pasir Panjang largely served residents in their respective neighbourhoods.
To boost his latest venture, he brought on board long-time friends and radio deejays, Justin Ang, 31, and Vernon Anthonisz, 41, as business partners.
"Vernon and I have been wanting to do a business together for a long time, and we're both deeply passionate about it," says Mr Ang. Being a first-time venture for the two men, they decided to team up with Mr Tay, a 16-year veteran in the F&B industry, as "we've watched him build up Fatboy's from nothing, so we have full confidence in him, the product and what he can do with it".
While Mr Ang and Mr Anthonisz will front the marketing and social media side of things, the management and operations of the burger joint will be left entirely to Mr Tay. And does he have big plans for it.
Once the automated iPad ordering system starts running kink-free in a few months, Mr Tay plans to spawn three more The Burger Bar outlets in Singapore and overseas. He already has one Fatboy's outlet in Kuala Lumpur's Publika mall, which is run on a joint-venture basis with a local partner.
While a good way to alleviate the current labour crunch, the iPad ordering system will never completely negate the need for human waitstaff and cashiers, Mr Tay reassures.
"At the end of the day, we still want to retain the personal touch and the old-school flavour of the brand," he says.