Seattle-based Teriyaki Madness is stepping outside of its comfort zone with a new development direction: the fast-casual chain’s first food truck. Franchisee Katie Catlin originally came up with the idea of a food truck and saw her bowls on wheels idea come to life in Lapeer, Michigan in May. Catlin wanted to launch a food truck to expand her customer base without having to invest in brick-and-mortar (and deal with exorbitant real estate prices).
So far, the first Teriyaki Madness food truck has been busy with catering public events like concerts, sporting events and festivals, filling in gaps in the community where other food trucks have either dropped out, or where there is significant white space for Asian-based food trucks among a sea of taco and grilled cheese trucks.
“The customer feedback has been great, people keep asking where they can find us,” Catlin said. “Between the truck, our Facebook page and the actual shop, we’re now able to accommodate people on a much larger scale.”
Catlin has been a Teriyaki Madness franchisee for three years, and when faced with the challenge of creating more store awareness, she initially thought of breaking into catering and then came up with the food truck as a fun and visually appealing way to expand into that field.
“If I book events that are within five to 20 miles of my shop, people could see it and love it and it could potentially bring more growth to my brick-and-mortar shop,” Catlin said. “We’d been wanting to open more shops for a while, but capital has been tough so this is how I could afford to do it.”
Of course, running a food truck comes with its own limitations and challenges, like menu size, which Catlin said they had to shrink down to three items (orange chicken, spicy chicken and chicken teriyaki bowls), to make operations simpler. There are also the challenges of contending with events logistics and the popularity of the truck. Thus far, the Teriyaki Madness food truck has only catered public events because they’ve been so busy, the team has not had time to take on requests for appearances at weddings and birthday parties.
But even with some of the logistical issues, the success of Catlin’s food truck has fit within CEO Michael Haith’s direction for the brand moving forward.
“We want to take Teriyaki Madness to the customer,” Haith said. “And wherever that may be-- at a ballpark, an outdoor arts festival or concert. It’s rare to find something healthier and customizable in that type of setting.”
Haith sees the first Teriyaki Madness truck as a test for what’s possible for the brand in the future: the company could use food trucks to spread awareness in a market they have not yet entered or want to penetrate further. Even beyond public happenings, a fleet of Teriyaki Madness food trucks could take to the streets to sell food during busy lunch hours in urban areas or cater private events.
“We're not for everybody,” Haith said. “For people who really want to go out and have a bratwurst or a corndog, I get it. But for those who want something that is healthier and delicious, it’s great to have that option. And it’s amazing how many people choose that option.”
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