Teriyaki Madness, an Asian fast-casual restaurant chain based in Denver, surpassed the 100-unit mark in 2021, ending the year with 101 locations — a 14.8% increase from 88 in 2020 — and a goal to open many more.
“We’re attracting a lot of great franchisees who want to expand,” CEO Michael Haith said. “Folks in our system are expanding rapidly, we’re attracting folks who know what they’re doing, who want to come in and build quite a few shops.”
The company saw 53.7% systemwide sales growth last year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 500. Teriyaki Madness has no plans to slow down, either, with 113 units open as of this May and more in the pipeline.
“We’ve done so well in surprising markets like Tennessee and Alabama — for teriyaki, who would have thought?” Haith said.
Teriyaki Madness succeeded in the second year of the pandemic by relying on convenience technology it already had in place before 2020, including use of all of the major third-party delivery companies.
“We really didn’t need to pivot into COVID,” Haith said. “We were doing delivery, we were touch-free. … We had it down, and that paid off in spades.”
Going forward, he intends to focus the brand’s technology on creating a smoother customer experience. “We think third-party delivery is going to start backing off, mostly because of the cost,” he said. “So now, we’re working on reducing the friction on the customer transaction … really focusing on curbside, focusing our technology to know when our customer is coming to our shop to pick up our food so we can make that a transaction of seconds.”
The menu has also been a benefit throughout the pandemic. “When people started staying home, Asian food delivery worked well for us,” Haith said.
He attributes Teriyaki Madness’ success to not only technology and franchisees, but also its loyal customer base, which stuck by the brand through the inflation struggle that has hit the restaurant industry over the last year.
The company has raised its prices twice, once in October 2021 and once in March 2022, the increases totaling about 11%. And Haith said there’s been no pushback from consumers.
“I don’t know if we were underpriced before, but I think the customer expects a price increase [this year],” he said. “Everything has spiked. We’ve got a very loyal customer base, and in fact our traffic has increased dramatically since we raised our prices.”
The supply chain, of course, has also been “a mess,” as Haith described it, but the company has been able to use its menu-price increases to offset costs of goods and leverage its relationships with suppliers to make sure it gets what it needs.
As for the labor crunch, Teriyaki Madness has raised wages, but Haith isn’t too concerned about workforce problems. “I don’t know that there’s any real secret to [recruitment and retention],” he said. “It really is just getting up every day and trying to be good to your employees.”
That laid-back attitude is working for Teriyaki Madness, and it’s key to the brand’s strategy going forward. “We’re just rocking and rolling, and we still kind of have our heads below the horizon at 100 units or so,” Haith said. “But we’re coming fast.”
The Top 500 report is presented by Nation’s Restaurant News and Datassential, using insights from Datassential’s proprietary Firefly platform. Datassential’s Firefly is the ultimate strategic tool — No. 1 operator database, lead generator, customer marketing and intelligence platform, all-in-one. Learn more about getting complete access at datassential.com/firefly.