While teriyaki is ubiquitous in Seattle, the utilitarian shops dealing in cheap, salty chicken plates are still largely unknown beyond the state's borders. "Everyone knows teriyaki as far as the sauce, but they don't understand the concept with rice and vegetables," Rod Arreola of Teriyaki Madness says. "There hasn't been a brand that's done that."
Plans call for Teriyaki Madness, which now has seven Nevada locations, to open 25 franchised stores in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and California over the next three years. "There's definitely an opportunity," Arreola says.
Arreola in 2003 opened Teriyaki Madness with his brother, his cousin and a former owner of Seattle's Teriyaki Madness, who's since left the business. "He didn't enjoy Las Vegas," Arreola explains. The restaurant chains are not related, and Arreola says the Nevada-based Teriyaki Madness won't open any restaurants in Seattle.
"There are thousands of mom-and-pops there, it's so saturated," Arreola says. "We want to grow outside of Washington."
Unlike the independently-owned teriyaki joints scattered across Seattle, Teriyaki Madness stores are unified by a single design, Arreola says.
"The (independents) all have different looks and feels, and sometimes the décor isn't great," he says. "We're trying to get to brand that's consistent, like McDonalds, but, at the same time, create bold flavors."
Teriyaki Madness serves chicken katsu and yakisoba bowls, but Arreola says teriyaki still accounts for 70 percent of sales. While eaters beyond Seattle may not be familiar with the city's teriyaki culture, Arreola says the current hunger for affordable, healthy and interesting food has helped his brand succeed in a state hammered by the recession.
"Who doesn't like grilled meat and rice?," he asks. "It's simple, it's safe."
According to Restaurant News, Asian food was the quickest growing culinary category in 2011, and the NPD Group reports 23 percent of consumers would like to eat more Asian food.
"It has a lot of legs as far as being a concept that could grow," Arreola says. "We're taking what we grew up on and trying to bring it to more people."