Rod Arreola, along with his brother Alan and cousin Eric Garma, grew up in Seattle, where teriyaki restaurants are commonplace. When they learned the rest of America didn’t have the same access to the Japanese flavors they loved, they decided to bring teriyaki to the masses, starting in Las Vegas.

“The teriyaki concept is very mature in Seattle,” says Rod Arreola, president of Teriyaki Madness. “There are a lot of mom and pop shops. We grew up on it. All of the recipes for Teriyaki Madness were developed with the help of a friend who owned a teriyaki restaurant in Seattle.”

The trio chose Las Vegas as the home base for Teriyaki Madness in 2003 because the city was experiencing tremendous growth in the early 2000s. They knew the location would expose the concept to visitors and transplanted residents from across the country, too.

Arreola calls Teriyaki Madness a choice for those wanting a healthy, fresh alternative to hamburgers.

“Five of our locations are next to gyms,” he says. “We cater to those people who are healthy and fit and want lean protein. Everything is made in-house from scratch. We cook everything fresh to order. Nothing sits.”

The bestsellers at Teriyaki Madness are Chicken Teriyaki and Spicy Chicken, with 50–60 percent of sales coming from these two items, Arreola says. Both are available served over steamed white rice in a bowl or, at a higher price point, as a “plate,” which includes a larger portion of meat served over steamed rice. Plates are also accompanied by a green salad with house dressing or homemade macaroni salad.

Teriyaki Madness

Cofounder/President: Rod Arreola

HQ: Las Vegas

Year Started: 2003

Annual Sales: $5.4 million

Total Units:7

Franchise units: 5

“Our menu has changed from the beginning,” Arreola says. “At first, all we served were plates, which have 8.5 ounces of meat. Then we added the bowls, which are smaller, with 6 ounces of meat. The bowls have been a hit.”

The scratch-made sauces at Teriyaki Madness include two teriyaki varieties. The thinner teriyaki sauce can be used as a condiment for everything on the menu, Arreola says, while a thicker teriyaki sauce is used primarily as a cooking glaze. There’s also a proprietary spicy sauce, stir-fry sauce, and salad dressing.

The menu also includes beef, pork, and tofu teriyaki, as well as Yakisoba noodles, Orange Chicken, and Chicken Katsu.

“Chicken Katsu is a Japanese breaded chicken that is deep fried,” Arreola says. “Orange Chicken is also deep fried and breaded. Kids love these dishes because they are like chicken fingers, and some of our locations get a lot of kids.”

Appetizers on the menu include shrimp tempura, egg rolls, crab rangoon, and gyoza, which is a Japanese dumpling similar to a Chinese potsticker.

Arreola says customers appreciate that Teriyaki Madness will customize their orders. Nutritional information for every menu item is available in stores and on the Teriyaki Madness website, as well. “Some people want just Chicken Teriyaki with all steamed vegetables and no sauce,” Arreola says. “Some want all spicy. And we have brown rice and all veggies for carb counters [and] tofu for vegetarians.”

Teriyaki Madness takes dietary requests seriously, Arreola says, as well as customer comments. “We’ve had limited-time offers that have been added to the menu permanently, like Orange Chicken,” he says. “We also added fried rice based on a customer comment.”

Arreola says Teriyaki Madness tried offering soup, but it wasn’t a hit in Las Vegas. “Maybe when we move into colder climates, we’ll try it again,” he says.

Teriyaki Madness stores range in size from 1,000 to 2,200 square feet. Arreola says the prototype store moving forward will be 1,800–2,000 square feet with 50–60 seats.

“Our décor is very fast casual, with both booths and tables, tile floors, and a lot of stainless steel,” he says.

In 2005, Teriyaki Madness started franchising with its second store. Three additional stores were added in 2006, as well as a few more in 2007. “Then we took a break and made sure all franchises stayed healthy during the economic downturn, and they did,” Arreola says. “In 2011, we tried to grow again through franchising, but we learned a lot during that break and decided to look for a partner to help us expand.”

The company has experienced all of its growth in and around Las Vegas. In 2012, however, the company partnered with the Denver-based franchise development company Franchise Sherpas Inc., with the goal of opening up franchising throughout the U.S.

Arreola says he aims for Teriyaki Madness to add seven units in 2013. In three years, he hopes to have 25 stores operating, with the goal of 100 stores in five years.

“We really wanted to grow in concentric circles around Las Vegas when we were doing it on our own, but now that we have the support of Franchise Sherpas, we can support franchising anywhere nationwide as long as a franchisee is qualified,” he says.

Just about the only place Arreola doesn’t see potential for Teriyaki Madness is back home in Seattle. “That market is saturated with teriyaki,” he says.

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Emerging Concepts, Growth, Story, Teriyaki Madness