Restaurant chain cites homelessness for downtown closure The Denver Post

Despite its name, Teriyaki Madness was tired of the chaos surrounding its location near Union Station.

The Denver-based fast-casual Asian chain, which serves rice bowls with proteins and vegetables, closed its only corporate-owned store at 1920 17th St. in downtown Denver in June. It opened in 2019.

“Things like protests and lack of office traffic really caused a lot of business disruption,” said CEO Michael Haith. “The homeless issue down in that area was unsafe. We had a terrible time operating the restaurant, and we didn’t see any end in sight. I will not mince words.”

Teriyaki Madness’ 2,400-square-foot restaurant was also a training space for employees, an education center for national franchisees and a research-and-development facility to test out new menu items.

Haith said the company negotiated a deal with the landlord to get out of the lease, which still had years left.

“I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of effort to control or protect the businesses down there,” Haith said of the effect of homelessness on his business. “As a corporate location, our main goal wasn’t necessarily profitability. It was a pilot shop, it was a training shop, it was an exposure-to-market shop, and we just decided to focus our efforts elsewhere.”

The CEO said that Teriyaki Madness is in negotiations to build another corporate location in Denver, although he declined to disclose where. For now, the company is training franchisees and staff out of its Wheat Ridge location.

Teriyaki Madness has more than 100 locations in 29 states, as well as a handful in Mexico and Canada. In Colorado, there are nine franchise locations along the Front Range. Six more are expected to open by mid-2022.

The chain got its start in Las Vegas in 2003 and moved its headquarters to Denver in 2014. Haith first invested because he liked the food, then bought the company from the founder in 2016.

Despite the corporate store closure, said the company thrived throughout the pandemic thanks to an app that allowed for easy curbside pickup, third-party delivery services and food that travels well. He added that same store sales growth is up 40 percent over the last five quarters. The only other location that permanently closed was in downtown Chicago, for similar reasons to the one in downtown Denver, Haith said.

“We do really well in the suburbs and strip malls,” Haith said. “Urban environments are just a whole different business model, which was one of the biggest things we learned from our first pandemic.”

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