and his cousins Rod Arreola, 29, and Alan Arreola, 27, had a taste for teriyaki. According to Garma, 24, there were already many teriyaki restaurants in their area-so they decided to import the idea to somewhere new: Las Vegas. "They have a lot of Mexican [food] and a lot of buffets," says Garma about Vegas, "but we wanted to [offer] something different."
Would that something different translate across the desert to the Vegas crowd? Jennifer Vessels, a certified management consultant with Next Step LLC in Redwood City, California, says that before you transfer any business idea to a new locale, you must do some serious market research. "You move slowly, and you walk before you run," she says. "Talk to people in those existing markets."
In this example, she notes that the culture in Las Vegas is very different from the one in Seattle, and it's important to tailor the idea to the specific market. If you're transporting a restaurant concept, for example, find out whether diners in your new city like low lighting and ambience or modern décor and upbeat music in the background. Those small, cultural differences can seriously alter how your business is welcomed.
"If people perceive they're being asked to enjoy something that worked someplace else [and] isn't designed for them, [or if] there's a perception that this is the Las Vegas version of this restaurant, [they won't] feel you're really meeting their needs," says Vessels.
Garma and his partners learned as much as they could about their target market in Las Vegas before opening Teriyaki Madness Inc. in August 2003. They visited the city to check out other restaurants in the area and "modified it for the local people [and not the tourists]," says Garma, who projects sales will hit $400,000 in their first full year of business. Many tourists come to Vegas to indulge in the hotel buffets, so the partners decided to focus instead on inspiring positive word-of-mouth among the locals.
They're still finding out what makes this community click, but Garma says initial reactions from Vegas dwellers have all been positive: "A lot of people get excited because we're bringing something new." The restaurant offers an alternative to the fresh-Mex, hamburger and other quick-serve establishments common to the area.
No matter where you decide to launch, good customer service is critical to finding success in any new community. "Make sure you're getting the highest quality [employees]," says Vessels. "Your first impression in a new location will be essential. The customers that come in will go out and tell people about it."