Chop Chop Rice Co. Carves Out Niche in Fast Casual Japanese
Chop Chop Rice Co. Carves Out Niche in Fast Casual Japanese

Chop Chop Co.’s Co-CEOs, David Smith and David Terry, Seek Solid Partnerships to Expand the Brand

Born just a day apart in 1973, David Smith and David Terry may have been destined to work together. Both attended West Texas A&M University and fell in love with Japanese steakhouses. But they didn’t meet until forty years later, when Smith, who was considering purchasing a local barbeque chain, sought Terry’s services as a small business coach. The two hit it off, and in 2014, they became partners of Chop Chop Rice Co., a fast casual Japanese restaurant concept that would begin franchising two years later.

Smith and Terry bring complementary backgrounds and skillsets to Chop Chop Rice Co. Smith was a 10-year Beef ‘O’ Brady’s franchisee and former operating partner of Jason’s Deli locations in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Terry is a lifelong entrepreneur, professional business coach and speaker and trainer. Terry and another partner opened Chop Chop Rice Co. in September 2004 in Amarillo Texas. In 2007, Terry bought the rights.

“My goal at age 30 was to own 10 percent of 10 companies. Chop Chop was my first investment. I continued working at my full-time job and hired a general manager to run the store,” said Terry, who now shares the title of Co-CEO of Chop Chop Rice Co. with Smith “From the beginning, Chop Chop has been a people business. David and I both come from backgrounds that are focused on people, and that’s why we work so well together.”

The focus on people serves as the foundation of Chop Chop Rice Co. and helped the restaurant open two additional locations in 2015 in Lubbock and Canyon, Texas, and a fourth location in northwest Lubbock. The 21-year-old general manager of the Lubbock store started as a cook, a testament to Smith and Terry’s commitment to its people.

“Chop Chop is simple, fresh and fast,” said Smith. “It’s simple to operate, the ingredients are fresh and the experience is fast. The fast casual niche has grown exponentially since Chop Chop was created in 2004, but we were fast casual before fast casual was cool. We saw an opportunity to deliver a product that turns a $28-average ticket between two people to the $13–14 range.”

According to QSR magazine, fast casual is the fastest growing foodservice segment, and with Chop Chop Rice Co. already ahead of the curve, Smith and Terry are eager to bring their niche concept to more customers through franchising.

“Franchising was a natural next step for us because it’s about supporting and training people to execute the systems and processes you’ve created to build your brand,” said Terry. “From 2007 until 2014, when I met David, I was focused on giving our customers a new experience with fast casual Asian cuisine. I got the business to a point where I wanted to take it to the next level and needed someone with operations experience to help. I reached out to David and the rest is history.”

In addition to its commitment to its people, what sets Chop Chop apart from other franchise concepts is the unique combination of Japanese steakhouse fare and a fast casual environment. And the executive duo has worked to make sure that concept is not only operationally sound, but scalable.

“From an operational standpoint, Chop Chop is a simple business to execute whether or not you have restaurant experience,” said Terry. “There are six meats, fried rice, steamed rice, udon noodles, vegetables and sauces and some very simple equipment. Our managers work less than 45 hours a week and we are closed on Sundays. Chop Chop offers a lot of flexibility, has a strong EBITDA and people love the brand.”

Chop Chop is targeting qualified franchisees in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Florida and other Gulf states.

“We are customer-service-centric in a serverless environment. We give a full-service experience with a fast casual price point. So far, we’re pleased with the response and have some great prospects in the pipeline,” said Smith. “We are different from burger and pizza concepts and offer an opportunity for a businessperson to get into a segment that’s not saturated. We’re looking forward to growing the brand with the right people.”