As he moves Umami forward, he wants to keep each restaurant unique, so no one restaurant looks the same or has the same menu. The nonconformist strategy is a reaction to burger chains such as Fuddruckers and Johnny Rockets, which Fleischman considers outdated and tired.
"People are bored of those concepts," he says. "I was focused on doing something new and exciting."
And the recession certainly didn't hurt. Umami was doing brisk business by December 2010, when GQ magazine named it burger of the year, partly because the recession was making diners look for less expensive options for a night on the town. Soon after, the article was featured on the front page of Yahoo, which led to 200-million hits on the Umami Burger website in one day.