An ‘Itch’ for Success
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, Photos by Chanelle Photography
Thai Chili 2 Go finds spicy niche in Anthem
Akshat Sethi had an “itch.” The successful financier/entrepreneur wanted to try his hand at being a restaurateur.
Seven years ago, he created Thai Chili, a sit-down restaurant in the East Valley that boasts nearly 70 menu choices. It became a neighborhood favorite.
“My family approached me about doing something in the restaurant (industry),” says Sethi, who moved here from New Delhi, India, at age 23. “My background is in financial services and I’m still invested in that.
“I concurred, and I love it.”
The real boom came with Thai Chili 2 Go, a chain of fast-casual restaurants that simplifies the Asian country’s cuisine. Sethi opened a Thai Chili 2 Go in Anthem earlier this year.
“It’s the latest and newest one,” he says. “Our goal was to bring the food – our specialties are Thai curries and rice and noodle items – to the neighborhood and surrounding areas. It’s been well received.”
Menu choices include starters such as spring rolls, dumplings and two varieties of Thai hot and sour soup. There are a variety of familiar and traditional main entrée dishes including pad prig pao, spicy eggplant, red curry, panang curry, drunken noodles and Thai chow mein.
“We pulled all the data for five years of us doing the main restaurant,” Sethi says. “We wanted to know how we could make it simpler. I go to Chipotle a lot. The speed of service gravitated me toward the quick-serve model.”
Guests order at the counter, but the food is brought to the table in “real bowls” and silverware, he says, to make the ambiance a little more welcoming. Crispy and warm, Thai spring rolls are filled with ground chicken, glass noodles and vegetables. For the entrees, the bowls are large and filled to the brim with vegetables, meat (if requested) and other ingredients. Rice is served on the side.
The Thai chow mein bowl overflows with egg noodles stir-fried with yellow onions, bell peppers, carrots, bean sprouts and green onions in Thai Chili’s secret sauce.
The foundation, he says, is authentic ingredients. Sethi doesn’t short-change when it comes to recipes. Everything is 100 percent Thai. Non-GMO tofu and non-GMO rice bran is used, instead of canola or soybean oil.
“Everything is fresh to order,” he says. “The only way to give you good food is to cook it fresh. You want pad Thai with chicken, spicy hot? We cook it for you in front of you. The kitchen is open.”
Anthem’s Thai Chili 2 Go caters to professionals and residents.
“All the professionals who are busy want something that is fresh and quick and healthy to go,” Sethi says. “They can come to our location and enjoy fresh Thai food in a quick-serve setting. We partner with Uber and Grub Hub, too.”
Thai Chili 2 Go also offers an advance-order mobile app, and online orders with “skip the line” options.
“It’s extremely challenging to keep innovating and ahead of the curve and making sure we’re learning from mistakes and making things happen in the right direction,” he says.
“Retail is all about detail. I pay extreme attention to detail. Customer service is my forte. The restaurant business just happened, but I’m loving it and I’m expanding rapidly.”
Up next are Thai Chili 2 Go in the Biltmore area as well as near the Loop 101 and Elliot Road.
While the expansion is going well, Sethi acknowledges sometimes the service is slow.
“This one has a condensed menu,” he says. “One of the biggest complaints I hear from the clientele is for a to-go restaurant we’re a little slow. Sometimes there’s a 45-minute wait.
“I totally agree with the clients. I encourage them to place their orders online and skip the line to navigate the wait time. Some of the items are slowing down our pace. Now the menu is on lockdown and ticket times are going down. We’ll do monthly specials, like a tap at a taphouse. The entrees will rotate.”