How This Franchise Founder Scored Big Success By Going Smaller Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux Founder Brandon Landry discusses the intersection of sports and hospitality, and creating Smalls Sliders.

By Shawn P. Walchef

Key Takeaways

  • Walk-Ons began as an idea between Brandon Landry and his business partner (and teammate) Jack Warner while they were walk-on athletes at Louisiana State University.
  • Brandon Landry saw a need for potential franchisees who weren’t in a position to operate a big Walk-On's restaurant. With that in mind, his team created Smalls Sliders, a focused QSR operation with an efficient menu and model.
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Brandon Landry loves basketball, but he was built for business.

The co-founder of Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux brings forward-thinking and Southern hospitality to his endeavors — whether that's the popular sports concept, his fine dining Supper Club, or the fast-growing QSR Smalls Sliders.

"I grew up a sugarcane farmer's son in south Louisiana. I didn't grow up in the hospitality business," Brandon said about his upbringing before entering the restaurant industry.

Still "Southern hospitality" was part of his life. "It goes back to where time moved a little bit slower, and people just enjoyed the moment, they enjoyed the company," he says. "Our purpose at Walk-On's has always been to bring people together."

Origin of an idea

Walk-On's story began when founders Brandon Landry and Jack Warner were both Louisiana State University basketball team "walk-ons" around the turn of the millennium — determined to prove their worth on the team despite not being the star players. "I realized pretty early on in my career that I wasn't going to play in the NBA," said Brandon Landry to Shawn Walchef of Cali BBQ Media. "I played seven minutes my senior year. If you know anything about basketball, that's not a whole hell of a lot."

In 2003, the teammates learned they could team up for something bigger. Brandon and Jack became business partners when they opened the first Walk-On's next to Tiger Stadium at their alma mater LSU.

Related: This Founder Walked-On to a Top College Basketball Team in the '90s. Today, He and Drew Brees Are Bringing the 'Walk-On Mentality' to Franchising.

Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux has been big from the beginning. The family-friendly sports bar and cajun cuisine concept has impressed culinary fans and sports fans for more than 20 years. ESPN even called Walk-On's the best Sports Bar in America.

With large locations and lots of menu items — not to mention the impressive interior design — Walk-On's franchises are a big undertaking that have big rewards.

Walk-On's Sports restaurants grossed an average of $4.8 million in revenue in 2022. In 2023, 20 Walk-On's were opened, which was five more than the year before.

It's a real entrepreneur success story. But even with Walk-On's growth, Brandon Landry knew he could create a franchise restaurant business that was easier to enter and simpler to scale.

Enter Smalls Sliders.

Bringing Smalls Burgers to a big stage

Brandon Landry has always been a fan of sliders, those tiny burgers that people crave. "I grew up a cheeseburger kid," he said. Despite its popularity in certain circles, the cheeseburger slider hasn't quite taken off in the way Brandon believes it can.

Noticing what friend Todd Graves has achieved with the popular Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers led Brandon to take his shot at mastering the cheeseburger slider at a quick-service restaurant.

Related: See the latest Franchise 500 rankings

"I just saw what he did with one product, doing it better than anybody else in the world," he said about Todd Graves and Raising Cane's business model. "And really putting everything — all focus, all attention — on that and a great culture."

Now Brandon Landry wants to bring his "Smalls" burgers to a big stage.

The Atlanta-based chain encourages people to #slidethru their fast drive-thru lanes or "camp out at our Can." The Can is a clever name for the prefabricated modular Smalls Sliders building that is not only affordable but easy to set up.

The 750-square-foot "Can" dining room-free design can be set up at a prepared site in only 30 minutes. It costs around $1.5 million to open a Smalls Sliders Can.

Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees is co-owner of Smalls Sliders as well as a partner at Walk-On's Sports restaurant.

"There's nobody in the space that is hand-patting and cooking to order. Just putting everything into the best cheeseburger slider there is," Brandon said about the ways that Smalls Sliders is differentiating itself from the slider competition.

Because of its fast expansion and innovative operation, the QSR brand has been featured as a Breakout Brand by Nation's Restaurant News, as well as a Top New Franchise by Entrepreneur magazine.

"If you're going to do one thing, it better be damn good," Brandon Landry said.

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Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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