Do one thing, and be the best at it.

That's the idea that drives Smalls Sliders, which serves little specialty cheeseburgers called sliders out of the eatery made of bright orange and black double-decker shipping containers at 4343 Nicholson Drive.

You can get a single, 1.8-ounce patty burger topped with cheese, a pickle and special sauce developed by chef John Folse, or combos of one, two, three or four sliders with sides of seasoned waffle fries and a drink. The more ambitious can supersize up to the double meat, known as Biggie Smalls.

The burgers are served in less than two minutes on buns made in Lafayette.

There's also chocolate and vanilla milkshakes, along with Coke-flavored and cherry Icees.

And that pretty much covers the pretty simple menu.

"That's our motto, 'We keep it simple,'" said Jacob Dugas, chief operating officer of the Baton Rouge-based business.

Dugas co-founded the restaurant with his uncle and Walk-On's founder Brandon Landry. It's also backed by former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

"Brandon and I are very close in age, and he came to me and said, 'Man, I have this idea about doing a slider in a quick-service concept,'" Dugas said. "You know, we were stealing a page out of all the brands that are doing the simplified menu now, so we decided to do one thing and do it really, really well."

In offering only sliders, Dugas and Landry decided the focus would be on their workers and their face-to-face customer service.

"So, a lot of people have asked, 'Are you worried about people copying you?'" Dugas said. "No, because I know they can't duplicate our squad. They really can't. That's what we stand on. Anyone can try and replicate our burgers or fries, but they won't replicate our people and our processes and our culture. That's what we stand on, and we want to be the best."

The shipping containers have become a trademark of sorts for the restaurant.

"We had a cool design in mind with the shipping containers when we had the first conversation about this in 2018," Dugas said. "We had talked about a few different concepts, and I was willing to do whatever it took."

Where To Go, What To Eat

Each week we'll highlights the best eats and events in metro Baton Rouge. Sign up today.

Dugas was managing finances for the Jacobs Engineering Group in Baton Rouge at the time and was familiar with working in management.

"I dabbled in the food industry a little bit when I was in college, and I always knew I wanted to do something on my own," he said.

Smalls Sliders opened in 2019 with drive-thru and walk-up service.

Plans are to open a second location in December in the Bluebonnet Village Shopping Center, 7610 Bluebonnet Blvd., and then expand to 19 more locations, some in Mississippi.

"We have the shipping container design prefabbed off-site," Dugas said. "Everything inside the building, including our hoods, coolers, freezers and sinks, is already installed, and when it comes to the site, the building is set down. We do utility tie-ins, finish up the parking lot, and we're open for business, so opening is a lot quicker."

Not all of the coming restaurants will be identical.

"We're always looking for ways to improve on what we've done before," said Katherine LeBlanc, chief marketing officer. "If we see a way to improve on the design, we'll do it. But all the restaurants will have a drive-thru and the turf dining area. The turf has become a branding aspect for us."

While the restaurant appears to be growing smoothly, there were some bumps in the beginning.

The pandemic hit only a few months after Smalls Sliders opened, and, when LSU closed, its customers base disappeared.

The Smalls Sliders food truck hit the road.

"We were out on the streets four or five days a week, going to neighborhoods, local hospitals to feed the frontline workers and just getting the brand out there," Dugas said. "We were perfecting the product, because we knew we have a really good product, and we just wanted people to taste it."

It worked.

"All of a sudden, really in about August of 2020, we started seeing the fruits of that labor come to the drive-thru," Dugas said. "We started seeing faces of people from Gonzales that we'd been feeding in Gonzales. They were driving all the way over here. And it's just gotten better ever since."


Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com