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Smalls Sliders has hired a retail veteran as its first chief executive officer as the Baton Rouge-based cheeseburger chain looks to start franchising locations across the Gulf Coast.

Smalls Sliders has hired a retail veteran as its first chief executive officer as the Baton Rouge-based cheeseburger chain looks to start franchising locations across the Gulf Coast.

The company is set to launch its franchising program this month and eyeing locations across Louisiana in New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Houma/Thibodaux, Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria. Smalls Sliders is also looking for franchises in Houston and Beaumont, Texas; Jackson and Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Mobile, Alabama.

Joe Lewis, who recently served as chief executive officer for Mandeville-based Twist Brands, was named CEO to guide the effort. Twist Brands is a leader in arts and crafts franchising, with more than 380 locations of Painting with a Twist, Color Me Mine and Chesapeake Ceramics. Lewis has been CEO of Painting with a Twist since August 2018; in November 2020 the business formed a new holding company and acquired Color Me Mine and Chesapeake.

Lewis was an executive with Smoothie King for 11 years, a time when the chain went form 39 locations to more than 950. Before that, he served as chief executive officer of Sicily’s Italian Buffet for nearly 12 years.

Lewis said he was interested in joining Smalls Siders because of the leadership team in place. The company was founded by former New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees, Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar co-founder Brandon Landry, Jacob Dugas and Scott Fargason.

“The concept is very strong,” he said. “I’ve been in franchising many years and what makes a great franchise company being focused on the franchise owner. If they’re successful, it builds a stronger company.”

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Lewis said there are no targets set on how many Smalls Sliders locations the company wants franchisees to open. “Our main goal is to make sure we build up our system and platforms to support our franchise owners and make them successful,” he said. If the company does that and provides great customer service, that will determine how fast the business grows.

Smalls Sliders opened in September 2019. 

The company has one location on Nicholson Drive, across from Tigerland. Construction is set to begin on a second location in the Bluebonnet Village Shopping Center, in front of Rouses. It should open in the fall, Lewis said. 

Smalls Sliders specializes in cooked-to-order premium slider burgers. The restaurant concentrates in drive-thru and walk-up business and has outside seating only.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.