News on Smalls Sliders’ expansion, downtown tourism and The Iron Fork opening

Smalls Sliders plans regional expansion

Smalls Sliders, the cheeseburger drive-thru concept backed by Walk-On’s founder Brandon Landry and former Saints quarterback Drew Brees, is prepping to launch a franchise program across the Gulf Coast region, according to a company announcement.

The company is targeting 12 markets while also putting out feelers for potential franchisee applicants. The Gulf South markets include: Alexandria, Beaumont, Hattiesburg, Houma/Thibodeaux, Houston, Jackson, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Mobile, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport.

Smalls Sliders opened in Baton Rouge in 2019 as a hyper-focused restaurant concept with a limited menu that was constructed out of repurposed shipping containers. As part of its franchising push, Joe Lewis takes over as the brand’s first CEO. Lewis, with a background in franchising, most recently served as CEO of Twist Brands, the company behind the Painting With a Twist entertainment arts studios. Twist Brands has more than 380 locations across the country.  See the announcement.

Tourism and hospitality numbers increasing downtown

The downtown tourism and hospitality industry is getting back to normal, with the number of hotel visitors even above that of 2019, according to Karron Alford, director of marketing and technology and Visit Baton Rouge. Downtown hotels are seeing 53.6% average occupancy in 2021 compared to 52.3% average occupancy in 2019, Alford says.

Another riverboat cruise will be stopping in Baton Rouge in the fall, increasing the total to five. “This is fantastic because the people on the boats support our attractions,” Alford says. “They support our restaurants and get downtown and take tours. They also use our companies to supply their boats.”

After seeing an uptick in tourists over the Fourth of July weekend, Alford says, events like the Marucci World Series, festival season and the return of Live After Five are also expected to bring more visitors. Read the full story.

The Iron Fork pushes back opening date to August

The Iron Fork, a restaurant, meat market and bar moving into Beau de Chene Shopping Center on Perkins Road, has pushed back its opening date to mid-August.

The Iron Fork will specialize in to-go lunches, Cajun-style food and specialty meats. It will be the eighth concept to occupy the space in 11 years. Calendar’s closed its doors there in 2010, and since then, the building has housed restaurants including Frankie Marcello’s, Lasseigne’s American Grill, Sake Sushi, Sushi Poke and King Crab.

As of March, the restaurant was slated to open in late April, but has since hit a couple of snags, co-owner Jacqueline Cummings says, including cost of supplies and hiring. Cummings thinks it will be easier to find people to work at The Iron Fork by mid-August. The restaurant, which has a sign up, is still waiting on one more permit. These stories originally appeared in Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.

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