New Smalls Sliders CEO Maria Rivera previously served as Krispy Kreme’s U.S. president.
Maria Rivera joined Smalls Sliders as CEO in late November, just ahead of the brand’s sixth opening in Slidell, Louisiana.
It was a debut that exceeded expectations, with well over $105,000 in sliders sold over a week’s time. So you could say her tenure is off to a good start.
“We are moving fast and taking stock of the capabilities that we have and the things that we need to do to ensure that we can properly scale the brand, which is very much the collective action from both our investors and the ownership group,” Rivera says.
Smalls Sliders, featured on QSR’s annual 40/40 List for 2022, first opened in 2019 and is owned by Walk-On’s CEO Brandon Landry and former NFL great Drew Brees. Earlier this year, the budding fast casual secured an investment from 10 Point Capital, the same private equity firm that’s fueled growth at Slim Chickens, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, and Walk-On’s.
Rivera says it’s a brand that requires one to bring their “whole self to the table” in terms of community, values, and culture. It’s high praise for the young chain, especially coming from a CEO that’s previously held executive roles at Krispy Kreme, Logan’s Roadhouse, TGI Fridays, and Darden.
To her, Smalls’ biggest strength is its sliders, a product that she believes can carry weight locally, nationally, and globally. The menu is easy to navigate; customers can pair one, two, three, or four sliders with fries and a drink, or go for party packs of 25, 50, and 100, to create a tailgating atmosphere. All of these meals are prepped in a roughly 800-square-foot bright orange shipping container that Rivera fondly refers to as “the can.” The workers inside these converted containers represent the chain’s other strength. Rivera says Smalls attracts people “from all walks of life that are high energy and that really believe in what we do both at the franchise level and also at the can level.”
From an opportunity standpoint, Smalls is working to build its infrastructure. The company has leveraged Walk-On’s purchasing power to prevent interruptions during volatile times, but the chain is in the process of establishing its own distribution and supply network. That involves bringing in a capable team that can help Smalls source nationally.