Savvy Sliders is making a name for itself with fresh, never frozen all-beef sliders, hand-breaded chicken strips and hand-spun milkshakes. Company officials say the brand could reach 400 to 500 units within the next five years.
Sliders have become big business in the QSR industry, with new players entering the market on a regular basis.
One recent brand is set to change the face of the game with gourmet offerings created to set it apart from others on the scene.
Savvy Sliders started as a co-branding unit in 2018 with sister brand Happy’s Pizza inside the pizzeria in Commerce, Michigan. It was originally designed to draw customers to the pizza brand and be a source for those who didn’t want to order pizza. It has since developed into a 36-unit company of its own.
Mark Wolok, vice president of business development for Savvy Sliders, said there were originally three or four co-branded units with Happy’s Pizza before Savvy Sliders branched out on its own. The brand offers free-standing drive-thru locations in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Florida and Texas. The latest store recently opened in San Antonio.
There are currently 23 units in development as well.
On the menu
Wolok said the brand has revolutionized sliders using all-fresh, never frozen beef. “It’s the first of it’s kind,” he said. “It’s an all-fresh Angus beef burger, larger than your traditional slider. It’s bigger, bolder and better. Our slogan is ‘More 2 Love.'”
The slider combos come with two oversized sliders, and they offer hand-spun custard shakes as well. The combos don’t come in bags – rather, they use upscale boxes for better presentation, quality and sturdiness.
But sliders aren’t the only top sellers. “Our chicken fingers are the best, period,” Wolok said. “We hand-batter them right on site. We marinate them on site. They’re made fresh to order. People tell us our chicken fingers are the best they’ve ever had out of every chain they’ve ever eaten at.”
Wolok said the brand’s catering sets Savvy Sliders apart from its competitors. Sliders come in 24 and 48 packs which are perfect for meetings and businesses looking for an alternate to the usual subs and pizza.
“The ordering of catering is massive and exploding,” Wolok said. “It’s the quality of our food. It’s something different … and our sliders are different than the traditional sliders that people are used to. These are more gourmet … they’re very hearty and larger. People love the food. And once they have it once, they become addicted and start coming back on a regular basis. … We’ve set ourselves up to be a step ahead of everybody” in the QSR segment.
All of the Savvy Sliders stores are franchise-owned and -operated, including some that are open 24/7. There’s an owner/operator who must be present on site, go through the brand’s extensive training and must be local to the community, preferably living no farther than 30 to 45 minutes away from the location.
Service must live up to the high quality of the food, and having owner/operators on site ensures they have a vested interest in Savvy Sliders’ business. “It provides customer satisfaction. It ensures the quality of our food, and it creates an experience for the customer knowing that if there’s a problem, they can speak to somebody and handle it right on site,” Wolok said. “Or, if there’s a catering request, there’s an owner/operator there versus it being employee ran, which does not ensure the service. We make sure that our service is 100% guaranteed.”
Indeed, service is just as important as the food for which Savvy Sliders is known. It’s important for the brand’s growth, Wolok explained, and to keep the brand strong.
“We’re not willing to jeopardize our brand and our quality and our service to have non-owner/operators running our locations,” he added.
When QSRweb spoke to Wolok for this interview, he was on site for the opening of the San Antonio Savvy Sliders. He estimated there were 30 cars at the drive thru and another 15 people in line at the window. He said the Savvy Sliders operations team was on hand for the opening, ensuring the store’s opening day ran smoothly. First impressions are important, after all.
“Not only are we here for the opening, we’re here before the opening to complete training, make sure our staff is ready, make sure the owner/operator is prepared, and then we’re here to make sure that the store is operating to our requirements,” Wolok said.
Why so much corporate attention on one store? Wolok said franchisees are coming not only for the brand but also for the support that many franchisees lack in other concepts.
To maintain consistency across the brand, Savvy Sliders has built solid relationships with its suppliers. The brand also has a food operations team that is constantly making sure that the quality of the food and the service is tops.
Wolok said Savvy Sliders’ biggest challenge is handling the volume, “and we’re making sure that we can,” he added. “We get employees teaming up and putting forth a bigger workforce, and making sure our proper training is in place and our owner/operators are on site and that team’s prepared to handle very, very high-volume stores, because that’s what we do.
“Our employees enjoy working with us. They like working in a happy atmosphere.”
Wolok said Savvy Sliders plans to have 400 to 500 stores within the next four to five years. He expects 100 units by the end of 2024. That number doesn’t scare Wolok, who says its feasible with the brand’s ops team and owner/operators.
“We have the workforce. We have the team. We have franchisees who are waiting and we’re going through our system of vetting them. Everything’s in place to have this growth potential,” he said. “We’re going to be opening all throughout the United States, and the key for us is when we have that owner/operator who fits our criteria, then that makes us look for the locations and move forward. And we have a tremendous amount of them that we have screened and are prepared and ready to handle our brand.”
Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the site editor for PizzaMarketplace.com and QSRweb.com. She has more than 20 years’ experience covering food, people and places.
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years’ experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size business in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning, and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living.