A self-described serial entrepreneur, Scott Slater, founder of seven-unit Slater’s 50/50 known for its half-bacon-half-beef burgers, was ready for a new concept—specifically, an outlet for unconventional food ideas. So he built S&M (provocatively named after a Rihanna song), which has been slinging exotic meats and savory cocktails to mustached millennials in University Heights, Calif., since November.
He targeted the progressive San Diego area full of “hipsters who search for something cool,” he says. “The new generation of diners doesn’t eat because they’re hungry,” says Slater, just 32 himself. “They go out for the complete experience.”
His part fast-casual, part casual dining-retail hybrid shakes up traditional quick service and throws in dishes such as beaver tacos and antelope andouille. Generally, guests start by ordering from a digital menu board above the “concierge desk.” Then, diners are handed four cards that they carry to communal tables in the dining area. It’s these color-coded cards that alert servers, called “experts,” to diners’ needs: The white Welcome card is a signal for greetings; after that, servers come over to refill drinks and take additional orders when they see the teal Service card, bug off when they see the Scram card, and bring the bill, which averages around $20 for dinner, when they see the Check card. To make the process seamless, diners open a tab when they place their initial order at the concierge desk.
There’s another entrance that leads into a retail space where housemade sausages and bacon, private-label sauces and other provisions are sold. This also serves as a pickup area for to-go orders. Scott will work on an app next, for takeout business.
Scott Slater, S&M’s founder on his new-wave brands
Why a new concept?
Slater’s is 6,000 square feet I have to fill every day. Burgers of the month, like a kangaroo burger, are my creative outlet, but the top sellers are still the mainstream ones. The cockamamie ones don’t have longevity; they’re better as an LTO.
How does S&M tie into Slater’s 50/50?
One main goal is to make bacon out of here that we could eventually package and sell [in bulk]. As it grows, we’d need a plant off-site for branded bacon, and then Slater’s could take advantage of that bacon.
Our overall company goal is national domination. We’ll expand [S&M], if there’s enough demand. Ideally, whatever region Slater’s goes to, S&M will follow.