When a Denver franchisee told Katy Malaniak, Quaker Steak & Lube’s senior director of food & beverage, “We really need to do something with queso,” she jumped on the idea for The Lube’s fall LTOs. “We had worked with vendor partner Custom Foods out of Knoxville, Tennessee, to develop a proprietary queso product, but it was sitting on the shelf for over a year waiting for the right “something,” she says. Appetizers became the “something”—they would complement the concept’s signature Lube Tubes of beer and tie in with football season, plus “it had been awhile since we introduced new appetizers,” Malaniak notes.
What goes with queso?
The white queso, spiked with cilantro, garlic and jalapeño, has a slight kick. Custom Foods had initially worked up ideas, some of which QS&L’s menu committee revisited and tweaked. The goal was to use the queso in several items, including nachos—something the team had been playing around with—and sliders—an on-trend appetizer missing from the menu.
Those that didn’t make the cut?
A flatbread application didn’t work; it tasted too watered down. Ditto for a Sloppy Joe and a queso dip mixed with pico de gallo that “lost its identity.”
A slider that goes down easy
“We worked backwards and forward to get the BBQ Pork Sliders just right,” says Malaniak. First decision: portion size; should there be two, three or four in an appetizer serving? Three it was—a number perfect for sharing or one hungry customer. Sliced jalapeños went on top; shredded lettuce and chopped tomato on the side. Price: $7.99. The sliders work on many levels:
- Operational efficiency: Executed without a lot of pain in the kitchen. Pulled pork was already in the system, as was the BBQ sauce.
- Equipment adaptability: The pork could be heated on the flat top, which every location has; the queso held up well in steam tables.
- Protein diversity: Pork offers a meat choice other than chicken and burgers.
Texas Holdem BBQ Pork Sliders is the name Malaniak created for the item—a catchy name she thinks will attract guests, especially with The Lube’s plans to expand into Texas. “The sliders and nachos also have the ability to grow a late-night program for us—something to go with our signature drinks and boost sales when the kitchen slows down.”