By Ingrid Howard
For former Ragin’ Cajuns wide receiver Matt Roth, a sports-themed restaurant started by two LSU walk-ons was the perfect opportunity to make some extra money.
He had been living in Lafayette, Louisiana, working at his environmental company that does oil and gas business. He was eating at Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar at least three or four times a week.
“We were at Walk-On’s eating lunch, and Landry, the owner of Walk-On’s walked in and said, ‘First of all, you need to get out of the oil and gas business and buy a franchise,’” Roth said.
He pulled together a group of other former football players, and now he co-owns the Birmingham area’s first Walk-Ons franchise in the Tattersall Park development in Hoover.
“I probably wouldn’t have bought any other franchise in the world,” Roth said. “It’s such a great combination. You’ve got South Louisiana food, you’ve got sports, all of the stars lined up for us.”
The Heart of a Walk-On
The Walk-On’s franchise started when founders Brandon Landry and Jack Warner were playing on the LSU basketball team. Both of them started out on the team as walk-ons, which are unrecruited athletes who have to work to earn their spots on the team.
The first Walk-Ons opened near the LSU football stadium in 2003, and now more than 100 locations are in the works across 15 states in the Southeast.
Roth’s team of franchisees and investors all come from a sports background, and Roth said they all have the heart of a walk-on.
Roth walked on at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. John Parker Wilson, an investor on Roth’s team, saw limited playing time during his first year in football at the University of Alabama.
“Most of us have been walk-ons at one point or another in certain points of our lives,” Roth said. “When someone tells you you’re not quite good enough, and so that’s when you’ve really got to grind and work a little harder just to keep up. That’s what the heart of a walk on is.”
Construction on the Hoover restaurant started in March, and Roth celebrated its grand opening in December. He said business has been off the charts since opening.
The menu at Walk-Ons is broken up into three categories. There are classic Southern bar items such as burgers, wings and mozzarella sticks. Then there are Southern Louisiana favorites and heart healthy items.
“You could come in here 20 days in a row and not eat the same thing twice,” Roth said.
In the center of the restaurant is a bar with a board of televisions that makes customers feel like they’re looking at a jumbotron.
Roth’s next project with Walk-Ons is in the works in the Stadium Trace development in Hoover. He’s also looking to open two more franchises in the Birmingham metro area. Visit walk-ons.com for more information.