Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.
Popular local restaurant chain SkinnyFats marked its fifth anniversary on Sunday, and the team has plenty to celebrate. After starting in a small industrial park on Dean Martin Drive, the concept of offering both a “happy menu” of decadent choices and a “healthy menu” on which all of the options are 600 calories or less has proven so successful they now operate four locations throughout the valley. And the company is still growing.
Owner and founder Reed Slobusky is preparing to take the SkinnyFats concept into Utah and Texas. The original location is in the midst of a three-phase renovation that will more than double its size. The company also has secured an adjoining space to house a brewpub concept, which they’re hoping to open in time for the launch of football at the nearby Raiders Stadium. And plans are in the works to take a SkinnyFats line of spiced ketchups and mustards, currently available through Amazon, to grocery stores nationwide.
We spoke to Slobusky recently about how it all came about.
Review-Journal: So what prompted you to open SkinnyFats?
Slobusky: My office was in the next building over. At the time we were running the World Series of Beer Pong out of there. And just pure dumb luck — the deli that was in the same parking lot went out of business. I came back the day after Christmas and tried to get into the deli to get my iced tea. (The sign) said they were open at 11, (but) they did not open at 11. They did not open at 12. They didn’t ever open again. And I started trying to contact the landlord, basically that day, to figure out what was going on, and walked into a pretty crazy, nothing lease.
The World Series of Beer Pong — so were you in the sports and entertainment business?
I did real estate back before the crash … caught all the good boom years right after college and got really lucky with that. But after I kind of lost everything and had to start over, I dabbled a little in vacation rental properties. And from that I met some big Italian poker players that I became friends with. I kind of took people out, did whatever you do to make a buck while I was figuring it out, and then just started making decent money from that so I could at least take a run at bootstrapping something else.
How did you come up with the SkinnyFats concept?
Josh (Green, one of two original chefs) would come in to help write the menu. And he’d just been cooking for a basketball player, Jermaine O’Neal, as a private chef — so healthy food, but athlete healthy food. And Josh had been involved with Greens and Proteins before that. So he was in that mindset.
I was thinking that we’re in an industrial area. And if you look around there are guys bending metal and fixing cars — not necessarily your typical healthy food demographic. So my thoughts were more on doing a dead-to-rights sandwich shop that had really good food, and I could get my iced tea. And we kind of went back and forth on it and said ‘What if we did both?’
The first (name) I thought of was SkinnyFats. I tried to buy the domain, and it had been owned for like nine years, but it happened to be expiring like a week from then. And the idea was if we got the domain we were gonna call it SkinnyFats. And if we didn’t, we weren’t. It might have been Dean Martin Deli, that was another working name, or just something simple. But we got the domain.
You were in an industrial park, without a lot of residences nearby, right around the corner from the old Vegas Seven magazine offices, down the street from Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, and close to Crazy Horse 3. How did that shape your early clientele?
It definitely didn’t hurt. Vegas Seven obviously had a lot of influential people there. Just them coming in as customers was very helpful early on, and naturally they’re people who are talking to other people. As far as the strippers, we used to deliver a lot to Crazy Horse. But we had to stop sending female delivery drivers over there.
And I’ll tell you what, we delivered anywhere. We did not have a delivery radius. And that really helped us cast a much bigger net than what we would have just from people coming here. I took something to Peccole Ranch one night. And “Pawn Stars,” when they were filming, would order from us twice a week.
How did you get into the condiment business?
When we first opened, Heinz had just come out with jalapeno ketchup and balsamic ketchup, before it went on any grocery store shelves. So on all of our little tables in here, we had Heinz Jalapeno and Heinz Balsamic. And the customers really liked it. And then six months in they decided they were no longer going to sell it in glass bottles, and switched to an upside down squeeze bottle, which was just as far off-brand as we could be. It wouldn’t look good on a table, and just wouldn’t fit. So we started looking for other options.
I found another company that was doing private labels. And that was our ketchup for (a while). Then they kept changing bottles. They would be two weeks late on a shipment and I’d run out of ketchup. And eventually they went from a factory in Costa Rica to a factory in Columbia, and the product was not the same. So I just found the factory in Costa Rica, went down, met with them, took a couple of the chefs down with me and formulated our own recipes. So we’ve formed a relationship with them and have a relationship for North America. We’re trying to wrap up a deal with Albertson’s right now for Albertson’s and Safeway.
■ Currently obsessed with?
My new Peloton Cycle. I get to ride a bike all over the world without leaving the house.
■ Place you always take visitors?
A Golden Knights game if one is scheduled, or The Sand Dollar Lounge.
■ Personal motto:
Impossible is nothing.
■ Favorite movie?
“The Shawshank Redemption”
■ Secret talent?
I have trouble remembering people’s names, but can remember how many letters are in them, then work my way through the alphabet until I figure it out, with about a 99 percent rate of success.
■ What alternate occupation would you have pursued?
Contact Al Mancini at amancini @reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.