On the ever-growing list of dining options on the Northside, Roasters restaurant has survived – and thrived – for nearly 30 years by offering customers a consistent menu of homemade food and exceptional service.
“We have a very loyal following of customers that we know, and know what they want as soon as they sit down,” said Steven Leslie, president and founder of Roasters. “They become part of our family just like my staff.”
Leslie, who lives in Milton, opened the first Roasters location in Lenox mall in 1989, followed by a Sandy Springs location in 2004 and the third restaurant in Alpharetta off Windward Parkway in 2008.
Many of the menu items have remained the same since opening day, focused primarily around the big three: rotisserie chicken, barbecue baby back ribs and chicken fingers. But if those choices don’t tempt you, Roasters also has fish tacos, meat loaf and beef brisket on its extensive menu.
New additions over the years include 15 new sides and salads to round out the menu, including sweet potato souffle, fried green tomatoes and cornbread stuffing.
“We are always trying to improve our recipes and quality,” Leslie said. “[But] we have some signature soups that could never go away – white chicken chili and our black bean soup.”
Leslie realized early on the need to have a three-pronged approach for a restaurant to succeed in an industry with a high failure rate.
“[Our success depends on] a casual home-style concept, consistent service and food quality at a reasonable value,” Leslie explained. “You have to have all three because I did open locations that did not work out because [elements were missing].”
At the end of the day, he said the staff strives to treat every guest as if they were coming over to their own homes for dinner.
Leslie’s background runs deep in the food business, starting as a 14-year-old making pizzas at a restaurant in Sandy Springs. From there, he trained under “very good chefs” throughout high school, learning the ins and outs of running a successful restaurant.
“The food industry is in my blood,” said Leslie, who went on to management with Houlihans, Fuddruckers and Hooters, before setting off on his own with Roasters.
Leslie is the president of the Roasters chain, but also maintains direct control of all daily operations to ensure the quality is maintained across all three locations. Equally important to him is involvement with many of the local high schools and community groups.
“We have been a big supporter of Cambridge, Milton and Alpharetta high school sports programs,” Leslie said. “We also have partner nights with a lot of middle and elementary schools where we donate a percentage of sales back to the PTA.”
“I strongly believe you have to give back to the community that supports you.”
Looking forward, Leslie said he currently has three very successful locations but is not opposed to expanding if the right opportunity is there.
“I will only open another Roasters if I think it is a great location,” Leslie said. “We should be around for another 25 years at least.”