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The concept: The Biscuit Bar
The details: A two-unit fast-casual biscuit concept based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with four more executed leases on units slated to open later this year and more Texas expansion planned for 2020. The Biscuit Bar’s first location opened in April 2018. A second store, near the campus of Southern Methodist University, opened last May. The couple look for leases in mixed-use developments that are 2,500-3,000 square feet, with 140 to 160 seats. The concept is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night, and has a full bar.
The backstory: Wife-and-husband co-owners Janie and Jake Burkett have a background in real estate and venture capital, respectively. In 2016, Janie gave birth to twins. Not long after, one of the babies died after contracting an infection. Surrounded by family, the couple found solace in comfort food. Around the holidays that year, they hosted a “biscuit bar” with fresh-baked biscuits and a variety of toppings. “We were like, ‘Man, this is so good, we wish we could go somewhere and buy this so I wouldn’t have to dirty my kitchen up,’” Janie says. “My husband said, ‘I bet you can make a biscuit cheaper than you can make a bun.’” That’s when the couple decided on their new business venture. The restaurant’s best-selling sandwich is the same one the family made together at their first biscuit bar: The Hoss, named after Janie’s father, topped with fried chicken, sausage gravy, Jack cheese, honey butter and bacon.
Why it’s worth watching: Despite not having a restaurant background, the Burketts have the one-two punch of real estate and investment know-how. They’re eyeing college campuses for future Biscuit Bars, especially to draw that late-night crowd. Since opening their two units, business has been booming, they say, with stores selling about 3,500 biscuits per week. Plus, concepts focused on biscuits and other Southern comfort foods are gaining momentum, with chains such as Maple Street Biscuit Co. and The Flying Biscuit Cafe making their way onto Restaurant Business’2019 Future 50 list of fast-growing small chains.
Photograph courtesy of The Biscuit Bar
HERE ARE FIVE GROWTH-MINDED QUESTIONS WITH THE BISCUIT BAR CO-FOUNDERS JANIE AND JAKE BURKETT:
Why are biscuits seeing an uptick in popularity right now?
Jake: The consumer is really wanting convenience. And they’re also wanting speed. You have these concepts that are more specialized to a food category. You see burgers and tacos and poke. … People are noticing that biscuits are an amazing vehicle. Anything you can do on a bun or roll, you can do on a biscuit. It’s becoming a market driven by speed, convenience and price.
Janie: We usually do a featured biscuit of the month. We’ve done a chicken Parmesan biscuit. Right now, it’s brisket on a biscuit.
Prospective employees can apply for a job with your concept via text. How else are you addressing the current labor shortage?
Janie: We have health benefits we offer to every employee, no matter how many hours they work, on their very first day. … After 90 days, we start subsidizing it.
Jake: We really try to make things fun and make it an environment they want to be a part of. They can be themselves. A lot of the staff becomes friends with each other.
Janie: We had all of our shift leaders over to our home for the Fourth of July. We really try and incorporate everybody literally into our family. Another thing we’re really passionate about is personal development. We make personal development tools available to all employees and require it of salaried employees.
Janie: Our employees know there’s lots of room for growth. An operating partner (general manager) can participate in profit sharing.
What have you done to generate buzz at your location near Southern Methodist University?
Jake: We like to create those Instagrammable moments. We have a mural that says, “Don’t be a basic batch” with angel wings. We have sayings inside our restaurants like “All you knead is love” and “Tators gonna tate.” We try to create this environment that’s a cool place to hang out that appeals to that demographic.
With so much customer demand, what are you doing to speed throughput?
Jake: We have the same menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. We just want to make sure we’re simple in that regard. We wanted it to be streamlined.
Janie: We have beers in cans, but the majority of our drinks are on tap. We have small-batch cocktails and Jim Beam and Tito’s on tap. We have kombucha and nitro cold brew.
Jake: Because we’re having such high volume, we want to make sure we’re getting at the speed of service.
Who do you see as the target demographic for The Biscuit Bar?
Janie: It’s hard to pin down a target market for us. It’s literally every age group and demographic. We’re trying to deliver the food in a model that’s more accessible and trendy for a younger demographic, but our food is timeless to all age groups.
Photograph courtesy of The Biscuit Bar