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October 17, 2011 / John Edwards

Interview with the Biscuitville CEO, Part II: Family Business

A few months ago, I published the first half of an interview I did with the CEO of Biscuitville, Burney Jennings.  He told me a great deal about the company, its operations, and its philosophies.  You can read the first part of the interview here.

As I said in my first article, “fast food executive” conjures the image of a rotund man in a suit.  Burney looked more like a golf pro: slim and trim, with a big smile.  Here is part two of our interview.

Me: So, they tell me Biscuitville has one of the highest turnover rates in the industry.

Burney: Phil Johnston [author of Biscuitville: The Secret to Building a Sustainable Competitive Advantage], whom I really like a lot, has done a great job with statistics. I won’t say 39%, because I don’t truly know, so quote him and not me, but yes, we do have very high turnover in terms of product. And we don’t have a big warehouse, so Larry (our warehouse manager) can’t have lots of product sitting around.

Me: There’s no Ronald McDonald, there’s no Ray Kroc anymore. Other restaurants have that family connection. Can you comment about Biscuitville as a family owned business? How family owned is it? What has that been like? Has that put any strain on you?

Burney: It is a family business. Let’s start with the relationship with my dad. I slowly worked into this position of President. In 1996 I became president, but he was still active as Chairman of the Board. It took another 7 to 8 years before he became hands-off with the business. He is still Chairman of the Board. We have had discussions, but we haven’t had major disagreements. As a family business in going from the first generation to the second, it’s been fairly smooth transition, which is pretty unusual. Usually, the first generation has trouble letting go… It is a family-owned company. I have brothers and sisters who own the business, but I am the only that is active in the business.

Being a business that is local and owned by a family plays into being public versus being private. We have found that our customers like that we are a private company, a family company, a locally-owned company. On top of that, the way we compensate our operators is a profit-share. They really have an ownership mindset, which is important for us to maintain a high level of customer service and satisfaction.  I’ve seen them work, and they really get to know their customers, and know them by name.

Me: Some of these chains grow at exponential rates. Subway largest chain in America right now. But Biscuitville has remained small, doesn’t have any debt on its balance sheet and no outside investment.  Can you comment on that?  Does that limit you?

Burney: It limits you in that you can’t add 20 restaurants next year. We could if we got outside investment. It limits you because you don’t have the dollars to do so. But we’re okay with the slow growth.

Me: Have you ever felt the pressure? Just for a small expansion?

Burney: No, none.

Me:  Well, Burney, thanks for your time and thank you for answering my questions so openly and candidly.

Burney: Of course!  I’ll be excited to read the interview!

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