Sarah Beth Costello
April 13, 2009
Biscuitville is a beloved and popular restaurant chain in certain parts of North Carolina and Virginia. The Deep South is well known for southern dishes like barbecue, baked beans, hush puppies and coleslaw, but when it comes to good breakfast, not much can compete with Biscuitville, a restaurant that serves fresh breakfast foods every morning until late afternoon.
THE BEGINNING OF A LEGACY
The origins of Biscuitville can be traced back to 1966 when flour broker, Maurice Jennings, opened two bread stores in Burlington, N.C. Due to the high demand for pizzas, Jennings decided to use his ovens to appease local pizza lovers.
“We started out with pizza restaurants, and when we got into the restaurant business it was called ‘Pizza-To-Go,’” said Burney Jennings, son of Maurice and president of Biscuitville Inc.
“About 35 years ago we started selling biscuits in the morning, and over the years it became very popular and we decided to try a biscuit restaurant only,” said Jennings. “Of course we named it Biscuitville and that opened up in Danville, Virginia. As we added restaurants, we didn’t add on the Pizzaville side. To make a long story short, we ended up taking the pizza out of the other restaurants and changing the names from Pizzaville to Biscuitville.”
GETTING INVOLVED IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Burney Jennings is continuing the legacy of Biscuitville that began with his father. Jennings is not only the president of the company, but also has a long and important relationship with Elon. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees and graduated from Elon in 1987 with a degree in business finance and a minor in accounting.
Jennings did not originally plan to attend Elon, but after an average semester at UNCW, he decided to return to his hometown and take a year off from school.
“I worked for a year in Burlington. With my family’s history of being involved with Elon – that’s what drew me to that school.” Jennings graduated four years later, but never planned to continue working with Biscuitville after college.
“I worked with the company just to gain experience but never had the intention to come and work with the company,” said Jennings.
After college, however, Jennings helped his father with real estate deals and located sites for other Biscuitville restaurants.
This early work later led to a career with the company. “I really just worked my way up the company doing different jobs. It’s something that evolved over a 15 year period.,” said Jennings.
Jennings never pursued a masters, but continues to involve himself in business education. At least once a year, Jennings travels to seminars and classes. Jennings married a fellow student he met in third grade at Hill Crest Elementary and has four children.
The Jennings family have a long history at Elon. Jennings’ father decided to pursue a college education after leaving the air force, and knew of Elon because he father was on the Board of Trustees. The Elon legacy continued. Maurice is now a Trustee Emeritus and Burney has served on the board since 2000.
“[Jennings] is very passionate about Biscuitville. He is very connected with Biscuitville,” said Kellie Hicks, director of marketing who has been working with Biscuitville for 16 years. “I think that’s one thing that I, and a lot of folks enjoy about family businesses – we see him every day, he’s in meetings with us and we have a direct line to talk to him. He is very engaged with the activities of the organization.”
Hicks began working with the company at age 23 and admires the passion and care exhibited in Jennings’ attitude and leadership. “There are a lot of presidents or CEOs of organizations that you might see once in a while,” said Hicks, “but they’re not as connected – not Burney. He is a man of definite set of values that he adheres to and does not compromise.”
Robin King is the executive assistant to the president and has worked with Jennings for the past five years. “I can’t say enough good about him. We get along fabulously – he’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to come to work,” said King.
There is one piece of advice that has stuck with Jennings for many years and is relevant to him as a business owner and breakfast food provider: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
“It can be business advice, it can be personal advice. But it just makes a lot of sense to make sure you diversify, that you don’t break your business and rely just on one customer. For Biscuitville it means we don’t just rely on one restaurant,” said Jennings.
Burney Jennings Shares Some of the Best Advice He Has Ever Received: