One store has a traditional drive-thru lane, although it hasn’t proven too fruitful because customers aren’t buying bigger items through that channel, Coulter says—like a coffee instead of a large, signature biscuit. The company’s off-premises mix ranges from 24 percent to 31 percent.
“Typically, they're getting on our app and they're ordering a big sandwich,” Coulter says. “We do offer a couple what we would call a little more traditional drive-thru options like just a chicken biscuit. We have some takes on our normal menu that are not quite as huge and just a little easier to eat in the car. It's been fun. It hasn't like blown out of the water. Our sales, the majority of them, are coming from in-store.”
Breakfast was hit particularly hard early into the pandemic because of customers straying away from their typical morning routine. But the daypart is now approaching pre-pandemic levels. In August, breakfast traffic grew 4 percent versus last year, and was within 1 percent of recovering to pre-COVID marks, according to The NPD Group. Quick service, accounting for 87 percent of this traffic, saw visits grow 5 percent year-over-year and 1 percent versus 2019. Thirty-seven percent of quick-service breakfast orders were sandwiches, an increase of 4 percent against 2021 and 14 percent compared to 2019.
For Biscuit Belly, pre-pandemic comparisons are a little more difficult to parse through because it only had two stores before COVID, the second opening December 2019. However, the chain is now beginning to lap price increases it implemented a year ago, and sales are still as high as 20 percent year-over-year.
“That's just wild. We're continuing to see the growth,” Coulter says. “I think we finally over the summer got into a decent place of people who are going to be going back are back. And I think that we've done a good job servicing them and keeping them happy and keep them coming back and definitely getting into the catering space a little bit more. Meeting people where they are has been fundamental I believe to our growth.”
Coulter recognizes the restaurant business isn’t for the faint of heart, so Biscuit Belly is searching for experienced food and beverage operators who understand the challenge. Preferably ones that already operate multiple concepts and are familiar with franchising relationships. Some current partners even have 28-30 stores, far exceeding Biscuit Belly's footprint.
There have been instances where the company brought in people who haven’t been in the restaurant space. After Coulter invites them to work a weekend shift, the reality hits pretty hard, she says. Biscuit Belly is more than a “pull it out of the bag” type of operation. That’s why consumers continue to be interested and sales keep rising.
“When we say it's scratch-made, it really is,” Coulter says. “Our people are making the jams and making the jellies and so I think some of that gets overlooked. We're just looking for somebody who knows the restaurant space, but is willing to trust that we have this plan and that we've done this well and also people who are willing to grow with us. Ideally, they will develop an area. We don't want anybody to be on an island alone right now and I just really think that's important for the growth of our company overall.”