As Southern fare gains popularity across the U.S., one Durham, North Carolina–based biscuit and doughnut shop is rising to the occasion with a newly launched franchising program. Just two years in to the venture, Rise Biscuits & Donuts founder Tom Ferguson is ready to bring his award-winning sweet and savory treats to new markets.

“We’re so nomadic these days that there are a lot of Southerners living in places like Seattle and Portland, [Oregon],” Ferguson says. “Whenever you see a biscuit outside of the South, it really attracts people.”

Ferguson says he was approached by FranSmart, the development company behind the growth of Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Qdoba Mexican Grill, when he and his Rise team were considering opening a second location, and they were attracted by the opportunity to learn about a new business model.

“Having someone come in and show us all the different angles we can approach our business made it seem like a good fit,” he says. “The idea is to start in the south, so hopefully we can get someone to buy a franchise in the area, so we can also throw our resources behind them and learn a lot by starting close to the original location. From there, we’ll spread across the South and wherever we get a bite.”

The menu at Rise features a wide variety of classic doughnuts, more experimental options like the Maple Bacon Bar and Banana & Peanut Butter Wonut, and creations from the Rise team like Local Peach Bull’s Eye with Graham Cracker Crumble and Pineapple Basil. Biscuits can be topped with ham, sausage, fried chicken, fried eggplant bacon, and a variety of cheeses and spreads. A specialty menu of biscuit sandwiches changes daily and often features local produce.

“We also want to leave it to each franchise to do a special doughnut or a special biscuit maybe,” Ferguson says. “That’s one of the big debates we’re going through right now: How much freedom does a franchisee want? Do they want to make use of some of the local aspects of their market? We think that’s a good selling point, but we don’t want to make [the operation] too complicated.”

Ferguson says the brand’s bold yellow design will remain the same across franchised locations, but there will also be room to bring in unique elements of each new market. “We have a bit of a local look, and we want to try to hold on to that as best we can,” he adds.

There are no unit count goals set yet for Rise, Ferguson says, bit he expects growth to be steady, especially if they can attract the right franchisees. “I’ll be looking for [franchisees] who are excited about this product,” he says. “We can train them, but we want them to believe in the product.”

By Tamara Omazic

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