The Expansion of Southern Brands and the Surprising Industry Behind the Growth

At 12:30 a.m., fans of Biscuitville Southern Fresh camped out hoping to win breakfast for a year.  At 5:00 a.m., when the restaurant officially opened for business, a line wrapped around the building. 

This biscuit-focused restaurant is a familiar trend in the quick-serve industry.  Southern brands are growing in popularity and national brands are trying to capture what makes these brands successful.

The popularity of brands like Cook Out, Biscuitville, Krispy Kreme, Bojangles, and Chick-Fil-A have grown from regional favorites to brands that are adored nationally.

Articles in Food and Wine and Business Insider praise Southern brands in articles titled “These Southern Chains Should be Everywhere” and “Southern Fast Food is Taking Over”.

As reputation and demand for these brands grow – which is evident with Chick-Fil-A’s debut in New York City and Krispy Kreme’s venture into New England – franchisees and corporations are seeing an opportunity to expand their geographic footprints.

“In our 15 years of business, we’ve partnered with many local brands,” says Jon Kuczynski, founding partner at Commercial Site Design, A Raleigh-based civil engineering firm that works with Krispy Kreme, Cook Out, and Biscuitville.  “As our clients’ popularity grew, we saw them slowly shift their development goals to include locations outside their geographical areas of influence.”

Bojangles, with its roots in Charlotte, North Carolina, has grown to more than 750 locations, including locations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

As Americans look for Southern-style foods – biscuits, chicken for breakfast, barbeque, pimento cheese – national brands and restaurants above the Mason-Dixon line are incorporating aspects of southern culture.

In 2008, more than 25 years after the first chicken biscuit showed up on a fast food menu in the South, McDonald’s introduced its Southern Style Chicken Biscuit.

To capture the popularity of Southern foods and the recent trend of featuring fried chicken as the culinary star on menus, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store opened a biscuit-inspired fast-casual concept called Holler & Dash.

In Boston, you can visit the Coppersmith restaurant, a Southern-inspired restaurant that offers smoked meat, pimento cheese and biscuits.

As popularity of local, Southern brands grow among New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians and other Northern residents, brands like Cook Out, Krispy Kreme, and Bojangles are entering these markets.

At the heart of this Southern expansion are civil engineering firms that help franchisees and corporations navigate unfamiliar cities and states.

“When working with clients, we try to accomplish two things, protect their brands and develop sites that meet cities’ and states’ requirements,” says Jon Kuczynski.  “Our Krispy Kreme project in Fayetteville, NC is different than our Krispy Kreme project in Middletown, Ky.  The buildings are the same, but the designs are different.  Each city has its own commercial development standards; we help navigate this red tape.”

Civil engineering firms work with city officials; incorporating city and state requirements into designs and guiding projects through the city’s review process.

Serving as an extension of their clients, engineering firms act as point of contact and must be familiar with clients’ brands, because of this, professional relationships are established early and last the entire development process of the companies’ expansion goals. 

Commercial Site Design, a Raleigh-based civil engineering firm that works on sites for national and regional brands, began its partnership with a local, Greensboro brand in 2003 and is still one of the preferred civil engineering firms; providing development services to hundreds of this brand’s restaurants, with location in 10 states.  

“I do have a sense of pride when I see a local brand succeed,” says Jon kuczynski.   “For most of us, we have a strong emotional ties to these local brands; they serve as our lunch spots, landmarks signaling entrance into the South, or one of the first places we take friends and family when they visit.  I have seen our clients’ development strategies grow from building locations in a 150-mile radius of its headquarters to developing locations nationally.” 

 At the heart these expansions are engineering firms.  These firms develop sites that are consistent with their clients’ brands; attending city meetings and working with city officials to make their client’s visions a reality.   

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