Looking Beyond Turmoil, Franchisee Signs 5-Unit Deal With Rise Biscuits
Dr. Parker Simon, second from right, and partner Bradley Turney plan to develop five Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken locations in Oklahoma. They're pictured here with son Jackson and Angela Miller, far left, who'll help operate the restaurants.
Parker Simon plans to be part of the solution. The neonatologist with a medical practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma, isn’t working on the front lines of the pandemic but instead wants to provide jobs and help the restaurant industry rebuild when the COVID-19 virus finally abates. That’s why, says Simon, he and his partner, Bradley Turney, decided to sign a five-unit franchise deal with Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken, even as their timeline for development remains uncertain.
“Let’s be real. There have been times throughout this entire process where I’ve been like, man, are we really going to do this?” says Simon. “But I know there is going to be opportunity when this is all over.”
Simon, who first began researching franchises because he “wanted to control the money in my 401k better,” evaluated more than a dozen different concepts and kept coming back to Rise. He liked the smaller size, 1,000 to 1,500 square feet, the 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. operating hours with a focus on breakfast and lunch, and of course, the food.
Created by classically trained chef Tom Ferguson, who’s also CEO, Rise serves a variety of Southern biscuits, chicken and donuts, and is different from other breakfast places in Tulsa, points out Simon, which “are focused on the egg.” “We’re based more around the biscuit,” he says. “It’s a fresh concept for Tulsa.”
After Simon and Turney, who also have an active real estate business flipping houses and have investments in rental properties, went through the discovery day process in February and met with Ferguson, “it was really a gut check to say, we really like this guy, we like what he’s doing,” says Simon.
The pair were also impressed with Rise’s emphasis on takeout and delivery, even before the pandemic. The commitment to delivery is something Ferguson says the brand made about nine months ago, using a single tablet platform from YourFare to streamline third-party delivery services at its 16 restaurants. It’s now also doing more marketing around its curbside service, including the rollout of short videos to illustrate the order process and the brand’s safety precautions.
Ferguson, who opened his first Rise in 2012 in Durham, North Carolina, and started franchising in 2014, says franchisees have adjusted quickly “to stay out of the red,” and he’s told operators to just worry about paying their employees and purveyors. He’s waived royalties the past three weeks and continues to assess “week by week.” He and his support team are constantly communicating with franchisees, including helping them navigate the various relief packages.
Company-wide sales were down about 35 percent at their lowest point, says Ferguson, “but now it’s starting to come back.”
“I think we’re going to be in a good position coming out of this,” he continues, noting he’d already worked during the last year to streamline the Rise menu to “what can we do that works really well in a bag.” The brand also introduced kiosk ordering.
“Now, we really won’t have to change much when we all come back from this,” says Ferguson.
In Oklahoma, which until April 1was among just four states that hadn’t yet restricted bars and restaurants to takeout or delivery-only operations (the governor made that move last week), Simon and Turney have already been scouting locations in Tulsa’s downtown, midtown and Brookside neighborhoods, and are eager to bring Rise to the state.
“I think we all as a nation want to get through this crisis and so I see it as a little bit of helping to get through the pandemic,” says Simon of moving forward with the deal. “We’ll be there as a restaurant on the other side … we want to be a part of the solution with rebuilding.”
Franchise development company Fransmart is working with Rise to grow, targeting the top 40 media markets. The estimated initial investment cost ranges from $409,600 to $637,500.