"Fresh. Friendly. Fast." For Burney Jennings '87, president and CEO of the North Carolina-based Biscuitville restaurant chain, it's those qualities - and in that order - that have made the company founded by his father, Maurice Jennings '57, such a success. The younger Jennings shared his family's story with a crowded LaRose Digital Theatre on Sept. 15, 2010, in the annual Legends of Business program sponsored by the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.
With his father, mother Patricia Gabriel, and wife Dina Blake Jennings ’87 in the audience, Burney Jennings spoke on the history of the family company that originally began as a small chain of pizza establishments. The first Biscuitville opened its doors in Danville, Va., in 1975, and today it has several dozen locations throughout the region with more than 1,000 employees.
“For us, it’s about making the day better for the customer,” Jennings said. “That’s important, because it’s not just about biscuits. Yes, we’ve got to have great biscuits, and we do, but it’s about that interaction with the customer.”
Jennings offered advice for running a strong company. First, he said, is to lead by example. As president and CEO, he insists on paying for his food and drink in his visits to restaurants, which he believes signals to others the importance of not giving away menu items to friends.
He also said to be kind to employees. Dedicated workers are the foundation of a strong business, he said. And it speaks to a person’s integrity when he or she shows respect to others. “Character is about what you do when no one’s looking, when no one will find out about your actions,” Jennings said. “Treat people fairly.”
One other tip he suggested to students was to hire smart people. Showing attention to details also pays dividends.
“If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves,” Jennings said.
The Legends of Business program brings renowned business leaders to campus to be recognized for their outstanding contributions to business and to share their experiences with the Elon University and surrounding community. Business leaders selected to be a “Legend of Business” have distinguished themselves in their careers and in their communities, and embody the values of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.
The program is made possible by a gift from the R. Cruse Lewis Master Pools Endowed Fund at Elon University. This endowment, established in honor of the retirement of Cruse Lewis from Master Pools Guild, is funded through gifts from friends, members, and suppliers of the guild.
Maurice Jennings ’57 was born in Georgia and moved to North Carolina when he was a child. Following high school, Jennings enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and then attended Elon College. Jennings’ first restaurants were pizza establishments. He opened the first Biscuitville in 1975 in Danville, Va., and by 1996, the company had grown to more than 40 restaurants when Jennings turned the business over to his son, Maurice “Burney” Jennings Jr.
Burney Jennings ’87 obtained a major in business administration with a concentration in finance and a minor in accounting from Elon University. He worked in various roles at Biscuitville before becoming CEO and president.
Since taking over leadership of Biscuitville, Burney Jennings has continued the growth trajectory started by his father. He has opened restaurants in new cities throughout North Carolina and Virginia, and added key managerial and administration positions to support the company’s growth. In 2007, he moved the corporate office to a new facility in Greensboro, N.C.
Maurice Jennings currently serves as chairman of the board for Biscuitville and maintains a close association with the company. A trustee emeritus at Elon University, he received the Elon Medallion in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding service to the university. He and wife Linda reside in Vero Beach, Fla. Jennings has three children: Mary Nell, Maurice Jr. (Burney) and Fran, and two stepchildren, Cooper and Sinclair.
Burney Jennings chairs the board at Greensboro Day School and is active with the Greensboro Rotary, Greensboro Sports Council and the Wachovia Piedmont Triad Region Board of Advisors. He serves on the Elon University Board of Trustees. Burney and wife live in Greensboro with their children: Blake, Bailey, Mary Frances, and John.
Previous speakers for the Legends of Business series include Kerrii Anderson ‘79, former CEO of Wendy’s International; John Zeglis, former chair and CEO of AT&T Wireless; and Robert A. Ingram, vice chair of GlaxoSmithKline.