“One of the first things I made professionally was biscuits, so I’d always wanted to do something like that,” Ferguson said. Ferguson is a chef who also owned his own catering company for 16 years.
“I kind of know what’s trending out there, before I realize it, I know it somehow,” he said.
That instinct is what helped him launch Only Burger, one of the first food trucks in the Triangle.
“Once I sold Only Burger, I took that money and parlayed it into Rise and brought on one of my partners, Brian Wiles,” Ferguson said. The two traveled the country eating doughnuts and biscuits.
“Brian perfected the biscuit recipe that we have now,” Ferguson said. And the secret to that recipe? Butter, North Carolina flour, buttermilk, eggs and a little bit of sugar.
“I think all of those components play their part, but from there, it’s really paying attention to how they’re made all the time,” Ferguson said. “We’ve spent a lot of time policing the biscuits being made properly.”
The chicken used for Rise’s famous chicken biscuits is brined in buttermilk. In addition to chicken, other biscuit toppings include sausage, egg, cheese, fried green tomatoes, avocado and ham. A Buffalo-style chicken is also available, and a Nashville hot chicken biscuit is set to be added to the menu on Sept. 4.
The biscuits are so good, they have won the WRAL Voters’ Choice Award for best biscuit three times.
Biscuits aren’t the only main attraction on the menu. When Rise, a successful breakfast QSR, opened eight years ago, the restaurant had an extensive doughnut menu as well. Biscuit options were also a little more detailed with fresh braised meats and curried rabbit toppings.
“(The biscuit menu) wasn’t scalable at that level because we couldn’t get people with really the same background that I had to come work in fast casual,” Ferguson said.
That lead to the team reconstructing the menu.
As Rise expanded to include franchise locations, it became clear that biscuits needed to be a bigger part of the breakfast QSR menu.
“We knew that our biscuits were our strong point,” Ferguson said. “So we deescalated the doughnut part of what we did all the way to the point where we took them off the menu at one point, cause we really need to get our labor under control.”
Once labor was under control, doughnuts gradually returned to the menu. The Maple Bacon, Cookies and Cream, Crème Brûlée and jelly filled doughnuts have returned to the menu.
Rise currently has 16 locations in six states. A 17th location is opening soon in Tulsa, Oklahoma to further expand the breakfast QSR.