Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken, a Triangle-founded biscuit and donut chain, is opening its first Chapel Hill location in March 2022.
Rise currently has 16 locations, with half in North Carolina, including two in Durham and one on Main Street in Carrboro. The other franchises are found across Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
The Chapel Hill Rise is the first new Triangle location in over four years and will be in the Eastgate Crossing shopping center. Orange County Economic Development Director Steve Brantley said the area that surrounds Rise's new location will help bring in more customers.
“In the case of Rise, it’s going to have the benefit of a lot of residential people living immediately around it who can go there, or people who are shopping at Trader Joe’s or Great Outdoor Provisions and then they, from their parked car, walk over to the Rise location,” Brantley said. “So they should be successful there.”
Elie Abou-Rjeileh, co-owner of Olmaz Jewelers, said he made the right choice when he chose to found his business in Eastgate Crossing. He said that once Rise opens its doors, it will help draw eyes to Olmaz Jewelers, too.
“We’re definitely looking forward to having them as our neighbors,” Abou-Rjeileh said. “We have a great relationship with everyone over here, and that’s the only vacant spot that’s left and having them here and increasing the traffic is going to be helpful for everybody.”
Rise CEO Tom Ferguson said he founded the chain after moving around the country. He wanted to improve upon the Biscuitville restaurant concept he discovered in North Carolina by using his experience and high-quality ingredients.
Ferguson opened the first Rise location in Durham in 2012.
“After that opening day, we had huge lines and it was obvious it was going to be a big success,” Ferguson said. “I drove home that day and I stopped in my driveway and I just started crying these pure tears of pride. I hadn’t felt that proud of myself before, but I put the work in and it worked.”
Following the initial success of Rise, Ferguson said inconsistencies across the chain's restaurants soon arose, which caused monetary losses for the company.
But despite the challenges the company and Ferguson personally have faced, he knew he wanted to keep the business going.
"I vowed to myself that I would build the foundation on love,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he is most proud of the improvement of the relationships between Rise employees and the development of a diverse staff who enjoy their work.
“What we’re trying to do is create an umbrella of culture that allows other cultures to come in there,” Ferguson said. “Whether you’re Black or Hispanic or LGBTQ or an addict as I’ve been before, you can come in and work with everyone else.”
Ferguson noted that the integration and adaptation of technology at Rise has been crucial to its success in recent years, and the elimination of cashiers in favor of fully digital ordering has simplified restaurant staff relationships and jobs. He added that the coming Chapel Hill location will have a mural that reads “the merger of technology and the human experience.”
Ferguson said he loves the food Rise makes, but that he is more excited about the teams the restaurant is building.
“Something’s going on,” Ferguson said. “I’m onto something. And I’m just not going to quit until we just keep getting better and better all the time.”
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