Buckeyes Above | Greenville Business Journal

(Jeff Rigsby has been making cookies for a living since 1994. Photo by North Carolina Business Journal.)

David Mildenberg

Jeff Rigsby proved that franchisees can thrive even when the franchises themselves frequently change hands.

His Arden company opened its 100th Bojangles restaurant in May. That’s about one in every eight units of the 780 chicken and biscuit chain.
Rigsby began his career in Bojangles as Regional Director in Greenville, South Carolina, before opening his own franchise in the Asheville area in 2001 with six stores. By 2015, the company had 50 locations. Growth accelerated earlier this year when he bought 16 company-owned sites.
His love of Bojangles food continued into the 1980s, when his family traveled from Ohio to Carolina Beach for a vacation. A stop at Bojangles is a regular part of the experience.
“It has a cult following. That’s what attracted me,” he said.
Rigsby started working at a fast-food restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, where Dave Thomas started Wendy’s at age 16. After working for the owner of KFC, he joined Bojangles in 1994, when the company had about 200 restaurants.

It was then led by former KFC colleague Dick Campbell and owned by a private equity group in California. The business has since changed hands three times and operated as a public company for several years. The corporate office remains in Charlotte.

Private equity firm Jordan Co. Durational Capital acquired Bojangles in 2019.[They] Because it’s more of a national brand, I think it has that opportunity,” Rigsby said.
Rigsby is helping to expand, buying the rights to develop 15 restaurants in the Columbus, Ohio area.

Construction is expected to begin on the first Bojangles in Ohio. This will be the sixth state where Rigsby operates. Its largest markets are western North Carolina and northern South Carolina, including Clemson, where the chain offers a deal on free sweet tea to 82,000 spectators at a Clemson college football game if the Tigers score at least 28 points coupons.

He said Bojangles’ leadership listened to franchisees. “They know it’s good food that gets us to the dance.”

The company also respects Rigsby. “Jeff puts his people and customers first,” said CEO Jose Armario. “He has fully embraced the growing consumer preference for chicken, and the gamble has paid off enormously.”

His company has expanded during the pandemic, opening four new stores and acquiring five more in 2020.

Like many in the hospitality industry, Rigsby said finding and retaining employees is more challenging than ever. His store employs 4,000 people and starts at about $13 an hour, up from $10 before the pandemic.

“Our focus is on retaining employees by offering better benefits, having great managers and working hard to help people advance their careers,” he said. “As prices go up at gas stations and grocery stores, people are starting to see, ‘Hey, I need to get back to work.’ The market will even go out on its own.”
Rigsby’s only equity partner is his wife, who has grown the company with limited debt. They live in the suburbs of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

One of his three sons works for the company, and he hopes his three grandchildren will one day sign up.

“I think our brand is very strong,” he said. “There’s a craving for Southern food all over the country.”

David Mildenberg is the editor of the North Carolina Business Journal.

Source link