Jason Roy greets me in the parking lot of his restaurant, Biscuit Head, in Asheville, North Carolina, with a smile as casual as his outfit: shorts, flip-flops, and a mechanic's shirt bearing the Biscuit Head emblem. We chat briefly by the turquoise picnic tables before heading inside, where food runners weave through a crowded dining room delivering towering plates of mimosa fried chicken biscuits to wide-eyed customers.
Jason says he always knew he wanted to cook professionally, and he began his cooking career with a culinary apprenticeship at the age of 16. In the mid-2000s, he and his wife, Carolyn, were living in Boulder, Colorado, when they planned to open a bed-and-breakfast in Belize. When those plans lost steam, they turned their sights to the burgeoning culinary scene of Asheville, where Jason found quick work as an executive chef.
They noticed a handful of breakfast places in Asheville doing really great business, but each had a wait upwards of 2 hours on the weekends. “We thought, ‘how can we change that?’” They considered fast-casual counter service, which Jason says was a unique concept at the time. “It's just a smarter business model, I think. On a busy weekend day, our average [order time] is 45 seconds per person. In 7 hours we'll do 900 people.” One benefit of counter service is a more consistent pace for the cooks, with fewer rushes.
From the outset, Jason locked on to the concept of brunch because of the creativity it allowed. The mimosa fried chicken, for example, was a “cheffy” idea that wasn't a clean fit for a breakfast menu. But at brunch, it's been their biggest seller since day one.
Biscuits provided a hook, but the innovative jam bar—featuring an array of homemade jams, compound butters, and hot sauces—proved an effective differentiator and a powerful word-of-mouth tool. “The jam bar is what really brings people back,” Jason says. “It's something that no one else is doing.”
A devoted clientele and smart, scalable systems inspired Jason and Carolyn to open three more Biscuit Head restaurants in the region, but Jason is quick to credit his staff with the business's success. “We have really good people who started with us from day one. We created Biscuit Head, but Asheville made it all come together.”