For Janie Burkett, family life and her professional world have been all about growth lately. With husband Jake, Burkett welcomed baby Byron in late 2019; the now-16-month-old has an older sister Blake, 4, and brother Banner, 2. Meanwhile—despite the pandemic—the Burketts’ business, The Biscuit Bar, opened two new locations last year (in Arlington and the Fort Worth Stockyards, in addition to the existing stores, two in Dallas and one in Plano). More locations are coming soon to Coppell and Abilene.
The venture came about following a tragic season in the Burketts’ lives: Born premature, daughter Brycee Jo passed away at 2 weeks old, and Blake, her twin, remained in the hospital for two months. After, loved ones gathered for biscuits and other comfort food—something that inspired the Burketts’ journey forward.
Tell us more about the origins of The Biscuit Bar. When we brought Blake home, we couldn’t go anywhere because it was RSV season; they don’t let you take immune-compromised babies out. So all our family came to us for Christmas.
We were making biscuits and gravy and fried chicken. I was like, “Where can I buy this, so I don’t have to clean up my kitchen?” A very “mom” thing to think. Then my husband, whose background is in venture capital, said, “I bet the margins on this could be great.” That’s how The Biscuit Bar was born.
So becoming a restauranteur wasn’t a longtime goal? Absolutely not. Before we actually came up with the idea, I never would have thought about it. We had no restaurant background or experience. And obviously restaurants in general are very risky endeavors. More of them fail than succeed, and that’s from people who have restaurant experience. And then our market here in Dallas is one of the most competitive—I think it actually might be the most competitive restaurant hub in the world, because there’s more restaurants per capita than any other market.
So when my husband first said, “Hey, we should open a restaurant,” I was like, “You’ve lost your mind. There’s absolutely no way we’re doing that.” It was when we had just gotten Blake home from the NICU, and we were brand-new parents. We didn’t know how to parent. We didn’t know how to make it through the night. So “Let’s start a restaurant” sounds like a really stupid idea.
But apparently we’re gluttons for punishment. We went in and did it anyways, and we’re still doing stuff that probably on the surface doesn’t look smart—opening up stores during COVID. But God has really just given us favor, and we hustle as hard as we can.
Not every couple could work together as well as you and Jake. We really do enjoy it. We are both super type-A personalities and extremely stubborn and extremely opinionated. And I am right 100% of the time, and he is right 100% of the time. So, you know, we have a fight or two. But we really do love working together. And we both love business.
Sometimes people say, “When do you ever turn it off and just have ‘you time’?” Well, we don’t want to turn it off. We’ve had several offers to buy our company and we turned all of them down because we’re like, Will then what are we going to do? Stare at each other all day? No, we like to hustle and we like to do business, and we sure love doing it together.
How has the pandemic affected The Biscuit Bar, now that we’re almost a year out here in North Texas? The pandemic drastically impacted our business, but we did our best to pivot our model to online ordering and third-party delivery while safely reopening our dining rooms.
We still really push the online ordering and third-party delivery. Those are certainly ways people ordered before, but the pandemic really accelerated those platforms, I think, probably by five or six years. And those are ways people are getting their food that will not go away.
In terms of dine-in, we have a lot of patio space at all our restaurants, and our area has patio weather for the most part—so we have still had options for people to eat outside or socially distance inside.
Another thing that has worked in our favor—something that was strategic for us from the beginning but really paid off during 2020—is the fact that we are a fast-casual business model. It’s the type of restaurant where people feel like it’s a place they want to go hang out with their friends or even have a special lunch or a special dinner with their family, but it’s also something that they are willing to order on DoorDash or Uber Eats just for something quick.
Fast-casual is really the next wave of growth, probably at least for the next 10, maybe 20 years in restaurants.
What’s it like having three little kiddos to care for while managing a growing business? First of all, I do have help. Our nanny lives with us; she moved in during COVID. At the beginning, we really didn’t know what was going to happen with the virus, and she had roommates, so I said, “Why don’t you move in and we’ll keep all our germs together?” But she still has set hours. Most days she’s 9am to 5:30 or 6pm. So I’m getting up with the kids in the morning and putting them to bed at night.
Once a week, though, Jake and I have a date night, so she puts the kids to bed that night.
Something else that helps balance work and home is that we now have corporate offices a block from our house. It made it convenient for me to go home several times a day to breastfeed Byron, and it really has helped us have better quality time with our kids. I leave my computer at the office and am able to more fully focus on my kids when I am home. And I am more productive working at the office than I was at home.
For working moms, my biggest thing is having grace with yourself—you don’t have to do all the things the other moms are doing on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest. The kids don’t need all the extra special things; they just like the attention. So I try to set myself up to give them as much of my attention as I can, outsourcing things like the grocery shopping—if I can order it online instead of go to the store, I do that.
And so the hour or two I have at night, I’m really focused on the kids, not doing errands or things like that.
You mentioned your weekly date night. It seems like one-on-one time would be hard to come by in your busy life. We just started that a few months ago, and it’s been game-changing for us, even though we work together and we’re together all the time. I’m so busy, he’s so busy that sometimes we don’t talk about anything, not even stuff we need to talk about for our business. And then certainly not like, “Hey, how are you doing today?”
How did you and Jake meet? I met him in church in third grade. And his mom was my eighth grade Sunday school teacher, and his dad ran sound and lights for my dad at the church, and his little brother was my little brother’s best friend. And he took my sister to his senior homecoming. You know, that’s not weird. (Laughs.)
But we had really kind of lost touch over college. After we both graduated, I saw his mom at a baby shower. And I was like, “Oh, how is Jake doing? I haven’t seen him in forever. Here’s my number. He needs to call me.” And he called me, and we went on a date. And we’ve been together ever since.
I understand the road to parenthood wasn’t easy for you. We had been trying for seven years to get pregnant, then we thought we’d see some fertility specialists. I had my first round of [intrauterine insemination] and got pregnant with triplets. We lost baby C in the first trimester, and then both baby A and baby B had umbilical cord defects. At 24 weeks I went into the hospital, and at 28 weeks we had to deliver. Brycee Jo was doing well in the NICU but developed a severe infection, and she passed.
Since Blake was born quite a bit early, she still has some slight developmental delays in her speech, but it is getting better. Banner was born premature at 35 weeks and has had more significant delays due to poor eyesight and moderate hearing loss.
Since we’ve had his eyesight corrected with glasses and the hearing corrected with ear tubes surgery, he is really catching up! Our little guy, Byron, was born premature at 36 weeks.
Did you go through fertility treatments to get pregnant with Banner and Byron? With Banner, yes. Byron is here to tell me that I’m no longer infertile. It was a very, very big surprise. To all the moms reading DFWChild, know that you can get pregnant while nursing.
What is it like having a little one again when you have the two older ones running around? It was scary because I was always worried that our middle child, particularly, was going to jump on him or something! Banner is much gentler with Byron now, but he wants to high-five Byron all the time—and lots of times he misses and hits him in the face! Poor baby! There was also an instance when Banner tried to stand on the baby in order to get on the couch. So you’ve got to keep an eye out.
Never a dull moment. It is a circus, for sure. I was kind of scared of having this baby; I didn’t plan for him and I was like, “Oh my gosh, three under 3? This is impossible.” I think my expectation was low enough that it’s not been that bad. (Laughs.) It’s controlled chaos.
Lives in Carrollton
Hails from The Denver area
Alma Mater Metropolitan State University of Denver
Career Co-CEO, The Biscuit Bar
Professional background Network sales/direct marketing
Partner Husband and business partner Jake Burkett
Children Daughter Blake, 4; sons Banner, 2, and Byron, 16 months. Daughter Brycee, Blake’s twin, passed away at 2 weeks old.
Photo courtesy of The Biscuit Bar.