Can a biscuit blow your mind? The owners of Austin sandwich shop Bird Bird Biscuit think so. With help from a “secret biscuit whisperer,” co-owners Brian Batch and Ryan McElroy refined the perfectly flaky formula to complement their hot chicken and breakfast sandwiches.
“It’s everything that you would want in a chicken biscuit: not dry, very crispy, and flavorful,” Yelp reviewer Casey T. said. “And the biscuit itself is very soft. It was just great. I felt like I was in heaven when I was eating this biscuit, and me and my friends, we were literally just sitting on the floor, outside Bird Bird Biscuit, and we were blown away by this food experience.”
With a near-constant line out the door, Bird Bird Biscuit has earned a devoted following and many more rave reviews. Brian has a lot of ideas on why the restaurant is so popular, including its commitment to using quality ingredients and constantly refining the product.
“It’s been three years now, and we’ve never stopped trying to make it just a little bit better,” he said. “We do that with every single thing at Bird Bird: What can we make just a little bit better? Whether that’s a sandwich, whether that’s the fried chicken process with how we dredge it and bread it, whether or not that’s the strawberry lemonade, dialing in the sweetness.”
Blowing minds is not just about flavor, however. Brain and Ryan have built their business around a value system, which is usually found in a large corporation’s strategic plan, but can also give small business owners and employees a clear roadmap for the company’s future. The business partners, who’ve worked together for more than a decade, use this foundation to create a safe space that extends care to both customers and employees.
Those values include: “people, not objects,” which means putting employees and customers first; “consistent quality above all,” which covers sourcing quality ingredients; “this is fun for us,” which helps the owners decide where to put their growth and energy; and lastly, “blow minds.”
This final value (which Brian calls his “X factor”) reflects the real essence of Bird Bird, he said: “One of the things it means to me is, how can we treat somebody in such a way that when they leave Bird Bird—whether it be for the next minute, the next hour, or the next 10 years—they take what they experienced at Bird Bird, and it becomes a part of their story?”
A positive work environment is an integral part of that story. “We’re focusing first and foremost on how we treat each other in this shop every single day, so that we can reflect outwards being joyful and being happy in our work environment, because that’s what people feel when they come to Bird Bird,” Brain said. “People love working here because it’s a good environment. And I think that’s what people feel. That’s what Casey felt. She felt that people love being here.”
When Casey tried her first biscuit, her mind was definitely blown—not just by the quality of the food, but by the care and attention she received from Bird Bird’s staff. Although she had ordered her food to go, which delayed delivery of her sandwich, the employees addressed her concerns with kindness.
“Because of that touch point that I had, I think I got a little bit more interaction with employees,” she said. “And honestly, from what I could see, it seems like everyone really was happy working there, and it was a good environment.”
Brian wants that joy to extend out the door and into the community. He’s passionate about his business, his customers, and his reviews. “If somebody comes to your spot, had a great experience, cared enough to go write something—man, that’s gold,” he said. “If you can meet that person, you can take that to the next level. That’s magic; it’s alchemy.”
Any small business can be improved with some of Bird Bird Biscuit’s proven business practices, including values like:
- Quality ingredients. Source them intentionally, and it’ll make all of the difference.
- Above all else, people matter. Both your customers and your employees should be the highest priorities. When your employees are happy, your customers are happy. It’s contagious.
- Reviews can be a great way to reach people. Respond, make connections, and take every opportunity to show off your customer service.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Brian and Casey, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
Behind the Review, episode 46 transcript
This is fun for us
EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Every episode I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind their interaction.
Lets see what’s behind this week’s review.
CASEY: Living in Austin, I feel like you have to hear about them at some point. I was actually hiking with my friends at the Greenbelt, which is like one of my favorite Austin activities.
And we were just exhausted cause we’d been hiking and we were trying to find a place to eat that was kinda nearby. My friend actually brought up Bird Bird Biscuit because we both really like Will Bryant the artist, and we heard that he had done a mural for them. So we were like, oh my gosh, we have to go check it out.
I remember when I first got there, like I had literally no expectations just because I didn’t know a lot about the place, except that a lot of people in Austin liked it. And honestly, I had not had that many chicken biscuits before. The ones I had before were super dry. So I was like, you know, I’m just going to go check this place out. I didn’t really have any expectations.
EMILY: That’s Casey T, a designer and photographer living in Austin, and she’s telling me about her first experience with Bird Bird Biscuit, owned by Brian Batch and his business partner, Ryan McElroy.
Let’s hear from Brian, on how the business came to be.
BRIAN: I would say Bird Bird Biscuit is the seed that came from a really strong relationship that I had with my now business partner, who I’ve worked with for about 15 years. I started off at a coffee shop working for him, and in the 10 years that I worked for him, we built just a really strong friendship.
I think he realized that I was someone that he could really trust and someone that would be around for a while. And he asked me if I wanted to go into business with him. So that was kind of the beginning of Bird Bird Biscuit.
And from there we traveled for probably about a year and just saw stuff. We knew we wanted to bring something unique to Austin, and we also knew that we’ve wanted to do something simple because we knew if we did something simple we could do it with a lot of excellence, and then hopefully we can replicate that.
Another big reason why we started Bird Bird is because we wanted to grow a business that we had a vision for so that when people came alongside of us, you had a passion for what we were doing. We could take that passion, it connected with our vision and really grow something out of it.
And so that’s been what Bird Bird has been about. And I would say that that’s like the seed of it.
EMILY: It takes a lot of gumption to start a business without knowing exactly how to make your product. Brian and his business partner knew they wanted to make something unique, but neither of them had a good idea of what that something was exactly. So they traveled and they learned that there was a universal appeal to a simple breakfast bread: biscuits.
BRIAN: So when we started Bird Bird, again, like what we’re focusing on with simplicity and excellence. We didn’t know that we wanted to make a biscuit sandwich shop in particular. But when we traveled, one of the things that we saw in other places was that breakfast was resonating with people.
And we saw that, we saw the sandwiches were resonating with people. And so when we came back to Austin and we looked around at the landscape, we were like, well, what can we create here that’s unique, that kind of fits that sort of niche? And we happen to have a really good relationship with the gentleman who we call our secret biscuit whisper, who helped us with our foundational biscuit recipe. He would help other people in town like formulate their recipes. And my business partner, Ryan had a relationship with him like, Hey man, can you help us make a biscuit for a menu? It wasn’t going to be the thing, but it was going to be a part of it. And we just ran, kept going through this mantra of like, well, let’s simplify lets simplify lets simplified.
So finally we decided: We were like, well, let’s just make biscuits and let’s try to make the best biscuit we can. And one of the things that I think has been really powerful for us is it’s been three years now and we’ve never stopped trying to make it just a little bit better. And we do that with everything at Bird Bird. Like every single thing at Bird Bird, it’s like, what can we make just a little bit better? Whether that’s a sandwich, whether that’s the fried chicken process with how we dredge it and bread it, whether or not that’s like the strawberry lemonade, dialing in the sweetness.
EMILY: This isn’t just any biscuit. Bird Bird Biscuit is a sandwich shop, so these biscuits have to hold up. It took some trial and error to find the right formula, but Brian, his business partner, and the secret biscuit whisper kept going until it was just right. And being that the business is in Austin, they know customers won’t settle on just any ingredients. With fantastic food all around them, they knew the success of their business depended on sourcing the best quality ingredients and preparing everything to order with consistency.
BRIAN: So when they eat that sandwich, they get the biscuit designed for that mixed with everything in our kitchen. Because of the way the system works, it really allows us to keep things very fresh. Like nothing is sitting in a hot hole at Bird Bird Biscuit. If you come to Bird Bird, you get a sandwich—that sandwich came out of that fryer 30 seconds ago, and we pick it up at the window, and that’s the sandwich that you get. Everything is pretty much clockwork, as fresh as possible. And that helps. I mean, in terms of sourcing, we decided that we wanted to pick a couple of categories that would be really meaningful for us to source from. And so one of those was our chicken—the source of really good chicken.
EMILY: The quality of the chicken made all the difference to our reviewer, Casey T. Let’s take a listen to her review.
CASEY: If I had to name one reason why I could never give up meat, it would be the queen beak biscuit at Bird Bird.
Literally my mouth is watering just from typing this, it’s that good. The juicy, thick chicken filet between the buttery melt-in-your-mouth biscuits compliments so well with the delectable honey. Due to COVID all orders must be placed either online or at the kiosk they have outside the store. I noticed that there’s typically a longer wait for online orders and kiosk orders are taken care of right away.
They can get kind of busy on the weekends. So plan ahead if you’re wanting to go.
EMILY: Bird Bird uses only the highest quality chickens and butter and sources their eggs from farms around the Austin area—keeping as much with the farm-to-table formula as possible.
In addition to valuing the quality of their ingredients, Bird Bird lives by a set of core values, which I love. It reminds everyone who works at Bird Bird Biscuit where to find their north star. If a business has core values that you’ve laid out from the beginning, it’s really easy for your employees to know where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
BRIAN: So we have four. The first one is “people, not objects.” The second one is “consistent quality above all.” And if you want me to elaborate on any of them I will, but I’ll just tell you, the third one is “this is fun for us.” And the fourth one is “blow minds.” I like that. That’s like, that’s like my X factor value.
EMILY: I’m going to have Brian dig into their core values after a quick break.
EMILY: And we’re back! I wanted Brian to elaborate on some of these core values because they have great takeaways that can be applied to any team, but also because the concept of core values isn’t just for large companies. For my entrepreneur listeners, I know you all have your own core values, so how do those translate to your business?
BRIAN: So “this is fun for us.” It’s a way for us to gauge the energy of our team at any given point in time and also things we’ll choose to do and choose not to do because sometimes someone will ask us if we can cater a thousand person event. And it’s very simple. We say that does not sound like fun. So we won’t do it. You know what I mean? Like, it’s simple!
But then the other thing that’s really beautiful is it gives us the opportunity to at any point in time, if there’s someone on our team where we feel as if they’re not enjoying their experience at Bird Bird Biscuit, it allows us to open up a conversation. Say, you know, one of our values is that this place is supposed to be a place of joy. Like where are you at? You know what I mean? Like, are you still enjoying this job? How can we come alongside? Let’s talk about this because that is very important. And we want to keep that on track. So it opens up dialogue.
The second one, “blowing people’s minds,” I think is so important for two reasons. One of the things that I say is what it means to me is how can we treat somebody in such a way that when they leave Bird Bird, whether it be for the next minute, the next hour or the next 10 years, they take what they experienced at Bird Bird and it becomes a part of their story. That’s the way I describe it.
And then the other side to it is when you’re having a really hard interaction with a guest or someone on the team, if you can ask yourself that question and you can say to yourself when it’s tough, like how can I blow this person’s mind? Where that puts you in your state of consciousness—a place where you had the best opportunity to go through that situation to bring the best fruit.
Cause you’re thinking about serving that person. And when you’re in a service mindset, that’s the place where like I want us to always be at Bird Bird. Cause then you’re not judging that person. And then you can navigate that with clarity. Those two values are very, very important to me.
EMILY: Those values and that quality resonate with people far beyond just having a great sandwich after a hard day. Every interaction with a happy staff member can lead to a happy customer, even if the experience starts out not so great.
CASEY: I think my friends were ordering on the kiosk and there was like kind of a line. I was like, I’m going to order on my phone. But I think that me ordering on my phone actually delayed the process of me getting my food cause it was like a to-go order.
And then that made my wait a bit longer than theirs. And I remember I walked up to the window that they had to ask someone about my order, cause I think it was like 20 minutes more than like theirs was taking or something like that. And they were so nice about it.
Like I had such a good experience with the staff. I think they were like, “Oh, we’ll go and check on that for you.” And honestly, they totally didn’t have to do that because I understand that I ordered it for to go and like, that’s just a totally different process, but I just appreciated that they were so friendly about it and looking into it.
I feel like if I had just ordered on the kiosk and not had this whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have even interacted with the staff except to pick up my food. Because of that touch point that I had, I think I got a little bit more interaction with employees. And honestly, like, from what I could see, it seems like everyone really was happy, like working there, and it was a good environment.
EMILY: Was it worth a return trip for Casey?
CASEY: How could I not go back to Bird Bird Biscuit? I actually took another friend there, like a week after I wrote that review. Cause I was like, “Oh my gosh, you have, you have to try these biscuits because they’re so good.” So yeah, I have, and I plan on going many more times.
EMILY: Brian is a different bird from some small business owners—he genuinely loves reviews and finds a way to connect with his customers through his Yelp reviews.
BRIAN: I love the reviews, the reviews, and it’s been a little bit more difficult because we’ve got some, many more of them books up to about 600, I replied to every single one—and whether or not it was a good review or a bad review. I fell off a little bit as I’ve gotten more busy, but whether or not it was a good one or a bad one, I reached out to every single person to try to build a relationship with them.
What I would do is I would, I would tell them, thank you for coming in. And then I would offer to bring them back in and give them this off menu experience on the house. And that was my, that was my, that was my strategy. It’s my way to blow people’s minds. That’s how I lived that value out. Because one of the things was when COVID happened, we lost a little bit of our connection with the people.
And so I used Yelp to build a connection with people because what better place to do that? And if somebody has come to your spot, had a great experience, cared enough to go write something; man, that’s that’s gold. If you can meet that person, you can take that to the next level. That’s magic, like it’s alchemy. You know what I mean?
EMILY: In fact, he’s so committed to his customers and making a positive impact in their lives that he became emotional talking about what reviews mean to him and how they can actually improve his personal life as well as his business.
BRIAN: I love what I do. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to, like, I firmly feel that if you do what we’re doing and the way that we’re doing it, you change people’s lives. And I say that in the sincerest way. Like I’ve seen so many times how I’ve been able to turn these experiences that people have bad into just these really, really beautiful things.
And that’s really what it’s all about to me. And I ask myself like, you know, what can we learn from it? Because if someone writes you a bad review, like they didn’t come there wanting to have a bad experience. Right? So you have to ask yourself, what can I learn from this to be better? And if that’s where you’re at.
And you’re asking yourself how you can serve that person. It’s such a practice within like your own self of getting out of your ego and learning how to serve people. And like, that’s why I love the reviews because every single one is an opportunity for me to practice that. And that’s just my journey, you know what I mean?
That’s just my journey, you know? So like that’s kind of, I didn’t, you asked me that question. I’m a feeler, you know what I mean? Like I feel things deeply. And so that’s kind of where I’m coming from with reviews. Yeah.
EMILY: That heart and soul that Brian and his business partner Ryan put into Bird Bird Biscuit spills over into every aspect of their business, from the delicious sandwiches to the excellent customer service. It makes eating a sandwich from Bird Bird a magical experience.
CASEY: Like it’s everything that you would want in a chicken biscuit. Like literally not dry, very crispy and flavorful. And the biscuit itself is very soft. So it like contrasts with how crispy the chicken is, and they used honey in it, at least in the one that I got. It was just great. I felt like I was in heaven when I was eating this biscuit and me and my friends, we were literally just sitting on the floor, outside Bird, Bird Biscuit, and we were blown away by this food experience.
Like, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Ratatouille, but, there’s that part where I think his name is Remy. Remy is explaining to his brother about how to taste different food. And he gives him like a grape and a piece of cheese, and then he has all these images popping up when he’s eating these things.
That’s kind of how I felt when I was sitting here eating this chicken biscuit. So it was just great. Like, I loved it.
EMILY: Brian wants Bird Bird to be more than just a great place to eat. He’s determined to use Bird Bird Biscuit as a safe place for anyone, no matter where they are in life, even if that means his business doesn’t grow as quickly as it could.
BRIAN: Well, everybody’s dealing with something, you know, everybody’s going through something in their lives and you just don’t know that person’s story.
And so a lot of my perspective, because I work very closely with these people are the people that I worked side-by-side with. And what I’ve experienced time and time again is—whether it’s something that happened in childhood or whether it’s something that they experienced when they were in high school or they were teased or whatever—a lot of times people don’t feel safe, they don’t feel safe.
And I really do my best to just let them know that like, Bird Bird is a safe place. Like you’re not being judged at Bird Bird Biscuit. When people feel safe, they feel like. You can’t heal if you’re not safe, if you don’t feel safe. And so that’s like where my heart’s at. So many of these relationships that I have—and it’s one of the things that’s hard about growing Bird Bird is because it’s such a heart investment for me that as it grows, it’s a challenge. Cause I have three kids and a wife you know what I mean? So it’s a challenge to give that to 40 people, you know, not that 40 people necessarily need that. But that’s the challenge.
My business partner and I have always said that, like, we’ll grow this business as far as we can grow it and maintain like its essence. And we won’t go past that. But that, that really is what it is for me. It’s about making an environment where people feel like they have belonging. Where they feel safe so that they can express their hurts and we can walk through it.
As long as somebody is willing to try to make progress, I’ll walk with that person as far as they want to go. And when we walked that together, which we’re doing together, that seed is a good seed and a good seed bears good fruit.
EMILY: We’re going to take one more quick break, but when we come back Brian will close out by sharing their final value and how it positively impacts their employees, as well as trickles down to the customer experience as well.
EMILY: We’re back! Here’s Brian with their final core value and how it translates to the consumer experience. I hope it inspires you to think of some values of your own or maybe tweak some of your existing ones.
BRIAN: We have four values. The one that you’re talking about is this one that we call it, we say “people not objects.”
And I describe it as having two sides to it. The first side kind of determines the second side, and that first side is: How are we treating each other at birth? Just like inside of the business, how are we treating one another? Like, are we actually showing each other that we care? Are we listening to each other or are we not judging each other? Are we not talking behind each other’s backs? Are we coming to one another?
When we have conflict and working through that stuff, and when we work on all those fundamentals, everyone feels that they’re in a healthy environment. And that healthy environment and that care and love and connection with one another—that reflects outwards. And then that’s what the people outside feel.
But if that’s not the heart of what you have. You can’t give what you don’t possess. Right? So we’re focusing first and foremost on that honesty on how we treat each other in this shop every single day, so that we can reflect outwards being joyful and being happy in our work environment, because that’s what people feel when they come to Bird Bird. People love working here because it’s a good environment. And I think that’s what you’re, that’s what people feel. That’s what Casey felt. She felt that people love being here. And that’s, I think that’s, that’s a big part of it.
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