In business, and particularly in the business of food, there’s often a hard opinion on how to scale a brand. Many with large aspirations tend to desire rapid growth. They often go out of their way to create large infrastructures, a large-scale yet affordable supply chain and as many locations as they can to serve as many customers as possible. But then there are those with more personal goals; those who prefer to keep things smaller and more contained. It’s often said that between these two options, business owners have to choose either high profitability or high quality of a product. In some cases this is true, but not in the case of Bill Stitt, known as the creator of Bill-E’s Small Batch Bacon, a brand that he maintains to this day to be extremely local and high-quality, while at the same time having a large reach across the east coast.
From early on in his life in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Bill has wanted to work and innovate in the food industry. He graduated from the University of Mississippi (better known to some as Ole Miss) with a Business Degree and became one of the first students to graduate from the school’s Hospitality Management Program, later allowing him to become the Hotel and Restaurant Management Senior of the Year. He later found his wife’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where he decided he wanted to innovate and found the local restaurant franchise Ruby Tuesday as a perfect place to do just that, eventually becoming a senior director helping to create the catering systems that the restaurant uses to this day. Eventually, in 2011, Bill hit a crossroads when he had to decide whether to leave Mobile or stay and remain focused on operations. Wanting to make South Alabama his permanent home, he decided to stay and aspired to open his very own restaurant with his experience and expertise.
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But that aspiration would lead to challenges. Creating a restaurant is risky, financially, and incredibly time-consuming, but fortune would shine the day he was at last able to find affordable equipment and a building to start his work. It was an old restaurant; a restaurant that had failed due to hard times and poor management. Bill didn’t want to end up that way. He wanted to create a truly local, high-quality restaurant that could serve as the ultimate place to hang out and eat great food. He wanted to emphasize the importance of the restaurant experience; the power that a restaurant can have to bring people together and give them a place to have a good time. But he didn’t stop there.
All the way back in 1987, Bill had an idea for a class project for Bill-E brand food products, one of which would be Bill-E Bacon. That idea would come to fruition in his restaurant. Making excellent tasting bacon out of the highest quality pork bellies he could find on the market was exciting for him, so he took it upon himself to integrate that into his restaurant, and created a small “plant” right inside the back of the house. Through USDA approval and a little marketing, Bill-E Bacon made its way to the supermarkets across the Gulf Coast, and became a huge hit.
But though it expanded, Bill’s own operations in creating the product remained the same: in small batches, and with plenty of hands-on work. His belief is firm: each pork belly has a story, from where it came from, to where it was smoked and even how long it took to get there. He believes this love for the product and its customers are the key ingredient to his own success. Today, Bill-E’s remains a personable brand; one that feels truly local, even though it’s expanded as far as Pensacola and New York. His message is simple: maintain a high-quality product, treat your customers like your neighbors and never lose sight of the passion you have for your business. Bill-E’s Small Batch Bacon can be found in Fairhope and operates to this day with small smokers and an 8-day curing process that he tirelessly maintains to bring his customers the best product he can each and every day.