For Meredith and Scott Layton, pies are more than just much-loved family recipes – they’re the heart of their southern pie shop, Buttermilk Sky Pie.
Named for the calming beauty of a cloud-dappled sky, Buttermilk Sky Pie has 22 franchised locations across Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Carolinas. Flavors like pecan, key lime, coconut cream, apple, and more line the counters of the farmhouse-chic shops and keep customers coming back for more.
Buxton spoke with Meredith Layton, co-founder and director of brand development and vision, about the ways Buttermilk Sky uses Buxton’s platform, what they’ve learned from it, and their future goals.
Buxton: What was the vision behind Buttermilk Sky Pie?
Meredith Layton: Our recipes come from my grandmother and Scott’s grandmother, and then we built them out from their basic recipes. It was really important for us to build a business that connects past traditions and what we grew up with and makes those traditions current to expose new generations to traditional pie.
So, for us, it was very much about an experience and building relationships around a really great product that's also traditional, that brings back memories, and kind of pulls at the heartstrings. And then, for the younger generations, if you haven't had much pie, it’s about exposing you for the first time to something really good.
What inspired you to look for a solution like Buxton?
We've used several different methods of finding the right locations, but we wanted the assurance that Buxton brings. We wanted to be able to dial in specifically to our customers and find out exactly where new locations need to be based on specific demographics. We just needed more help to find the right locations and make sure that we're getting right in the middle of our customer banks.
Buttermilk Sky Pie has been working with Buxton for just about a year now. How have you used Buxton’s tech, insights, and solutions?
The insights are really helping us on multiple levels to feel more confident. It’s also keeping us from getting into things we don't need to, which is a big thing in franchising. You can get led off on a rabbit trail or go down a rabbit hole you don't need to. We get lots of inquiries about putting franchises in, and if we know immediately, by looking at specific locations in Buxton’s platform, that they’re just not going to be our demographic or wouldn't benefit them or us? Well, then it's easier to stop that before we’ve spent too much time on it. That's been a huge asset.
And then, just from my perspective, marketing is something that I work very much on from brand vision, and it’s important to be able to stay current with the culture and find out our customers’ habits, like how often they're leaving the house to go find a sweet treat. Even recently, we've been talking with a new marketing firm and we were able to really dial in data through Buxton and say: “Here's the demographic that we'd like to reach that we're not reaching right now.”
Has your team found anything about your customers that surprised you?
We were very surprised by the level and specificity of the information that Buxton provides. The first time Scott, the president and CEO, brought it to me, I was just blown away with the amount of information that he could dial into.
What are your future goals for Buttermilk Sky Pie?
We want to grow. But it's very important for us to grow in a very natural, sustainable way, and not blow up really fast and move before we can get implementation in place.
One thing we've learned in franchising is that slow, steady growth, with a plan for sustainability, is crucial for us to be a brand that will stay around. Pies are traditional; they’re historical. And we understand that we have to stay relevant as the world changes, and we've really had to do that through COVID and all that flux.
What’s your biggest success with Buttermilk Sky Pie?
I think maintaining quality and maintaining relationships as we continue to turn out a consistent, delicious product in a gracious way has been our biggest success.
Our mission statement is: “Connecting the past and the present through the tradition of homemade pie.” So, that's what we do. We're connecting the past and the present. We always try to keep our mission statement front of mind, because we develop everything around it. It's really become important because you see that in so many arenas, people want connection. Especially given what we've been through for the last couple of years. People want to connect, they want relationships, and they want to share in something that they can build tradition around.
If you had made a different decision and not worked with Buxton, what would Buttermilk Sky look like today?
Probably less organization and a lot more frustration. I don't think we would be moving forward with as much intention because before, it always felt a little bit like we weren’t sure if we were making the right decisions. So, it's good to have concrete data behind the decisions you make, and it makes you move forward at a better, more confident pace.
What’s your best-selling pie?
Our I-40 pie. It’s our signature pie, named for Interstate 40. As I said, we want to be about connection, and I-40 is an interstate that connects lots of people. Now, it's connected lot of people with our brand because it's a favorite. It’s our pecan pie stepped up a notch with chocolate chips, coconut, and a shortbread crust.
Which is your favorite pie?
Ah, there are so many, and it depends on the season, but my all-time favorite that I could eat anytime would be pecan pie. It's my nanny's pecan pie. It's our oldest recipe in the books, and the one that she made for every occasion. Back in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, she was known as the pie lady. She took a pie to every funeral, and it was always her pecan pie. She was great at chocolate and caramel and a bunch of other ones too, but I have to say it: pecan is just a good, good standard pie. So, that's my favorite. And plus, you can put ice cream on it really, really nicely. Or a little salted caramel drizzled over the top.
Interested in learning about another franchised organization’s experience with Buxton and data-backed insights? Check out these best practices from Mark Molina, who owns four independent Orangetheory Fitness locations.