Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge winner pursues hospitality management certificate and MBA

Jamerus Payton and family celebrates winning the fifth Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. (ECU Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Jamerus Payton is the owner of Carolina Chicken and Waffles. His company recently won the fifth annual Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. However, with that win, Payton is not polishing his laurels. He’s continuing his education on two fronts. He’s pursuing his master of business administration, and at the same time, he’s pursuing his hospitality management graduate certificate offered through the School of Hospitality Leadership.

We recently caught up with Payton and spoke with him about his pursuit of that certificate and what he plans to do with it.

Why did you decide to pursue this certificate? 

My background is primarily in STEM and Operations leadership. I haven’t worked in food service since I was an undergrad at North Carolina A&T. I needed a crash course in food, beverage, and hospitality.

I believe that this certificate will directly and immediately impact my growth and development as a restaurateur and business leader, ultimately and ideally leading to Carolina Chicken & Waffles becoming a popular, well-known brand and economic engine throughout eastern North Carolina (ENC).

How do you see the graduate certificate helping you grow/sustain your business? 

This certificate will provide me with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and network to successfully transition into the food, beverage and hospitality industry. I felt that if I was going to grow and scale Carolina Chicken & Waffles successfully, I needed to go back to the basics and become aware of the trends in the overall food, beverage and hospitality industry (including in ENC).

How have you already implemented what you’ve learned in your classes with your business? 

Last semester, I took Critical Analysis of Food Service and Beverage Management Systems with Dr. Lee. Our textbook, “Restaurant Concepts, Management, and Operations,” has become my go-to reference book for the Carolina Chicken & Waffles operation. It has helped me with business planning, redefining my concept & menu, marketing strategies, staffing needs and budgeting/control.

What’s your biggest takeaway from being successful in the food truck industry?

To be successful, you must ensure that you have a unique yet simple concept that the market will receive and embrace with excitement. Your concept and food truck must solve an immediate problem. For us, we realized no chicken and waffles restaurants existed east of I-95. Our customers had to drive to major cities or attempt cooking this dish at home. Another key takeaway is the importance of keeping your menu simple to control truck space, inventory, and cost.