CEDAR FALLS — When you walk into the new Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers restaurant — or wheel into the drive-up lane – don’t be surprised to be greeted with a cute sally like “Yo, yo, yo – you want some chicken to go?” or “Thanks for changing lanes and choosing Cane’s.”
It’s a fun way to welcome customers, said General Manager Patrick Cox. There are more than 30 variations of sayings, a list that keeps growing, he noted.
The new quick-serve restaurant opens March 5 at 201 Viking Plaza Drive. Cox says plenty of swag will be given away on that first day, including T-shirts to the first 100 customers with purchase and a one-box combo meal each week for a year for 20 lucky customers.
“We’re excited because this is a prime location, probably the best location you could have for a new restaurant. We expect to be really busy,” Cox said.
The Baton Rouge, La.-based company is known for “ONE LOVE” – and that’s premium chicken finger meals. That’s the only meal on what has been called a minimalist menu, but Raising Cane’s care with their specialty wins rave reviews from customers. The Southern-style chicken fingers can be ordered as combo meals or a sandwich with sides of extra-long crinkle cut fries, Texas toast, cole slaw and freshly squeezed lemonade, both made fresh daily, along with Cane’s Secret Sauce.
“Everything is cooked to order. We drop the chicken in the fryer when you place your order. Birds are prepped daily and never frozen. We marinated the chicken for 24 hours before use which makes them tender and juicy, then the fingers are hand-dipped and dredged in seasoned batter, deep-fried in canola oil and served with our Cane’s Secret Sauce,” Cox explained.
“We don’t use heat lamps – don’t even own one because everything is made fresh, not made in advance and put under heat lamps. Our goal is to serve everyone the highest quality meal possible each time they come to Cane’s.”
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In 2016, the chicken tenders brand was named one of the top five quick-service restaurant chains in the U.S., praised for its food quality, customer service and cleanliness. The company’s sales increased by 25.9 percent in 2016, topping the list of fastest-growing U.S. chains by sales, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Raising Cane’s drive-thru service has been ranked as among the fastest, a considerable feat considering the chicken fingers and fries are made fresh with each order.
Raising Cane’s was founded by Todd Graves. The former business student at Louisiana State University worked as a boilermaker and commercial fisherman to raise cash before qualifying for a Small Business Administration loan. He opened his first restaurant in 1996 in Baton Rouge. Since then the company has opened more than 350 restaurants in nearly 27 states. There are 12 Raising Cane’s in the Middle East, including Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Iowa now will have three Raising Canes. There are locations in West Des Moines and Council Bluffs. The Cedar Falls location is expected to employ about 80 people, Cox says.
The restaurant interior has an eclectic industrial vibe mingled with elements of pop culture. Floors are tiled, including several areas with Moroccan-patterned tiles and a striking and colorful chandelier imported from Dubai. There are booths and tables for seating. A stretch of high tables have tops constructed from car hoods.
One wall features the company’s history, while another wall features a large image of the restaurant’s namesake, Graves’ yellow Labrador retriever Raising Cane. Raising Cane III, introduced at last year’s Mardi Gras, now continues the legacy.
CEO Justin Jones is not only excited about another Cane’s opening in the Midwest, but “because a portion of every dollar spent at Cane’s goes back into the community,” he said. “It’s not just words – it’s action.”
It’s a practice Graves began when he founded the chain. Now it’s a companywide philosophy that each restaurant makes a commitment to their community, providing support to nonprofit organizations serving youth, education and other local charities, Jones explained.