Doggone good chicken
When Todd Graves (ABJ ’94) and Craig Silvey wrote a business plan for a restaurant that would serve only chicken fingers, Silvey’s business professor at Louisiana State University told him the concept would never work. Raising Cane’s now has 120 locations in 16 states, including one on Baxter Street in Athens.
“That encouraged me,” Graves says of the professor’s remarks. “You tell someone not to do it and you just want to prove them wrong, so it’s actually motivation.”
Graves started the restaurant chain in 1996, after spending a couple of years working as a boilermaker in a Louisiana refinery and as a salmon fisherman in Alaska to raise money. The first restaurant was in a renovated building near the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
At first, Graves thought he would name the company Sockeye’s Chicken Fingers, after the kind of salmon he had fished to raise money to start the business.
“Someone said, ‘You ought to name it after your dog; that’d be pretty interesting and different,’” Graves says. “And we thought that wasn’t a bad idea, so we named it Raising Cane’s and he became our mascot.”
The first Raising Cane, a friendly yellow Lab, has since passed away. But Raising Cane II, a yellow Lab given to Graves by his wife Gwen as a Christmas present, carries on as mascot for the chain and makes frequent appearances throughout the community, including the local children’s hospital.