We visited the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America — and what we discovered should terrify KFC and Chick-fil-A

Raising Cane's

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Raising Cane’s
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Hollis Johnson

  • Raising Cane’s is the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US.
  • The chain has gained a loyal following by focusing on just one thing: chicken wings.
  • We visited Raising Cane’s ourselves and found it more than lived up to the hype.

The fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US is all about one thing: chicken fingers.

Raising Cane’s increased sales by a whopping 25.9% in 2016, reaching the No. 1 spot on Nation’s Restaurant News annual list of the fastest-growing chains by sales in the US last July.

The 310-location chicken-finger restaurant is taking over the nation, opening 59 new restaurants in 2016 alone. And, it has the added bonus of offering the fastest drive-thru service in the industry, according to QSR Magazine.

Fried chicken is hot right now, but Raising Cane’s offers something a little bit different than chains like Chick-fil-A or KFC, thanks to its minimalist menu and focus on chicken fingers.

To see if Raising Cane’s lives up to the hype, Business Insider visited a location in Charlottesville, Virginia. What we discovered was a chain with the potential to go head-to-head with the champions of the chicken industry.


The first thing we noticed at Raising Cane’s was its surprisingly minimalist menu. In contrast to much of the chicken category, Raising Cane’s boasts just four options, plus a kid’s combo.

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Hollis Johnson

Basically, there are just two questions at Raising Cane’s: How many chicken fingers do you want, and how do you want ’em?

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Hollis Johnson

Raising Cane’s locations fall between the chic minimalism of many fast-casual chains, like Panera, and the straightforward and sometimes less-than-impressive designs of fast-food locations.

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Hollis Johnson

Walls were covered with posters that would not be out of place in a college freshman’s dorm room.

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Hollis Johnson

Our food was ready quickly, taking just over five minutes to prepare. In addition to the speedy service, it seemed the staff was looking out for our best interests, as we heard a server quietly send back a dish she judged as needing another scoop of fries.

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Hollis Johnson

We ordered one three-finger combo and one sandwich combo.

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Hollis Johnson

Upon plucking up our chicken fingers, we found our own fingers covered in grease. However, biting into the chicken, we found it to be piping hot and freshly fried — a cut above the fried-chicken competition.

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Hollis Johnson

The incredibly crisp yet light breading is reminiscent of a boardwalk food stand, a distinct and familiar flavor that you won’t find at a classic fried-chicken joint. Instead, it tastes almost home-fried — certainly a treat, but not a grubby grease bomb.

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Hollis Johnson

The sandwich was more of the same. If you like the chicken and Cane’s sauce, you’ll enjoy three of them stacked on a sandwich.

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Hollis Johnson

The chicken is paired with the mysterious Cane’s sauce. According to rumors — the recipe is closely guarded — the sauce is a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and garlic powder. The result is a tangy, vinegary condiment that wouldn’t seem out of place as a salad dressing. It works, but it doesn’t have the cultlike addictiveness that keeps Chick-fil-A Sauce fans double dipping.

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Hollis Johnson

Every Raising Cane’s combo comes with fries and Texas toast. The fries — crinkle cut — are forgettable, but that toast is tremendous. The golden, buttery carb is the platonic form of the Maillard reaction, a toasty treat that satisfies both carby cravings and buttery lusts.

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Hollis Johnson

Raising Cane’s tightly focused menu is an anomaly in the fast-food fried-chicken business: It keeps attention tightly centered on chicken fingers and essentially nothing else.

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Hollis Johnson

At the end of the day, that’s all it takes. The quality of Raising Cane’s chicken fingers raises the bar for all chicken chains. As the up-and-coming chain continues to advance, rivals like KFC and Chick-fil-A should be scared.

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Hollis Johnson