Raising Cane’s wants to make its managing partners millionaires

The chicken finger chain is upgrading its managing partner program with upgraded compensation and long-term benefits.
Photograph courtesy of Raising Cane's

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has a plan to make its top restaurant operators wealthy without requiring any upfront investment.

The fast-growing Baton Rouge, La.-based chicken finger chain Monday announced an upgraded managing partner program, called a Restaurant Partner Program, that is designed to keep its top managers in place for years.

The program doesn’t require operators to pay any upfront investment, choosing them instead based on their overall performance.

They can then earn more than $100,000 per year in salary and bonuses and earn incentives based on performance and profitability while receiving various benefits such as a healthcare concierge service and help from a financial adviser.

Within 15 years, the company projects, its partners can have a net worth of more than $1 million. 

“We believe our partners can have a great career, and also have a great lifestyle, a balanced lifestyle, while working hard and having fun and have a great net worth for their families,” AJ Kumaran, co-CEO of the nearly 500-unit Cane’s, said in an interview with Restaurant Business.

Cane’s has been one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the U.S. in recent years, with a simple menu consisting purely of chicken fingers and sides. The company has taken advantage of a consumer yearning for boneless chicken products.

System sales have more than tripled over the past four years, to $1.5 billion, with average unit volumes exceeding $3.5 million.

Company executives believe their existing managing partner program, which was started in 2009, has been a key to the brand’s success.

Cane’s has spent the past two to three years working on upgrading that program. Managing partners are now known as restaurant partners. The chain’s general managers, known at the company as restaurant leaders, are eligible to take part in the partner program. About a third of those restaurant leaders are currently partners.

The partners receive considerable training before they become partners. 

“Our goal is to get all leaders to be partners,” Kumaran said. “We find them, we train them, and we partner with them for the long-term.”

Those leaders earn their way into the partner program rather than pay for it.

To the company, that’s important and separates the brand from other concepts that make partners pay their way into the system by rewarding those who separate themselves from the pack.

“Sweat equity is what’s the real value, not actual cash,” Todd Graves, Cane’s founder and co-CEO, said in an interview. “Running a restaurant is a challenging job. You’re really the CEO. You’re running a multimillion-dollar business. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a buy-in.”

The program also provides Cane’s with a potentially attractive benefit at a time when restaurant general managers are in heavy demand and critical to a concept’s overall success. A good general manager can be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable restaurant.

Cane’s in recent years has been able to attract its restaurant leaders from a variety of other types of concepts, including casual-dining chains and even some fine-dining restaurants.

The benefits help, too. The company connects partners with health and financial planning. That includes a concierge who can help make healthcare appointments as well as advice to help them plan how to pay for their kids’ college education or build their dream home.

“Even with great compensation, you can forget some of the basics,” Kumaran said. “We want them to have great advice from qualified financial professionals, great advice to make the right decisions in life.”

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