Raising Cane’s founder Todd Graves officially opened the chain’s global flagship location in Times Square Tuesday, cutting a extra-wide red ribbon with a giant pair of scissors, his yellow lab Cane III by his side.
The footprint was originally planned to be 4,000-square feet, “but we wanted to blow up the flagship so we doubled the size,” said Graves at the opening. The 8,000-square-foot unit is Raising Cane’s largest, designed to build global brand recognition on one of the busiest corners in America. About 300,000 people pass through Times Square every day.
“We aim to become a Top 10 restaurant company, and that involves more international growth as well as in the U.S.,” said Graves. Tourists from every country crowd the streets here and “this location gives us brand exposure all over the world,” he added. “To be here in Times Square to open a global flagship, it doesn’t get better than this. And it gets us ready for what comes next.”
Next means a goal of 25 more units in the New York City metropolitan area in the next three years. In August, a Raising Cane’s will open downtown on Astor Place in Greenwich Village, followed by another on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, then Harlem. Deals are also signed for The Bronx, Queens and Long Island. “We’re hitting areas where a lot of New Yorkers are, and then can spread to more suburbs,” said Graves.
While a few drive-thrus are in the plan for the ‘burbs, 90% of the units will be standalones, he noted.
When the flagship site was selected during the pandemic, there was not much competition for midtown real estate. Empty storefronts were relatively easy to grab. “But now a lot of people are bullish on New York City and the competition has grown 1,000 times post-COVID,” Graves added.
The crowds on Tuesday morning attested to the fact that New York City is back. A line of fans snaked around the block, many waiting overnight for the chance to score free swag and get a taste of Raising Cane’s famous chicken fingers, sauce, Cane’s toast and crinkle fries. The first 200 in line received a free hat, but the first 20 won Raising Cane’s food for a year.
The Times Square location is on the ground floor of the historic 1926 Paramount Building, where a neon “coming soon” sign hung for over two years. Graves attributed the holdup to contract and lease negotiations, getting the engineering right in an old building, construction delays and supply chain issues. Once resolved, actual construction took about eight months.
A slice of the Big Apple
The menu is the same as it is at all Raising Cane’s 740 restaurants across 36 states, focusing on “One Love”—craveable chicken finger meals. But the interior is uniquely New York.
Upon entering, guests are greeted by a statue of the chain’s current mascot, Cane III, dressed like Lady Liberty. Custom design elements fill the space, including a NYC-themed mural painted by New York-based artist Timothy Goodman, bold graphics, interactive digital displays, shelves of exclusive Big Apple merch and a Caniac corner with Cane’s toast couches and a sauce-shaped table.
The restaurant is just steps away from the spot where the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drops in Times Square, and Raising Cane’s is planning a “holiday in the city” campaign during the season. “We’ll fill the windows with animatrons like Macy’s,” said Graves. The brand’s signature disco ball décor, found in every location, is glamorized Manhattan-style with crystals from a local design studio, as a sparkly homage to that New Year’s Eve ball.
“We didn’t just want to have a presence in Times Square … we wanted to come into New York and blow it out and fill it, giving tourists and New Yorkers a great experience while building brand recognition,” said Graves.
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