How Chicken Fingers Turned the Raising Cane’s Founder Into a Multibillionaire

At a Manhattan Raising Cane’s, you can get a three chicken-finger combo with fries, sauce, toast, and a drink for just $12. But all of the fast-casual restaurant’s sales add up fast.

Todd Graves, the founder of Raising Cane’s, is now a multibillionaire, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. His 90 percent stake in the business and the dividends he’s received combine for a fortune of $7.6 billion. That makes Graves the richest person in Louisiana, where Raising Cane’s first launched, and the 307th-wealthiest person on the planet.

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The original Raising Cane’s was opened on the campus of Louisiana State University in 1996. Back then, Graves worked at an oil refinery in California and fished for sockeye salmon in Alaska to raise funds for the restaurant. Initially, he considered calling it Sockeyes, as a nod to his background, Bloomberg noted, but he settled on a reference to his dog instead.

Eventually, Raising Cane’s expanded to Texas, which is now its largest market. Today, there are more than 750 locations in 37 states and four Middle Eastern countries. In the year ending this past June, the company saw a whopping $3.3 billion in sales and adjusted earnings of $647 million. By the end of the decade, it’s hoping to have annual sales of $10 billion, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

“We’re singularly focused on chicken finger meals,” co-CEO AJ Kumaran told the outlet. “That focus allows us to do this better than anyone else.”

The restaurant’s success is impressive in such a crowded market. Chicken has become a more popular category in fast food and fast-casual businesses, especially with the rise of chicken sandwiches at restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes. But Raising Cane’s has found a way to carve out a niche, with added visibility coming from a partnership with the rapper Post Malone.

Plus, Graves himself has become more prominent in pop culture. He’s recently starred in two television shows, including Restaurant Recovery. In that series, Graves helped struggling businesses rebound after a downturn during the pandemic. Raising Cane’s paid $8.8 million to produce the shows in 2020 and 2021, according to documents seen by Bloomberg.

That personal exposure, combined with the success of Graves’s chicken-finger empire, has made him a wealthy, wealthy man.

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