Several restaurant concepts tested the waters in the Capital Region before becoming successful national or regional chains. Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, says Baton Rouge is a good place for gauging general consumer interest—the kind that translates to a larger regional or even national audience. Says Harris: “We’ve seen Baton Rouge become a launch pad for concepts that have the power to do well elsewhere.”
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
After several local banks shot down Todd Graves’s chicken finger concept, the recent college graduate raised start-up capital by working as a boilermaker in California and a salmon fisherman in Alaska. He returned to Baton Rouge, renovated a storefront at Highland Road and State Street and opened the first Raising Cane’s. Known as “Cane’s 1,” it’s where Graves often conducts meetings and media interviews.
Fare: Chicken finger meals
Locations: 210 restaurants in 18 states. The company will expand internationally this summer with a location in the Middle East.
Latest annual revenues: $450 million
Entrepreneur T.H. “Tandy” Hamilton bought a cafeteria-style coffee shop called Piccadilly on Third Street in downtown Baton Rouge in 1944, 12 years after the restaurant first opened. He improved flow and expanded the concept throughout the city and the Southeast. At its peak in 1998, Piccadilly had 131 locations and another 142 after purchasing Morrison’s Cafeterias. The expansion lost money, resulting in Piccadilly filing for bankruptcy protection and eliminating sites. Today, the restaurant has an additional revenue stream in disaster relief catering.
Ownership: Holding company
Fare: Southern comfort cafeteria
Locations: 60 restaurants throughout the Southeast
Latest annual revenues: $132 million*
Mitch Rotolo opened the first Rotolo’s Pizzeria outside the LSU campus. After growing aggressively after Hurricane Katrina, Rotolo’s became the official pizza of the New Orleans Saints. In 2014, the company donated 10,000 tomato plants in recycled Rotolo’s cups to schoolchildren for Mother’s Day.
Ownership: Corporation- and franchisee-owned
Fare: Casual Italian
Locations: 37 in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Florida. Two more are underway.
Latest annual revenues: $24 million
Vic Dunlap Sr. opened the first Mary Lee in Baton Rouge in 1969 at 9833 Florida Blvd. near Sharp Road, a location still operating today. Franchiser Vic Dunlap Jr. requires that every Mary Lee is owner-operated. New licenses are issued through his company, Chef Products.
Ownership: All locations franchiser-owned
Locations: 19 in south Louisiana. An additional location in Baton Rouge will be announced in the next few weeks.
Latest annual revenues: $500,000*
Founders and original owners Brandon Landry and Jack Warner conceived the first LSU sports bar on a return trip from an away game when the two were walk-ons with the LSU men’s basketball team in the late 1990s. Numerous banks turned them down. After finally securing a loan, their Walk-On’s sports bar idea caught on, as did other concepts they subsequently developed. Their company, Last-In Concepts, hit the $25 million mark in 2012. In early 2014, the duo announced an amicable ownership change with New Orleans businessman Rick Farrell buying out Warner’s share, and Warner holding onto locations of The Roux House and Schlittz & Giggles.
Fare: Sports bar fare including burgers and wings
Locations: There are four locations of Walk-On’s in south Louisiana with a Walk-On’s Halfcourt in the works for downtown Baton Rouge, and four Happy’s Irish Pubs in south Louisiana.
Latest annual revenues: $15 million*
CC’s Coffee House
CC’s Coffee House was launched by Community Coffee, the largest family owned and operated retail brand in the country. Community Coffee was started in Baton Rouge in the early 1900s. The first CC’s opened in New Orleans in 1995 with a trademarked signature frozen beverage called the Mochasippi.
Ownership: Locations owned by corporation and by franchisees
Fare: Specialty coffee, tea and pastries
Locations: 30 in south Louisiana and one in Arizona. A Mississippi location is forthcoming.
Latest annual revenues: Unknown**
* Company would not disclose. Estimate provided by Hoovers.
** Company would not disclose; no estimates available.