Nearly four years into its ambitious, five-year strategic plan, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers plans to close 2019 with the $1.5 billion in sales the company originally projected for late 2020, putting the restaurant chain on track to be a $2 billion company by the end of next year.
It’s no small feat: Hitting the $1.5 billion marker alone means Cane’s has tripled the $565 million in sales it generated in 2015, shortly before the plan was unveiled.
“The average unit volume of new restaurant openings exceeded what we estimated sales would be,” says Cane’s Founder and CEO Todd Graves. “Sales from our existing pool of restaurants were higher as well, and some of that can be attributed to speed. We got faster with our drive-thrus.”
However, not all is going according to the 2016 plan. Cane’s expects to wrap 2020 with some 550 restaurants in its portfolio—slightly less than the 600 it previously targeted.
The main reason for this, says Graves, traces back to a year and a half ago, when the company acquired MRG, one of its largest franchise groups. Though the move gave Cane’s another 33 high-volume restaurants in Arizona and Nevada and added some 2,000 workers to its employee base, the time-consuming acquisition process also slowed expansion efforts.
“For us, it takes more time to acquire a franchisee than it does to open new company restaurants,” Graves says. “You can’t always plan exactly, but we’re thrilled about how it’s gone. Now, we have offices in Las Vegas, and we won ‘Best Places to Work’ recognition in Phoenix.”
Of the 69 new restaurants Cane’s has opened this year, 46 are company-owned and 23 are franchises. Overall, franchises—including a fast-growing Middle Eastern partner—now comprise 20% of the company’s footprint. But Graves says Cane’s is no longer franchising domestically.
Instead, the chain has been focused on organically growing its Western presence, opening its first restaurant in Alaska earlier this year and continuing to expand in Texas, California and Colorado. Another 70 restaurant openings are planned for 2020.
Graves says the company’s next strategic planning phase will begin in the first quarter of 2020.