Anyway, one of the first restaurants we saw was a place called Zaxby's. When we first saw it, we thought, "Gee, that looks just like Raising Cane's." Raising Cane's is a chicken finger franchise that started in Baton Rouge in 1996. They serve chicken fingers as their main entree, and that's it. Alana and I went nuts for it when the first opened a store in West Monroe, and we got Jimmy and Jason hooked on it soon after. Recently, though, there's been a serious drop in our interest for Raising Cane's. I'm not sure why. I had it last Friday and enjoyed it, but Alana has gone almost completely off it. Jimmy and Jason aren't as interested, either. I think maybe we just OD'd on it.
So, we entered Zaxby's. That's when we discovered that it was almost exactly like Raising Cane's! Well, okay, we didn't realize this at first. Zaxby's has a wider range of menu items (mostly featuring chicken). The decor in Zaxby's was a modern interpretation of the 1920s and 1930s, while Raising Cane's is a post-modern interpretation of a 1950s diner. And, of course, Cane's ony does chicken fingers.
We ordered a chicken strip dinner, the same thing we would order at Raising Cane's. This is when we noticed some startling similarities:
- Cane's gives you three our four battered chicken fingers made from white breast meat. Unlike KFC, the chicken isn't greasy. Zaxby's gives you the same thing, only the pieces are smaller but you get one additional piece.
- Both serve crinkle cut.
- Both serve their own special form of mayonnaise-based sauce. Zaxby's is mass produced and comes in packaged containers. Cane's is served in clear plastic cups with lids, suggesting that they are at least packaged at each store.
- Both serve Texas toast with the meal.
- Both serve coleslaw, which you can substitute for extra fries.
- Both dispense ketchup into small paper cups. In both cases, the ketchup is on tap with the dispenser built into the surface of the counter top.
- Both dispense crushed ice instead of ice cubes.
The comparisons were beyond eerie. It was quite clear that someone had ripped off someone else. I mean, it couldn't be co-incidence that the both had crinkle cut fries and crushed ice and Texas toast and their own special type of mayonnaise-based sauce.
I did some checking. Raising Cane's was founded in 1997. Zaxby's, which even has its own NASCAR car, was founded in 1990. Oops! It looks like Raising Cane's is a direct steal from Zaxby's (though, perhaps, with the added wrinkle that they would only specialize in chicken fingers).
What's the verdict on taste? The sauce was no contest. Cane's sauce is better, though it wasn't like Zaxby's was inedible or anything. The chicken was a little less obvious. At first I gave Cane's the win. Their fingers are bigger, a little juicier, and seemed a little less crispy. However, we ate at Zaxby's twice that week, while I can't do Cane's more than a couple of times a month (and we went from monthly with our roleplaying game group to maybe once every four or six months). Zaxby's chicken fingers seem to sit lighter in the tummy.
So, overall — and though I hate to do it — I would have to give Zaxby's a slight nod. I can see how some folks would prefer Cane's chicken, but it can't be just coincidence that four of us have taken less of a shine to them in recent months. Added to my disappointment that Raising Cane's is not as original as I thought they were, our estimation of the chain has dropped a bit since those heady days of two years ago when they first opened in West Monroe.