Sunday, October 07, 2007

Raising Cane's concept a ripoff? Say it ain't so!

Last month I trained a client in LaGrange, Georgia, about 15 miles east of the Alabama border and an hour from Atlanta. It was the most fun I've had on a business trip, largely due to the company. Travis — one of my "peeps" — attended with me, so that he could see what it was like to train someone in person. It turned out that we have an amazing amount of stuff in common. As an example, during the eight hour drive home — and half hour lunch break — we didn't bother turning on the radio once. We just yapped the whole way.

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.


Anonymous said...

Actually both Cane's and Zaxby's concepts were taken from an older company called Guthrie's.

Anonymous said...

The first Guthrie's ever built was in 1965 in Haleyville, Alabama. Then in Auburn in 1982. Then it came to Athens in 1984.
Zaxby's opened up in Statesboro, Ga. in 1990.
Raising Cane's opened in 1997.

I believe they are each revising a simple recipe.

The founder of Raising Cane's went to the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. This is where the 48th Cane's store was built in 2006, located on top of the same grounds the late Guthrie's stood. (It was burnt to the ground...)

I know from eating there that the chicken is never frozen, unlike the other restaurants... and the employees make the sauce and package it, as well as the coleslaw and honeymustard. Seems better to me.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old Blog post, but oh well... I just discovered the Raising Canes in Dallas, TX and was perplexed that they served some old, familiar foods I knew a long time ago...

There's a place in College Station, TX called Layne's. They serve the exact same stuff, right down to the sauce. I know they were established prior to Raising Canes, but I'm not sure about the others you guys are mentioning. It was certainly not around in the 60's when Guthrie's was opened! One funny thing - Raising Canes opened a location right next to Layne's in College Station. A sort of in-your-face claim that they made a chain out of the same ideas and Layne's is a 1-location joint.

Gotta love free commerce and the right for businesses to compete... It's kinda lame to steal concepts, but as long as the food tastes good, I don't care who's selling it!

Unknown said...

Actually we opened the first Raising Cane's in 1996 not 1997.

Unknown said...

Cane's never claimed it was an original concept. Infact if you go into a Cane's and read the history on it, that is posted on the wall, you can find out exactly how they came to be. Burger King, Mc Donalds, and Wendy's all serve burgers and fries and no one says they ripped each other off. Who cares how many different places serve Chicken fingers and fries, Eat What You Like.

Unknown said...

Not a fair comparison. Wendy's fries are different from McDonald's which are different from Burger King's (which are horrible, but that's another discussion).

The different major fast food chains have different looking and tasting burgers prepared in different ways.

Zaxby's and Raising Cane's each have very similar looking chicken (though having been to the Zaxby's in Jackson, MS, recently, I think Zaxby's chicken is a bit over cooked), they both have crinkle cut fries, they both have crushed ice (not cubes or cylinders), and they both have the same type of spigot ketchup dispenser.

They are very, very similar. Far too similar, to my mind, for it to be a coincidence. It's not just that they make chicken fingers, it's that a lot of the secondary stuff is the same or very similar.

Unknown said...

The sauce Cane's uses is a very common concoction made by many folks for many years. Crinkle cut fries are nothing new, neither are ketchup dispensers. This blog is borderline ridiculous.

Unknown said...

It never fails to amaze me how passionate people are about certain things.

bghc, you're missing the point. The sauce may not be unique, crinkle cut fries aren't unique, long necked compressed air ketchup dispensers aren't unique (and you forgot to mention that crushed ice dispensers aren't unique, either).

That's not my point. My point is that the sauce and the crinkle cut fries and the ketchup dispenser and the crushed ice and the Texas toast and the cole slaw and the main menu item (battered fried chicken) were all incredibly similar.

I mean, seriously, how many other fast food places server crinkle cut fries?

To me, these were more than just coincidences.

Anonymous said...

Are crinkle cut fries really uncommon in the south? They've been the staple at Braum's all my life. Lots of places have them in my experience.

Unknown said...

I can't think of anywhere else that has crinkle cut fries around here. None of the big chain fast food places have them. None of the smaller mom-and-pops have them. Steak fries are more popular, and there's a local place that does cottage fries (round fries).

The New Empire said...

The founders of both restaurants attended The University of Georgia.

I, also, am a business student there. I dont believe anyone ripped anyone off. I can imagine that they are both similar business models that were developed by students who were inspired by the same thing. Lots of good businesses come out of UGA, and there is a decent entrepreneurial program there.

lgray said...

This is an old post but I went to Orange Beach last year and ate at Guthrie's and it was the same as Cane's, down to the sauce! I was disappointed just because Cane's does seem to promote itself as being original and the sauce as being unique and it was the same as Guthrie's. And Guthrie's started in 1965, and added the sauce in 1978. I still like Cane's but it is a complete ripoff.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Sammymoll.

This is an old post but I wanted to vent on the same issue. I remember Guthrie's as a kid born and raised in Athens GA. Now, I love Zaxby's years after Guthrie's closed. But... a few buildings down from me at work is Raisin' Cane's. I ate there and wondered if it must be Guthrie's owners trying to pull one over on me. It is EXACTLY the same. The way everything is cooked, presented, and the sauce is Guthrie's all over.

Zaxby's is not copying b/c their menu is more extensive with salads, buffalos sauces, etc. Their "Zaxby Sauce" that's supposed to be like the 2 competitors sauce is gross and nothing like it!

Well, that's my 2 cents.

Unknown said...

reading these post i see a few have done the research on what all these restaurants have in common but CANES is so different in so many ways .. for one canes is known for its wide community service to all , two canes is a very personable restaurant to the customers we take ur name for that reason ,who wants to be called a #.. we will go above and beyond for our customers... we always greet and welcome you with smiles and hot fresh food . canes takes pride in there employees and makes sure they are taken care of ,with that being said im not saying other restaurants dont but on personal experience its been the best ...canes donates to multiple charities and host several fundraisers.and so so so so so so much more .. so what if they have chicken fingers,fries,toast,slaw,and canes sauce every restaurant is built with a different purpose and vision.. i have been to these others and atmosphere wise canes stands out 100% more than any . NOW KEEP IN MIND EVERY ONES VOICED THERE OPINION AND SO HAVE I .just remember everyone may have had the same concept but there vision was different and what they are based upon also differs... thanks .....

Teasergg said...

I prefer Zaxby's but there are none in Vegas. Sure wish Canes would do a knock off tongue torch sauce. That sauce is the best.