Todd Graves, founder, chairman and CEO of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, has faced large-scale crises before the coronavirus pandemic.
The Baton Rouge, La.-based brand weathered the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“At that point, we only had 28 restaurants,” Graves recalled in this Extra Serving podcast. “Twenty-one of them went down because of the storm. You can imagine the cash-flow crisis. Customers literally fled from the cities.”
Fifteen years later, as a much larger restaurant company, Raising Cane’s is weathering COVID-19 crisis. At around 500 units, only 40 closed under state and city restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Sales a few weeks into the coronavirus crisis were down 30%, he said, but those have clawed back to down 5% now. Most Raising Cane’s units have the benefit of drive-thru service.
“Those are the ones in mall food courts and in-line locations, where there is no business anymore,” Graves said.
The company did not furlough or lay off any employees. To keep busy, some crew members in Baton Rouge began making masks for medical facilities.
“We watched a few YouTube videos and learned how to make own medical masks,” Graves said. “Our teams started out making 20 and now, I think, they are up to 100 a day. … That’s just one small way of helping out.”
Graves, who appears in Hot Schedule videos about every third day for his restaurant teams, said communication and training are crucial during the pandemic.
Raising Cane’s has two major mantras, Graves said. “One, keep our customers and crew members safe as we continue to serve our customers through our drive-thru. And then two is: No crew member left behind. We’re working very hard to keep the crew that we went into this pandemic with the same as the crew we come out with.”
Listen to Graves outline his approach toward leadership and his expectations for how restaurants will emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions in this Extra Serving podcast.
This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.
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