Raising Cane’s holds grand opening, ribbon cutting
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The 122nd Raising Cane’s in Texas and the 340th in the United States opened on Tuesday in Copperas Cove, with Caniacs camping out overnight on Monday outside the restaurant.
The first 20 paying customers received a card which entitles them to one Raising Cane’s meal every week for a year. The first 100 paying customers received a one-of-a-kind Raising Cane’s grand opening T-shirt.
The restaurant held a soft opening on Monday at lunch and dinner hours, during which those who had tickets could get a free meal, either walking in or via the store’s drive-through. The opening served as a training day for the new employees.
Company reps planned ahead for the onslaught of customers by having Coryell County sheriff’s deputies on hand both Monday and Tuesday to help with traffic flow.
Tuesday morning prior to the official opening, the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors held a ribbon cutting for Raising Cane’s.
Mark Strauss, the company’s area director, was on hand for the opening and shared about the company’s history. Raising Cane’s is known for symbols that hail to the company’s founder, Todd Graves. Strauss said in the beginning, Graves was told his business plan of a restaurant that sold only chicken fingers would “never work.” He then raised the funds himself to start the business by working in a refinery as a boilermaker and in Alaska as a salmon fisherman, then returned to Baton Rouge to open his first restaurant in 1996.
Strauss said every restaurant has a salmon on the wall, representing Graves’ work as a salmon fisherman, and one tradition every crew member participates in is kissing a salmon on their 5th anniversary of working for the company. Strauss kept up another tradition by presenting Shaun Smith, the store’s general manager, with a hardhat that represents the work Graves did in the refinery. Strauss said the inside of the hat was signed by the new crew members at the Copperas Cove store and the outside signed by the opening day crew members. Strauss also presented Smith with a cricket, a symbol of prosperity.
Smith, who has called Copperas Cove home for 22 years, talked about what it means to be head of the team at the Copperas Cove Raising Cane’s and what the group has done in the community before the restaurant even opened.
“It is an amazing, amazing feeling to be a part of Raising Cane’s,” Smith said, adding that Copperas Cove crew members are already trying to make a difference in the community by volunteering at Cove House Emergency Homeless Shelter.
“Our crew is hands-on, we did a lot of yard work for them, repainted one of the houses. That’s what’s Raising Cane’s is all about.”
Smith said they hired roughly 75 employees after holding more than 700 job interviews.
“I hope that as a community you feel that you rare able to reach out to us, and that we are able to reach out to y’all, and we can grow this together,” Smith said.
Immediately after the ribbon cutting, Smith presented a check for $1,000 to Brian Hawkins, Cove House’s executive director. The store had collected donations from the customers who attended the training day on Monday.
“We really appreciate you giving of your time,” said Hawkins. “We survive on our community support, and support like this is a tremendous, tremendous support to us.”
After that, it was all about the chicken fingers, fries, coleslaw and secret sauce as the first customers lined up to enter the store as they were cheered on by the Copperas Cove High School cheerleaders.
John Braggs was one of the 20 customers who came away with free Raising Cane’s for a year.
“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this,” Braggs said, who stayed overnight in his vehicle at the store. “It’s one of my bucket list items. I love Raising Cane’s.”
Longtime Covite Weldon Schneider is 81 years old and slept in the back of his van on Monday night outside Raising Cane’s.
“My wife passed away eight years ago, and sometimes I get tired of my cooking,” Schneider said. “I did the same thing when Chick-fil-A opened a few years ago; a whole group of us stayed there overnight, too.”
Also as part of the grand opening day festivities, the store management awarded the Raising Cane’s Spirit Award, which is unique to each store. In this case, it was a clear plastic dog bone and was awarded to Sarah Stephens, a student at Copperas Cove High School who is one of the store’s new crew members.