Todd Grave’s plan to create a restaurant that focused on superior chicken finger meals began in college but took many twists and turns before Raising Cane’s became a reality. Despite creating a business plan that earned the lowest grade in the class, Graves pressed on post-college with stints as a boilermaker in oil refineries and as a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska. Once Graves had his seed money he returned to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he set out to reconstruct an old building to house his dream. Named after his yellow lab, Raising Cane’s has grown from a single location to 94 restaurants in 15 states and along the way Graves has managed to rack up an amazing resume of firsts. Graves has been featured in Entrepreneur’s Young Millionaires cover story, was named an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year,” and has appeared on Fox’s “Secret Millionaire.” An involved member of many national and local organizations Graves works with the Young Presidents Organization, Share Our Strength, United Way as well as the National Restaurant Association.
Title: Founder, chairman, CEO, fry cook and cashier
Concept, headquarters location: Chicken finger QSR, Baton Rouge
Check averages: $9.50
Number of units: 94 restaurants
States: 15 states
Newest ventures: One Love, one venture.
Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Education: BS Business Administration
First restaurant job: Lemonade stand in my front yard
Restaurant light bulb moment: Working as a fry cook in college and having a ball during a long, busy shift. It’s not for everyone, but when you love it, you love it.
Heroes: Truett Cathy, Harry and Esther Snyder, John Wayne
What do you cook at home: Living in South Louisiana, cooking is a religion and I like to cook traditional Louisiana dishes like gumbo, crawfish étouffée and red beans and rice in my cast iron pot.
Most exotic dish eaten: GRASS EELS — live ones! They were not good.
First dish prepared as a child: Cold cereal and milk
Favorite TV, movie, music:
TV: Deadliest Catch
Movies: Chariots of Fire, Animal House
Music: Elvis, Willie Nelson and Better than Ezra
Favorite part of the job: Being in the restaurant — working with the crew and serving customers.
Guilty pleasure: Cane’s Sauce
Best stress management: Still working on that one, but we live on the LSU lakes in Baton Rouge, so we love to walk and bike the lakes.
Career highlights: Turning a $30 profit our first month, opening our first restaurant outside of Baton Rouge, ranking in top five of national chains in customer satisfaction (Sandelman & Assoc.) and speaking at LSU commencement
Best advice ever received: Progress rather than perfection
Best advice ever given: Find your One Love
Favorite book: The Sun Also Rises
Hobbies: I have an 8-year old daughter and a 6-year old son, so we spend a lot of time at soccer and T-ball games. Living in south Louisiana, we spend a lot of time outdoors. We live on a lake so there are always turtles and even an occasional alligator, so we spend a lot of time hanging outside with our kids. We love to travel and go to the beach or skiing. I’m a huge football fan so we go to a lot of LSU and New Orleans Saints games.
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