Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers: One dream. One love.

Beside the Point

Paul Odette, Yorktown restaurant leader, shares Raising Cane’s “One Love” sign next to its promotional feature for Post Malone 32-ounce collector’s cups. (Photo by Cathy Welch)

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers founder Todd Graves wrote the lowest scoring paper in his Louisiana State University class proposing an upscale fast food restaurant exclusively offering chicken fingers. With faith in his idea, Graves went on to work as a boilermaker and commercial fisherman, eventually bringing his dream to fruition. The flagship store is in Baton Rouge. Today, it operates in 35 states, and plans include opening 100 more in 2023 with the East Coast as its newest landscape.

Paul Odette, restaurant leader/fry cook and cashier at Raising Cane’s Yorktown location, met Graves at a company convention. Graves met with 200 crew members per session expressing appreciation for them.

“Todd is genuine and authentic,” Odette says. “He’s all about helping people grow and become successful.”

Raising Cane’s opened in December 2022 after its Hampton location opened a month earlier. It is 98 percent privately owned. Graves enjoys having a voice and maintaining its brand integrity. 

After high school graduation, Virginia native Odette began his culinary career at Outback Steakhouse. He now oversees Raising Cane’s 720th location.

Local fans made Raising Cane’s grand opening in Yorktown successful. The restaurant offered a Lucky 20 drawing, where winners would receive free Cane’s for a year. A high school band came in to march and the Chick-fil-A cow visited, too. “We’re different from Chick-fil-A, but we have a great relationship,” Odette says.”

Raising Cane’s slogan is “One Love.” “It’s like one family,” he says. “We build relationships through authentic table touches, not just asking customers how they are but how can we do better.”

What makes Raising Cane’s a better choice for fried chicken? Odette says the Box Combo (four chicken fingers, crinkle-cut fries, Cane’s sauce, Texas toast, coleslaw and a 22-ounce fountain drink) sets it apart. Also offered are Tailgates: 25, 50, 75 and 100-piece chicken finger trays. Hot, fresh food is always served. “If you’re looking for the perfect craveable chicken finger, you’re coming here,” Odette says with a smile.

The Yorktown location features original artist-rendered murals, some from its Baton Rouge flagship location. Diners can eat at several tables crafted from car hoods.

Raising Cane’s is ranked this year in the top 100 (#27) in Top Workplaces in the USA. Also of note is that Cane’s sauce was rated #1 Most Craveable Sauce and #1 Most Craveable Chicken in the U.S. by Technomic, Inc. Its goal is to be one of the top 10 restaurant brands by 2030.

Yorktown’s Raising Cane’s donated chicken fingers, totes and lemonade to help Mount Vernon Elementary School and Tabb High School teacher appreciation weeks. It also hosted booths at several Yorktown Market Days and at the recent Langley Air Show, where merchandise was distributed. Cane’s provides intentional goodwill to its employees by holding cookouts and holiday outings.

As a restaurant leader, Odette enjoys being a motivator and a part of Raising Cane’s community connection. The eatery works locally with the Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula. “We’re different from other fast food restaurants because of our deep community commitment,” Odette says, adding that his team also hosts fundraisers. His leadership team is very motivating.

“We have our own Facebook One Love app where crew members can share stories and successes,” Odette says. During last year’s massive lottery, management bought a ticket for each of its 50,000 crew members. If one ticket hit, they planned to split it among everyone. Cane’s also donated $10,000 toward someone’s first homeowner closing costs.

Odette, a Newport News resident, is married to Mamie. They have four children, ages 13 to 24 (Alexis, Kaylee, Tyson and Bryce). One of Odette’s favorite hobbies is golfing at Newport News Golf Club at Deer Run. “We take all our kids,” he says. “Some of us are good and some of us are not; it’s hilarious.” They also enjoy going to Busch Gardens in Orlando and to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

“It’s exciting to be a restaurant leader, and watch crew members grow,” Odette says. “It’s awesome to see your impact on people’s lives. 

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers C720
Address: 3150 Kiln Creek Pkwy., Yorktown, VA 23693
Phone: 757-327-7086
Contact: Paul Odette
Email: podette@raisingcanes.com
Website: raisingcanes.com

About Cathy Welch 74 Articles
Cathy Welch is a Hampton Roads-based writer, photographer and book editor. She says her life is an eclectic mix of career and FAMILY. She earned our Bachelors degree in business administration at Christopher Newport University, minoring in Spanish. Her career has been full- and part-time as an administrator, an engineering assistant, a bookseller, a merchandiser, a naval photography layout assistant, an office manager, a grant writer and a human resource manager, all giving her experiences that feed her writing. She fosters pups and does what she can to bless those who are in need, whether human or canine. She can be reached at 757-870-0768 or at cathywelch25@gmail.com.