Chicken finger fans rejoice. A year after announcing the chain was coming to Tampa Bay, Raising Cane’s is finally about to open.
The Louisiana-based fried chicken chain, founded in 1996, bought a site in Clearwater on Gulf to Bay Boulevard for $4.5 million last year, according to county records. They demolished the former Village Inn and built their own building from scratch. The restaurant is decorated with disco balls hanging from the ceiling, painted brick walls, an Elvis Presley poster and it offers outdoor patio seating.
The restaurant hired more than 130 people to staff the Clearwater location, according to the company.
Kim Boldus, area leader of Raising Cane’s restaurants, said there’s been a lot of excitement over their first opening in Tampa Bay. Restaurant staff have attended community events at the nearby Thresher’s Baycare Ballpark, the Gasparilla parade and St. Petersburg College to give out free meals and introduce people to the brand. The goal is to convert Tampa Bay locals to “Caniacs,” the moniker for superfans of the chain, Boldus said.
Here’s everything to know about the opening.
When is it opening?
Raising Cane’s is opening Tuesday at 2525 Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater. At the grand opening event, guests who arrive between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. will be entered for a chance to be one of 20 people who get free Raising Cane’s for a year. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and members of the city’s Chamber of Commerce will be there at 9:30 a.m. for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Regular hours are 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays to Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
What’s on the menu?
The Baton Rouge-based company is known for its fresh-to-order chicken fingers — which the company said are never frozen or put under a heat lamp — Texas toast and a tangy Cane’s sauce that only restaurant managers are allowed to make, Boldus said. They come in baskets that typically include crinkle-cut fries and coleslaw.
Raising Cane’s is entering an already-crowded market of fast-food chicken chains in Tampa Bay, such as KFC, Church’s Chicken, Hooters, Tampa-based PDQ and a Chick-fil-A. But the chain keeps its menu simple by focusing on the freshness of its chicken fingers.
“They keeps us on our toes when it comes to chicken. But when it comes to chicken finger meals, they have a lot to learn from us,” co-CEO AJ Kumaran told the Tampa Bay Times in an interview a year ago.
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How is it fresh to order?
When cars pull up to the drive-thru, staff are keeping track of how many chicken fingers there are and begin dropping chicken into the fryer so it’s ready by the time guests reach the window, Boldus said.
“We take an average of what we think the order will be and we drop chicken fingers,” Boldus said. “And it’s pretty close.”
Will there be more locations?
Yes. Boldus said Raising Cane’s is working on two other locations: one in Largo and another in Carrollwood. The Largo location will be on East Bay Drive near Highway U.S. 19 while Carrollwood’s restaurant will be by Dale Mabry Highway and Ehrlich Road. The Largo restaurant is set to open in March, Boldus said. Residents across the bay will have to wait until the end of the year or early 2024 before the Carrollwood site opens.