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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Playing chicken: Raising Cane’s cooking up plans for Spokane next door to competitor

The fast-growing Raising Cane’s is expanding its presence in California’s Bay Area. Raising Cane’s has announced it will be opening a location on Spokane’s north side near Chick-fil-A.  (Bay Area News Group)

The menu is short, and its following is extensive – Raising Cane’s could come to Spokane.

Despite having a menu that consists almost entirely of chicken tenders, Raising Cane’s is one of the most popular fast-food chains in the country.

According to its website, it opened eight locations in April, four in March and 10 in February.

And last week, the company submitted an official application to build a $3 million restaurant in Spokane at 9252 N. Newport Hwy. The currently vacant lot is across the street from McDonald’s and the Heritage Village Shopping Center, which houses Starbucks and Wing Stop.

Also, next door is Chick-fil-A, another famed chicken franchise.

The two chicken chains were the most popular restaurants in 2023, according to one metric from QSR Magazine, a leading publication that compiles data on the food and beverage industry.

QSR found the company that had the highest sales per unit was Chick-Fil-A – followed by Raising Cane’s.

“They are a competitor,” said Jason Zwerin, vice president of restaurants at Raising Cane’s. “But in other cities, we are often by a Chick-Fil-A or an In-N-Out Burger because they have the same strategy – we go where the traffic is.”

Near the intersection of Division Street and Newport Highway, Chick-Fil-A held its grand opening in 2020, when the line extended so long, customers waited up to 14 hours for the cuisine.

Though the grand opening of Raising Cane’s is far off, sometime in the fall of 2025, Zwerin anticipates comparable traffic.

“One thing you can expect at any one of our stores is speed, but you can only cook so many chicken tenders at a time,” he said. “With a new opening, waits do happen – and it amazes me how long people are willing to.”

The chain expanded quickly after its founding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1996. There are around 750 locations in the U.S. and another 50 elsewhere, according to Zwerin.

The nearest location to the Lilac City currently is in Portland. After that, it’s Salt Lake City.

“We’ve had great growth in markets where we have not had a location before,” he said. “Typically, our focus has been on the East Coast, but we’re excited to turn our attention to the Pacific Northwest.”

Zwerin said he has always admired the vision of Raising Cane’s founder, Todd Graves, for keeping it simple.

French fries and coleslaw are the only other menu items after chicken tenders and the company’s signature garlic and butter toast. The only contrasting menu item is the sandwich, which is simply three tenders plopped between two buns with lettuce and a signature sauce.

“It depends on who you talk to,” Zwerin said. “For some people, their favorite is the chicken tenders, and others it’s the secret Cane’s sauce – some actually say the toast in their favorite.”

Company officials go to great lengths to keep the trademarked dipping sauce under wraps, he said.

“It’s made in-house, but we only let the manager make it,” Zwerin said, adding that he dips his tenders, fries and even his toast in the classified condiment. “The recipe is not written down; we verbally tell and show how to make it – it takes a lot of time, but it’s a big deal to us.”

The company’s application for construction permits has not yet been seen by building officials, according to city records, but its preliminary plans have.

Pre-application plans are part of a process that gives city officials the opportunity to meet with developers and proactively flag potential issues.

Construction plans show a roughly 2,900-square-foot building, with an outdoor patio and a two-lane drive -thru. Motorists will be able to access the restaurant from Newport Highway and Hoerner Street.

City officials will review the official plans and submit their comments by July 9, according to Brian Walker, communications manager for the city of Spokane.

The inside will consist of disco balls, great music and murals that feature local landmarks and culture, Zwerin said.

“It’ll be a great atmosphere,” he said.

According to county records, the property is owned by a company operated by Sean Tufts, managing director of Seattle-based commercial real estate agency Northmarq.

Tufts could not be immediately reached Tuesday .

Tufts purchased the land in March, county records show. Chad Carper, real estate broker at Spokane-based Kiemle Hagood, facilitated the deal.

Carper said the nearly $2 million price tag makes the property one of the most valuable in the area.

Because the location is on a state highway, Walker said both the city of Spokane and the Washington Department of Transportation will review the application.

Walker said the city may request a traffic control plan from the company on opening day, which Zwerin anticipates.

“Some people have been talking about concern about traffic,” he said. “We work with local safety officials to plan and to make sure the area isn’t burdened with a traffic situation when we open.”