Raising Cane’s, the wildly popular fast-casual restaurant brand known for its ONE LOVE® chicken finger meals, built its vibrant culture on service. After all, the restaurant’s legions of dedicated fans are known as Caniacs – and there are millions of them.
So what makes this high-powered service culture work so well throughout the chain’s 560+ locations? The answer: a highly motivated team of front-line employees, referred to as Crew, who have fun and take their job of serving quality Chicken Finger meals seriously.
How is this possible in an industry not always known for outstanding service? Part of Raising Cane’s vision is a winning combination that includes a great Crew, cool culture, and active community involvement.
“We deliver the highest quality chicken finger meals as fast as we can in a friendly, clean restaurant, and we seriously have fun while we’re doing it,” explains Todd Roby, Raising Cane’s Senior Director of Communications. “Our frontline employees, our Crew, are essential in this equation because they serve our customers directly with responsibility for every quality meal we serve. If they’re working hard and having fun at the same time, we know we’re doing it right.”
You get a sense of the culture from Todd Graves, whose title – Founder, Co-CEO, Fry Cook and Cashier – kind of says it all. “We don’t want to be another restaurant chain in the area,” he says. “We want to be an integral part of the community.” But Graves isn’t the only one with Fry Cook and Cashier in his title. Those roles belong to every Raising Cane’s employee, including those in the Restaurant Support Offices. All are required to spend time working those positions in the restaurant every year to stay connected to the restaurant’s roots and operations.
1LV Crew – A Strong Employee Connection
Perhaps the most innovative way the company supports this spirited and giving employee culture is through a communication and engagement platform called 1LV Crew, developed in partnership with Dynamic Signal. You might liken it to a family reunion; the platform is the place where employees from across the company connect with each other, submitting their thoughts and ideas about work, sharing the fun, and staying safe.
1LV Crew launched in October of 2020, several months into the pandemic and social restrictions. “We were taken aback by how quickly the platform was adopted and the joy it brought,” said Roby. “We had been so physically disconnected.” He says it has revolutionized awareness of what’s happening in the restaurants and the connection between Crewmembers at all levels of the business.
Raising Cane’s Co-CEO and Chief Operating Officer, AJ Kumaran, immediately began speaking directly to Crew through short video messages highlighting their contributions, their resilience, and the company’s commitment to continued growth. The platform quickly became the go-to spot for information on in-restaurant training, education opportunities, news alerts, and community involvement. Kumaran pushed for Crew to share even more to further the engagement and value of the platform.
In this safe and creative environment, employees share everything from time-saving and quality-improving work processes to excitement over new restaurant openings and community events. Crew comments are not only allowed, they are encouraged – to the tune of more than 90,000 in the first eight months. Leaders use the platform to share in-the-moment videos and gather direct feedback on new work processes, equipment prototypes, designs for a new generation of Crew uniform T-shirts, even ideas for restaurant music playlists.
Fun is an integral part of the mobile-first platform well-suited for Raising Cane’s core workforce, 16–22-year-olds. The 1LV Crew platform leverages custom categories to segment the information. For example, it’s easy for employees to contribute personal memes and photos in one category, and useful job tips and techniques in another. The platform receives more than 1,000 member-submitted posts each month. “With our demographic, memes are the way,” said Roby. “They allow our Crewmembers to be creative, involved and to share.”
1LV Crew also provides opportunities to highlight Crew efforts and show the Crew how valued they are. Recognizing the past year was an especially disappointing one for many high school senior Crewmembers and their friends, the company honored them in a virtual graduation ceremony featuring entertainer SnoopDogg and former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. In addition to promotions on 1LV Crew, the event was amplified on external social channels for everyone to celebrate.
With this broad and engaging scope, 1LV Crew has become an essential part of the Raising Cane’s Crew experience.
Community Service When it Counts Most
The platform also promotes Raising Cane’s Active Community Involvement, which transitioned during the darkest days of the COVID pandemic. The chain donated thousands of chicken finger meals to local healthcare workers, raised money through its Virtual Entertainment Series, and even organized Crewmembers to sew three-ply cloth masks to help local front-line workers.
The company also launched a fundraiser, selling branded neck-gaiters nationwide, with 100% of the net proceeds going to local hospitals in the chain’s service areas – more than 80 healthcare organizations across the country. Generously buying up the neck-gaiters, “Caniacs” helped raise over $360,000. In total, the company has given back almost half a million dollars to the healthcare community, to say thank you.
Meanwhile, not a single Crewmember, from the more than 35,000 Raising Cane’s employees, has been laid off or furloughed at a time when millions of restaurant jobs were lost across the country. The company and Crew rallied behind the mantra of ‘No Crew Left Behind™’ – which, simply stated meant the entire Cane’s team was going to get through the COVID-19 Pandemic together.
As it turns out, the consumer world is noticing, too. Not only has Raising Cane’s earned awards for America’s Favorite Chicken Chain and Most Accurate To-Go Orders, but it was also the top-rated fast-casual restaurant for safety precautions and protocols in Technomic’s survey of 27,000 consumers nationwide (Technomics is a Restaurant Business sister publication).
Going above and beyond CDC and local requirements, Raising Cane’s was cited for continuous communications, daily training updates, stringent sanitation protocols, and work schedules that minimized exposure.
And it all goes back to the company’s seemingly simple and unique business model – ONE LOVE – quality chicken finger meals served quickly and conveniently with a level of quality unmatched in the industry, thanks to a motivated and satisfied Crew, the most important asset a service business can have.
Todd Roby shared more about the Raising Cane’s story at the 2021 IABC World Conference in a session titled, “How Raising Cane’s Leveled Up Crew Engagement with Irresistible Content and ONE LOVE.”
Watch the full 30-minute presentation.