SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — The founder and CEO of Louisiana-based Raising Cane’s is stepping up to help family-owned restaurants across the country hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic through a reality show featuring his work to help them recover and bounce back stronger than ever.
“They’re struggling. And suffering. And then closing. And so that killed me,” Todd Graves said.
“I’ve done television before. I know the power of it, and created ‘Restaurant Recovery.’ Hired a production company and went in and helped 10 restaurants across the country, two of them in our own home state here [Louisiana]. Baton Rouge and New Orleans.”
Raising Cane’s corporate headquarters and their first location are in Baton Rouge. The location Graves chose to help there was personal.
“I looked at my favorite restaurant downtown, Poor Boy Lloyd’s, and the great Cajun restaurant run by the Taylor family. The oldest in downtown Baton Rouge. I watched their sales dry up,” said Graves. “And this good family, who are great restaurant owners, just struggle.”
Todd and his team changed seating, designs and exteriors, all to maximize space and the flow of people.
“We worked on getting them to be a ‘To Go’ machine,” said Graves.
He also leaned on a few of his friends for help. Friends like basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, rapper and music mogul Snoop Dogg, and NFL Hall of Famer Archie Manning, just to name a few.
“This was an easy ask for me, to ask these friends of mine that are these mega-stars. Celebrities. Easy ask, and an immediate ‘Yes,'” said Graves.
He says Shaquille O’Neal flew in from Atlanta to take part in the episode shot at Poor Boy Lloyd’s.
“It wasn’t like he was in town and it was like, ‘Oh, I’ll stop by.’ He flew into town because he loves Baton Rouge. He understands this restaurant is important.”
The pandemic did little to affect Graves’ business. He says sales actually increased from 2019 to 2020. According to Forbes, his over 500 locations nationwide saw sales topping $1.9 billion last year.
“You’re doing better, you’re making more money, but you don’t feel good because other restaurant owners, their dreams are just as important as mine,” said Graves. “Their teams are just as important. They’re just as important to their neighborhoods.”
It’s why he says he wants you to visit his restaurants, but not exclusively. He wants you visiting the restaurants that are staples in your community.
“When they go away, they never come back,” he said. “And they get replaced by a high-rise or a chain. And to be honest with you, we don’t need anymore of those.”
Graves says he’s considering doing future seasons because there is always going to be someone needing help.
He says Shreveport is in the mix for potential future shows.