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Strategy: We visited the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America — and what we discovered should terrify KFC and Chick-fil-A

Raising Cane's is the fastest-growing restaurant in the US, thanks in part to a super-minimalist menu.

Raising Cane's is the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US. Here's what it's like to visit the chicken-finger chain.

The fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US is all about one thing: chicken fingers.

Raising Cane's increased sales by a whopping 25.9% in 2016, reaching the No. 1 spot on Nation's Restaurant News annual list of the fastest-growing chains by sales in the US. The 310-location chicken-finger restaurant is taking over the nation, opening 59 new restaurants in the past year alone.

Fried chicken is hot right now, but Raising Cane's offers something a little bit different than chains like Chick-fil-A or KFC, thanks to its minimalist menu and focus on chicken fingers.

To see if Raising Cane's lives up to the hype, Business Insider visited a location in Charlottesville, Virginia. What we discovered was a chain with the potential to go head-to-head with the champions of the chicken industry.

The first thing we noticed at Raising Cane's was its surprisingly minimalist menu. In contrast to much of the chicken category, Raising Cane's boasts just four options, plus a kids combo.

Basically, there are just two questions at Raising Cane's: How many chicken fingers do you want, and how do you want 'em?

Raising Cane's locations fall between the chic minimalism of many fast-casual chains, like Panera, and the straightforward and sometimes less-than-impressive designs of fast-food locations.

Walls were covered with posters that would not be out of place in a college freshman's dorm room.

Our food was ready quickly, taking just over five minutes to prepare. In addition to the speedy service, it seemed the staff was looking out for our best interests, as we heard a server quietly send back a dish she judged as needing another scoop of fries.

We ordered one three-finger combo and one sandwich combo.

Upon plucking up our chicken fingers, we found our own fingers covered in grease. However, biting into the chicken, we found it to be piping hot and freshly fried — a cut above the fried chicken competition.

The incredibly crisp, yet light breading is reminiscent of a boardwalk food stand — a distinct and familiar flavor that you won't find at a classic fried chicken joint. Instead, it's almost home-fried in taste: certainly a treat, but no grubby grease bomb.

The sandwich was more of the same — if you like the chicken and Cane's sauce, you'll enjoy three of them stacked on a sandwich.

The chicken is paired with the mysterious Cane's sauce. According to rumors (the actual recipe is closely guarded) the sauce is a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and garlic powder. The result is a tangy, vinegary condiment that wouldn't seem out of place as a salad dressing. It works, but it doesn't have the cult-inspiring addictiveness that keeps Chick-fil-A sauce fans double dipping.

Every Raising Cane's combo comes with fries and Texas toast. The fries — crinkle cut — are forgettable, but that toast is tremendous. The golden, buttery carb is the platonic form of the Maillard reaction, a toasty treat that satisfies both carby cravings and buttery lusts.

Raising Cane's tightly focused menu is an anomaly in the fast-food fried chicken business, keeping the attention tightly centered on chicken fingers and essentially nothing else.

At the end of the day, that's all it takes. The quality of Raising Cane's chicken fingers raises the bar for all chicken chains. As the up-and-coming chain continues to go, rivals like KFC and Chick-fil-A should be scared.

Source: Pulse Nig

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