Who would have guessed that one of the fastest-growing food chains in the United States built its business on chicken fingers?

Raising Cane's commitment to chicken fingers—and nothing but chicken fingers—has earned the brand an army of devoted followers and eye-popping sales figures.

The fast-service food industry has long struggled with its image as a low-quality alternative to more upscale eateries and sit-down-style restaurants. Now, single-item restaurants push against the narrative that low-cost equals low-quality by eliminating the complications that can come with an expansive menu.

Does the success of Raising Cane's and similar single-item specialists serve as a signal to the rest of the restaurant industry that more options isn't always better?

One brand's success with the single-item restaurant model

Industry stalwarts like McDonald's can struggle to be all things to all people, blending classic standbys like the Big Mac with options that appeal to more health-conscious consumers. Meanwhile, single-item specialists like Raising Cane's focus on doing one thing well.

In Raising Cane's case, the chain's menu includes little aside from chicken fingers. While that may not seem like a recipe for success in today's crowded fast-service market, the brand's sales figures would say otherwise. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Raising Cane's was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US in 2017. The brand still holds a place in the nation's top 10, with a 30.2-percent increase in sales.

Is this a case of one brand capitalizing on an untapped demand for chicken fingers, or is there something more profound to be learned from Raising Cane's success?

The case for single-item restaurants

Single-item specialists may have limited menus, but they make up for that lack of variety by focusing on perfecting one product. That means using high-quality ingredients and creating prep and cooking procedures that can be reliably executed.

Another variation on this approach is building a menu around a single ingredient. These eateries have many more options available, but they all make the same ingredient the star of the dish. Restaurant Insider noted that many restaurants that have been successful with this model focus on comfort foods like mac 'n' cheese, oatmeal, baked potatoes, and, of course, chicken fingers. This goes to show that sometimes simplicity can create big wins in the fast-service food industry.

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