'I feel like Franklin Street needed this': Chapel Hill Raising Cane's officially opens
A line wrapping around the Brockwell Building at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets was a common occurrence last week, as customers waited for a taste of North Carolina’s first standalone Raising Cane’s.
Chapel Hill community members were already lining up outside the new restaurant the evening before its Nov. 7 opening.
N.C. State graduate student Derek Ho, camped out in a tent on the sidewalk overnight to become the first person ever served by the location.
“It definitely felt uncomfortable at times. But one of the things that I tend to strive for is to seek discomfort — that is my life motto,” Ho said. “So essentially, I just kind of took this opportunity to seek that discomfort, because really, the coolest things in life happen when you kind of live outside your comfort zone.”
At 7 a.m. on opening day, Ho changed into a chicken costume.
Ho described the experience as “fantastic,” but also said that, while camping, some passers-by heckled and shouted profanities at him.
“It was a good time,” Ho said. “It was an interesting experience to say the least.”
Raising Cane's is the first open business in the intersection in almost two years, withLula's, Seafood Destiny and Midici all closing.
The location of Raising Cane's was previously home to Lula's, and before that, Chapel Hill staple Spanky’s.
The 120-year-old property on the corner of East Franklin Street and Columbia Street was purchased in 2021 and underwent extensive remodeling for the Raising Cane’s opening.
“One thing that we wanted to make sure we did was preserve the history, as well as be able to really provide the Chapel Hill community an exceptional restaurant,” Brian Stegall, the Raising Cane’s regional vice president of restaurants, said.
The Chapel Hill Raising Cane’s opened on Nov. 7 — which was also Election Day.
In an article, local civics blog Triangle Blog Blog wrote they hoped the lines at the polls would be as long as or longer than at Raising Cane’s. INDYweek conducted a poll on Election Day at Raising Cane’s, in which 25 individuals in line were surveyed. Only two students had voted.
People have continued to line up around the block at the restaurant every day since the grand opening. Sometimes, the store had a police officer stationed by the door to mitigate foot traffic and let groups of customers into the restaurant.
UNC student and football player Jaden Selbysaid the line moved quickly and the food was good.
“The quality of the food was very good, but I feel like in three months when the hype goes down, the quality of the food will go down,” he added.
Stegall said the ribbon-cutting opening ceremony saw an attendance of over 200 people, and within the first few days of opening, the location served around 8,000 customers.
Rameses, UNC cheerleaders and a DJ were also present at the opening day event. The first 100 customers in line received commemorative T-shirts and 20 people who entered a drawing won a year's worth of Raising Cane's.
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“North Carolina has been a market we’ve been excited to open in for a long time, and no better place than Chapel Hill,” he said. “We cannot be more appreciative of the community who supported us these first couple of days.”
The interior of the restaurant is different from the building's previous occupants, Lula’s and Spanky’s. The interior has retained its exposed brick walls but now has several disco balls hanging in the middle of the ceiling. The restaurant also houses a giant dog statue, as well as multiple newly-painted murals and a portrait of Elvis Presley.
UNC senior Jaylen Harrell said the new Raising Cane’s location is something new and different for the community.
“I feel like Franklin Street needed this,” he said. “There isn't too many spots to eat at — all the traditional spots are kind of getting old and played out.”
The restaurant was initially reported to have a closing time of 3:30 a.m. Currently, though, the business closes at midnight Sunday through Wednesday and closes at 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Stegall said the restaurant would evaluate the closing times and see what the community needs after the first few weeks of business.
“We wanted to make sure when we opened this restaurant, we wanted to make sure we did it right,” he said. “And by all means, our team has delivered.”