On Wednesday, Sept. 7, a new restaurant chain opened on Kirkwood Avenue. Known for its Texas toast and Cane’s Sauce, the chain, Raising Cane’s, is a fast-growing chicken finger restaurant from the south. However, this isn’t the only new restaurant that has opened in Bloomington this school year.
Gables Bagels is a new bagel location that opened off East Third Street. The owner, Ed Schwartzman, also owns the popular BuffaLouie's. Gables opened back in June 2022, along with a few others in March, such as Hopscotch Kitchen, an extension of Hopscotch Coffee, and a new storefront for Parlor Doughnuts.
Although Raising Cane’s was highly anticipated, the reviews have been sub-par. In under just two weeks, the Bloomington Raising Cane’s has gone down to 3.6 stars. Reviews have included complaints of half-toasted Texas toast, along with soggy, cold fries and unseasoned chicken tenders. Despite all the hype, the store isn’t living up to its name.
[Related: Raising Cane's to open Bloomington location Wednesday]
On the flip side of this, Gables Bagels has prevailed. There are little to no negative reviews from the students, and the online comments are phenomenal with beaming reviews from East coasters verifying that the bagels are truly authentic and delicious. Others praise the excellent customer service and absolute amazing flavors of the bagels. Even after being open for almost two months, the company still has a 5-star rating.
Is this really a surprise though? Most fast-food chains lack what it takes to live up to a small business. Small businesses are the owners’ dream. In a lot of ways, those businesses are their livelihoods. They aren’t multi-managing thousands of different stores, and they still have the time and energy to make sure everything is perfect. Take Ed for example. Ed works front and center of Gables every day. He goes the extra mile for the customers and always makes sure they get the best product they can. This storefront was his dream, and it shows through his work. You can’t find that at a chain restaurant.
Fast-food chains simply don’t care enough. I went to Cane’s on Sunday morning with a few of my friends. I was hoping to get some honest reviews along with strengthening my own opinion. It was a relatively clean environment; I will give them that. However, that is where my praise stops.
The employees make it clear they don’t want to be there, making the environment slightly tense and unenjoyable. It takes forever to get your food, and the serious lack of organization doesn’t help. The orders are called out by name, and with the loud bustling environment, it can be hard to hear.
With all this piling up before I even got my meal, I was rooting for the food to be good. Unfortunately, only one of my friends thoroughly enjoyed it. The others had different feelings toward their meals. Between the bland chicken and over-salted fries, the meal did not deliver as it should have. In the end, we all left feeling unsatisfied.
The beauty of Bloomington is the small-town feel. However, as a college campus, it is nice to have staples such as Taco Bell and McDonalds. Obviously, they are going to make a ton of money because college students will make a midnight run for some chicken nuggets. Yet, Raising Cane’s secured one of the top spots for a Bloomington restaurant on Kirkwood Avenue. Wouldn’t the store space have been better used for a small business?
From the reviews of friends, coworkers and acquaintances, the answer is yes. There are hundreds of inspiring entrepreneurs who are either attending IU or graduated and looking to start their companies up. The small business would have boomed, and students, staff and townies would have been ecstatic to have a new establishment to try.
The quaintness of Bloomington comes from the small businesses and unique restaurants. Places like Mother Bear's Pizza and BuffaLouie's are what make Bloomington distinctive. Why should we continue to take that away by adding sub-par fast-food restaurants that the majority of the students don’t enjoy?
Gentry Keener (she/her) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.