A conceptual drawing shows what a new Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers restaurant might look like at the corner of Butterfield Boulevard and Cochrane Road in Morgan Hill. Credit: City of Morgan Hill staff report

A popular and growing fast food chain that specializes in fried chicken fingers has its sights set on Morgan Hill for a new location at the southeast corner of Cochrane Road and Butterfield Boulevard. 

Representatives of the restaurant, Raising Cane’s, presented their concept to the Morgan Hill Planning Commission at a Feb. 14 study session. The new Raising Cane’s is proposed in the Evergreen Village development, which has had difficulty in recent years securing retail tenants on the available land, according to the developer. 

Raising Cane’s has not yet submitted an application for the site, according to city staff. The purpose of their appearance before the planning commission was to gain input on their proposed design, layout and overall appearance for a new restaurant with a lengthy drive-thru and abundant outdoor seating. 

Jay Higgins, a consultant for Raising Cane’s, and Rod Collins, representing the Evergreen developer, explained to the commission that a key aspect of the project is a public plaza proposed at the corner of Cochrane and Butterfield. This plaza would ideally serve as a “gateway” for passing pedestrians and motorists to attract people into Raising Cane’s and the surrounding shopping center, when fully built out. 

“We think it’s an attractive entrance, and it provides a destination as well,” said Higgins. 

The restaurant’s outdoor patio and seating would be available for the general public—not just for Raising Cane’s customers. Higgins noted that the solid majority of Raising Cane’s business at other locations uses the drive-thru. 

Higgins added that the location would be open from 9:30am-1:30am daily, and would not serve breakfast or alcohol. 

The new restaurant would occupy a 2.11-acre portion of the 20.43-acre Evergreen Village project. Raising Cane’s is considering purchasing the property where its new restaurant would be located. 

Planning commissioners on Feb. 14 pointed out some deficiencies and imperfections in Raising Cane’s plans for the Evergreen corner, but didn’t reject the concept outright. One of the commission’s concerns had to do with pedestrian safety crossing the drive-thru lanes, and traffic control in and out of the restaurant site. 

Commission Chair Joe Mueller advised the developer to make more of an attempt to “really draw people in” with the use of the corner and plaza. 

“The connection to the neighborhood is the really important one—and how do we do it in such a way that it will attract the people from across the street,” said Mueller, referring to the Cochrane Village residential complex on the southwest corner of Butterfield and Cochrane. 

The potential Raising Cane’s site is currently subject to zoning and entitlements from the Evergreen Village Planned Development, which was approved by the city in 2018. Currently, that plan calls for two 6,000-square-foot retail shop buildings where Raising Cane’s is looking to build. 

However, Collins said the Evergreen developer has had increasing difficulty since 2018 in securing interest from any retail businesses for the corner site. The retail development market in general, he said, has become even more challenging since the pandemic—and businesses with drive-thru components seem to fare better than others. 

Projects approved for Evergreen Village so far are a Starbucks, 7-Eleven gas station and car wash (open for business), a senior care facility, Taco Bell and a hotel. Another fast food chicken restaurant, Chick-fil-A, has applied for a conditional use permit for the former site of the Marie Callender restaurant, at the southwest corner of Cochrane Road and Sutter Boulevard. 

If Raising Cane’s decides to go through with their Morgan Hill plans, the developer will have to apply for a conditional use permit and other approvals from the city, according to city staff. 

Raising Cane’s, which is based in Dallas, Texas, is “expanding big time” nationwide, Higgins said. The chain currently has about 750 restaurants throughout the U.S., including 10 in the Bay Area. 

Higgins did not immediately indicate at the Feb. 14 meeting if the commissioners’ input will influence the company’s decision to follow through with its Morgan Hill proposal or not.  

“We will continue to keep our ears open and eyes open as we go through this process,” Higgins said. “We will take all those (comments) into consideration.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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