A chief executive is getting flak from the public for pulling a lottery stunt that cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Todd Graves, founder and co-CEO of the American fast food chain Raising Cane, spent US$100,000 (nearly AU$143,000) to buy each of Raising Cane’s 50,000 workers a ticket for the Mega Millions lottery. If any of the tickets won, the company’s plan was to split the prize money equally among its employees.
In an interview with CNN, Raising Cane co-CEO and COO AJ Kumaran explained why they thought of buying lottery tickets for their staff.
“Times are tough out there. “[Employees are] seeing it at their gas stations and gas pumps, they're seeing it on their grocery shelves,” Kumaran said.
“Things aren't exactly easy these days, so when we saw there was a chance to not only have a little fun, but maybe win a little bit extra money for our people, we wanted to do it.”
Kumaran called their 50,000 lottery ticket plan a “collective ticket for everybody."
On Monday, the Mega Millions jackpot reached US$810m, which would have been the third biggest prize the lottery has ever given out. However, no one won so the jackpot is set to jump to US$1.2bn for the next draw.
Despite not winning the prize, Kumaran said they are going to buy another 50,000 lottery tickets to get another chance at the jackpot.
While Graves may see the collective ticket plan as a way to help his employees financially, not everyone necessarily agrees with the manner he’s trying to achieve it. Some observers believe Raising Cane would have served staff better if it had invested the money directly on their welfare instead.
Business news website The Street suggests putting the US$100,000 into an employee emergency fund. This could be used to help the fast food chain’s workers cover rents or medical emergencies.
Another option is to put the money in the stock market, where it could make a considerable investment return on the workers’ behalf.
Spending thousands of dollars on the lottery, where there is only a small chance of winning, sends a bad message to Raising Cane’s employees.
The Mega Millions website itself pegged the odds of winning this week’s jackpot at only 1 in 303 million. Buying 50,000 tickets still would not have realistically increased the company’s chances.
History of helping workers
Graves is considered one of the best employers in the US. In 2021, he finished in 74th place in Glassdoor’s top 100 CEOs after receiving a 92% approval rating from the website’s users. By many accounts, Graves is known to pay workers with strong wages by fast food chain standards.
The Raising Cane founder is also known for his philanthropic work. In April 2021, he visited 10 struggling restaurants in 10 different markets in the country. He gave each one US$100,000 to help fuel their business. Graves said it was “a way to give back” during a year where his own company thrived.