Top 200 Franchise by Entrepreneur – Rank no.14 – Hardee’s – US
Products & Services: Burgers, chicken, biscuits
Number of Locations: 1,960
Total Investment: $1.14M – 1.53M
Began Franchising: 1962
Wilber Hardee opened his first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1960, and just five months later he had his first franchisee. Hardee’s restaurants, which serve biscuits, burgers and chicken, have since spread throughout the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S.
In 1997, Hardee’s was acquired by California-based CKE Restaurants Inc., franchisor of Carl’s Jr. Restaurants.
Net Worth: $1,000,000
Liquid Cash Available: $300,000
100% of all franchisees own more than one unit. Absentee ownership of franchise is NOT allowed..
|FINANCING TYPE||IN-HOUSE||THIRD PARTY|
The 2006–present logo
|Type||Wholly owned subsidiary|
|Founded||Greenville, North Carolina(1960)|
|Headquarters||St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|Number of locations||1,944 (January 2013)|
|Key people||Andrew Puzder, CEO|
|Products||Fast food (includinghamburgers, french fries, andmilkshakes)|
Hardee’s is an American restaurant chain, which predominantly operates in the South and Midwest states. It has evolved through several corporate ownerships since its establishment in 1960. It is currently owned and operated by CKE Restaurants. Along with its sibling restaurant chain, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s is the fifth largest fast-food restaurant chain in the United States after Subway,McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. It is headquartered in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.
Hardee’s founder, Wilbur Hardee, opened his first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina, on September 9, 1960. On the strength of its distinctive burger menu items, including the Huskee, the chain experienced rapid growth by franchising and, to a lesser extent, by acquiring other restaurant chains. The first company store opened in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in May 1961 by James Carson Gardner and Leonard Rawls on McDonald St. in downtown Rocky Mount. That location has since been razed. According to Wilbur Hardee, Gardner and Rawls won a controlling share of the company from him in a game of poker. After realizing that he lost control over his namesake company, Hardee sold his remaining shares to them as well. The chain was headquartered in Rocky Mount until 2001.
Many original Hardee’s were built with a hexagonal style building with a pointed roof. In keeping with that theme, for a short period of time, Hardee’s hamburgers were actuallyhexagonal, particularly the quarter-pound patties. Some early locations had lobbies, but almost all were fresco-walk-up style. As of 1965, franchisees had a choice of four different free-standing signs, with the “Home of the Huskee" slogan designated HH-1. Another promised “Jet Service – Charco Broiled" Burgers. Some were called Hardee’s L’il Chef with a little chef on the sign. Hardee’s also started a chain of restaurants called “Yogi Bear’s Fried Chicken" in the Southeast in 1968. The Hartsville, SC, location is still open and prospering.
The 1964 menu included: Hamburger 15 cents, Cheeseburger 20 cents, Fries 10 cents, Apple Turnovers 15 cents, Milk 12 cents, Coffee 10 cents, Coke, Pepsi, Root Beer and Orange, 15 cents and 10 cents, and Milk Shake (Chocolate-Strawberry-Vanilla) 20 cents. Strawberry shakes were created from vanilla by addition of a berry syrup which had to be mixed on a spindle. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Hardee’s opened units in West Germany (Hardee’s Schnellrast) and Australia in conjunction with Kellogg’s (Hartee’s).
In the early 1970s, the regular menu featured the Huskee Junior (a two-patty burger with a unique sauce) and the Deluxe Huskee (a quarter-pound burger with mayonnaise). Growth was rapid on the strength of the distinctive taste of these two marquee menu items. Hardee’s purchased Sandy’s in 1972, but primarily emphasized franchise growth on the strength of its own menu. Television advertising campaigns in the early 1970s included cartoon characters of a ’49er, “Gilbert Giddyup", and his nemesis, a purple-coated villain named “Speedy McGreedy".
During the mid- and late-1970s, and despite an otherwise sluggish economy, Hardee’s saw rapid chain growth and high profits on the strength of its two key sandwiches: the “Big Twin" (a two-patty burger using a distinctive cheese and sauce combination) and the “Big Deluxe" (a single, wide quarter-pound burger with a unique, tangy mayonnaise). Both burgers were “charco-broiled" and were cooked in a process using heated “char-rocks" that caused the fat content dripping off the cooking beef to ignite for a distinctive “flame-broiled" taste. Radio advertisements featured “Mama Cass" Elliot singing the jingle “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charco broiled!"
In 1978 Hardee’s introduced the made-from-scratch biscuit to its menu. The program was introduced by a pilot program at its franchise store in Macon, Georgia. The program was a huge success and continues today. The initial test required a retrofit of an existing kitchen with a Blodgett convection oven and flat grill. Today’s stores are designed with all of the necessary equipment in place. Initially Hardee’s offered a sausage, bacon and ham biscuit. All were available with egg and cheese added for an additional charge. Today’s breakfast menu offers a wide variety of selections including the favorite “Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit". Another acquisition occurred in the late 1970s when Hardee’s purchased the Utah based burger chain Dee’s Drive-In.
The “classic" Hardee’s logo, usually depicted in orange on a blue or brown background. It was used by the chain from 1976 until adopting the Happy Star logo from Carl’s Jr. in 1999.
At one point, the chain expanded to over 4,000 locations in the United States, but Hardee’s was affected by the buy-out phenomena of the 1980s. Hardee’s was purchased by Imasco in 1981, which also owned Imperial Tobacco (Canada), Peoples Drug (USA, later sold to CVS),Shopper’s Drug Mart (Canada), and The Tinder Box.
A new management team in the early 1980s seeking to cut costs immediately changed the signature burger recipe, introducing frozen burger patties, and eliminating altogether the flagship menu items of the Big Twin and the Big Deluxe that had sustained Hardee’s meteoric rise. The charco-broiling process was ordered discontinued at all Hardee’s locations despite strong resistance from franchisees throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s and declining sales from the elimination of the charbroiled burgers.
However, variations of charbroiled burgers can still be found at a few international franchised outlets who refused to halt production, such as in the Middle East.
For a short time in the early 1990s, Hardee’s outlets sold the popular fried chicken recipe acquired from the Roy Rogers fast food chain. Hardee’s locations in southeastern Virginia, eastern North Carolina, and Millvale, Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh still serve chicken today, where sales remain strong, as well as the traditional sides such as mashed potatoes & gravy, cole slaw, and biscuits. For a time Hardees was a competitor to Arby’s for roast beef sandwiches, an item still sold at some franchised locations.
In addition to Roy Rogers, Hardees also owned Rax Roast Beef for a period of time. Many newer or remodeled locations in areas where Burger Chef once had a presence display photos of Burger Chef locations in addition to older Hardee’s locations.
In 1997, having contracted to fewer than 2000 locations, the Hardee’s chain was acquired by CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurant chain. (Imasco retained the few remaining Roy Rogers locations until 2003, at which time the trademark and franchise system were reportedly purchased by Frederick, Maryland-based Plamondon Enterprises.) Over time, some Hardee’s restaurants were simply converted to serve products available from Carl’s Jr., and also took on the Carl’s Jr. star logo in the process. Some locations were simply fully rebranded Carl’s Jr. – that was a year after Wendy’s and Tim Hortons purchased most of the Hardee’s stores in Michigan. The name “charbroiling," but neither the actual process (no rocks) nor the original two signature burgers made by charbroiling, was reintroduced in 2001 with the addition of a Thickburger menu.
CKE Restaurants has been dual branding some Hardee’s locations with Red Burrito, similar to its Green Burrito/Carl’s Jr. dual brand concept. This is a similar strategy used byYum! Brands with its KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W Restaurants and Long John Silvers concepts to help expand brands without the additional expense of new buildings and land.
Hardee’s has found a niche market in smaller towns that may lack franchises of the other major hamburger chains. Hardee’s closed its restaurants in Hong Kong on December 27, 2006, due to problems with franchising rights.
On March 12, 2007, the first-ever franchised Hardee’s restaurant (located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina) was demolished to make room for a veterans memorial park named after Jack Laughery, a former Hardee’s executive and U.S. Army veteran.
As of the fiscal year ended January 25, 2010, CKE Restaurants, Inc., through its subsidiaries, had a total of 3,141 franchised or company-operated restaurants in 42 states and in 14 countries, including 1,905 Hardee’s restaurants and 1,224 Carl’s Jr. restaurants. Hardee’s recently opened another branch in Pakistan. In May 2011, Hardee’s opened a branch in Alma-Ata, Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the TOO Mega Center Alma-Ata, with another store opening in the same city just weeks after. Although the stores are named Hardee’s, they serve the Carl’s Jr. menu. There is also a Hardee’s branch in Muscat, Oman.
On October 1, 2013, it was announced that Hardee’s would expand into the Northeastern United States. The first new stores will open in New Jersey and New York, followed byConnecticut and Massachusetts. The new locations are expected to open in later 2014 and 2015, with 200 stores expected to open in the next five years.
In January 2007, Hardee’s had a challenge filed against it with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office by River West Brands, LLC of Chicago for the use of the Burger Cheftrademark and name. Shortly thereafter, Hardee’s reissued the Burger Chef Big Shef sandwich in Terre Haute, Indiana, as a trial offering and later in other Indiana, Ohio, andMissouri markets for a limited time. The reissue of the Big Shef has also utilized the Burger Chef name and logo in advertisements in the markets in which it is offered, and the claim was to provide Burger Chef fans with their Big Shef “fix". On April 16, 2009, River West Brands dropped their petition for cancellation and both parties agreed to pay their own attorneys fees.
In the early days of the take-over by CKE, Hardee’s began to use the anthropomorphic smiling star logo that Carl’s Jr. had used for many years. “The Hardee’s Star“, as it was now called, appeared in a series of commercials played by a dwarf in a costume likeness of the star. Norm Macdonald provided the voice for the Hardee’s Star. For a time, many Hardee’s locations even gave out free antenna toppers in the shape of the recently adopted star. The star remains Hardee’s logo, but the mascot ceased appearing in the commercials with the advent of the Thickburger campaign. A new Hardee’s logo was unveiled in 2006 that featured script lettering and further minimized the smiling star icon.
The company sponsored the Winston Cup cars driven by Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett and Alan Kulwicki throughout the 1980s and in 1990, Hardee’s sponsored Russ Wheeler’s car in the film Days of Thunder. The company also sponsored Ward Burton’s Busch Grand National and Winston Cup cars from 1993 to 1995. Hardee’s also sponsored Greg Sacks in 1997, and most recently sponsored Jeff Burton‘s Busch Grand National car in 1999. In 1991 Hardee’s sponsored the fall race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Hardee’s 500.
Early commercials during the Thickburger campaign made a point of acknowledging and apologizing for the poor quality of Hardee’s past cuisine and service. Later commercials demonstrated adults attempting to fit their mouths around the large Thickburger. One of the first commercials featured Major League Baseball player Mark McGwire advertising the Thickburger. As sales of burgers declined with the elimination of actual char broiled burgers three decades ago, a series of advertising campaigns over the past two decades have introduced “new" burgers, typically apologizing for the low quality of their “old" burgers.
Although the franchise would come to humorously criticize such concepts, Hardee’s has conceived several memorable Kids’ meal toys throughout the past few decades. The 1980s featured popular, nonposeable figures of the Smurfs as well as Beach Bunnies. Renditions of other cartoon characters would later premiere, including the Ghostbusters andNickelodeon characters.
Other popular licenses were garnered as well. Marvel Comics characters would be featured in the 1990 Marvel Super Hero Vehicles collection. And in the summer of 2000, DC Comics’ DC Super Heroes finally found a spot in the Hardee’s toy scene.
Possibly the most well-known Hardee’s premiums, however, would be the Dancin’ Singin’ California Raisins. Several collections of the nonposeable figures were produced in 1987, 1988, 1991, and once again in 2001. Traditionally, they would be available with the purchase of Hardee’s cinnamon raisin biscuits.
Hardee’s also marketed special Super Bowl celebratory pins in the early 1990s.
Several Hardee’s ad campaigns in the 2000s have been criticized by groups such as Parents Television Council for their sexually suggestive nature. Recent campaigns targeted include “More Than a Piece of Meat" featuring scantily clad women appearing to receive sexual gratification from consuming Hardee’s products, and “Name Our Holes" — an ad campaign and website promoting Hardee’s Biscuit Holes.
|Nutritional value per serving|
|Serving size||1 sandwich (413 g)|
|Energy||1,410 kcal (5,900 kJ)|
|Carbohydrates||46 g (15%)|
|– Dietary fiber||2 g (8%)|
|– saturated||36 g (225%)|
|May vary outside US market.
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: Hardees.com (PDF)
While Hardee’s has experienced extensive changes in its lunch and dinner menus over the years, its breakfast menu has remained largely unchanged. As a result, Hardee’s still retains significant customer loyalty. The average Hardee’s restaurant generates 40 to 45% of its business from breakfast, and the median age of its breakfast customers is 45, as it is particularly popular among the elderly in the Southeastern states.
The core of the Hardee’s breakfast menu is its biscuit sandwiches, which reflects the southern origins of the chain. The meats on the biscuit sandwiches vary regionally. Most Hardee’s biscuits have traditional fare such as a sausage, bacon, or ham. More unusual biscuit sandwiches with chicken fried steak, and smoked sausage can be found in the southeast, but are more difficult to find in Hardee’s outside this region. Hardee’s also features biscuits and gravy on its breakfast menu.
In 2002, CKE Restaurants discontinued several breakfast menu items, including the popular cinnamon raisin biscuit. It was part of an attempt by Hardee’s to focus on a new burger menu like its sibling restaurant, Carl’s Jr. The move was not popular with some customers who had not fully conformed to the new menu, and the restaurant experienced less business consequently. A year later, the removed items were returned to the menu, and Hardee’s advertised the re-additions on regional television.
Hardee’s features low-carb items on both the breakfast and regular menus. Hardees carries a Karoushtopher Thickburger the same as an Original Thickburger but with a Lettuce Leaf Wrap instead of a sesame seed bun. This burger was introduced at international franchises in the Middle East.
The only remaining international Hardee’s franchises are located in countries in the Middle East and Pakistan, most being owned and operated by Americana Group. The menu at these locations is very similar to the Hardee’s menu of the 80s and 90s in the US. Items like the Big Deluxe, original Frisco Burger, Big Roast Beef, and Big Cookie (among others) are available at all outlets. Despite adopting the newer logos, appearance and slogan from the US Hardee’s, the outlets in the Middle East do not serve any burgers under the Thickburger title. They did introduce the Low-Carb Thickburger at one point, but it was dropped from the menu shortly thereafter. Other burgers such as the Portabello Mushroom burger and Five Star Burger (renamed version of the Six Dollar Burger) are available, but are not marketed as “Thickburgers".
Countries currently with Hardee’s:
|Countries formerly with Hardee’s:|