This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2007) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Type||Wholly owned subsidiary|
|Founded||1960 (Greenville, North Carolina)|
|Headquarters||St. Louis, Missouri, USA|
|Key people||Wilbur Hardee, Founder|
|Products||Fast food (including hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes)|
Hardee's is an American fast-food restaurant chain, located primarily on the Eastern half of the United States in Southern, Southeast and East Coast regions. There are several stores located in the midwest. Along with its sibling restaurant chain Carl's Jr., Hardee's is the number four US QSR burger chain after McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's.
Hardee's founder Wilbur Hardee opened his first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina in 1960. On the strength of its two distinctive signature sandwiches (the Big Deluxe and the Big Twin), the chain experienced rapid growth by franchising and, to a lesser extent, by acquiring other restaurant chains. The first "franchise" store opened in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in May 1961 by Jim Gardner and Leonard Rawls. 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 actually hexagonal, 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".
The 1964 menu included: Hamburger 15 cents, Cheeseburger 20 cents, Fries 10 cents, Milk 12 cents, Coffee 10 cents, Coke, Pepsi, Root Beer and Orange, 10 cents and 15 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 early-1970s, the regular menu featured the Big Twin (a two-patty burger with a unique sauce) and the Big Deluxe (a quarter-pound burger with a tangy mayonnaise). Hardee's purchased Sandy's in 1972, but primarily emphasized franchise growth on the strength of its menu. During the 1970s, when Hardee's saw rapid growth, the 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. The charco-broiling process was discontinued throughout the '80s and '90s. Charbroiling (minus the rocks) was reintroduced in 2001 with the addition of their Thickburger menu.
Advertising campaigns in the early 1970s included cartoon characters of a '49er, "Gilbert Giddyup", and his nemesis, a purple-coated villain named "Speedy McGreedy". Radio adverts featured "Mama Cass" Elliot singing the jingle "Hurry on down to Hardee's, where the burgers are charco broiled!" The ads were pulled after her death.
The 1980s and 1990s
Hardee's was affected by the buy-out phenomena of the 1980s. A new management team in the early 1980s seeking to cut costs immediately changed the signature burger recipe by, among other things, replacing the menu with frozen patties. When sales declined, the chain eliminated altogether the flagship menu items of the Big Twin and the Big Deluxe. Instead, the chain installed condiment islands where the customer had to take a plain fast food patty and bun. The Hardee's of the 1980s and '90s was frequently criticized for its very low hamburger quality. The chain leveraged itself to acquire Burger Chef in 1982 and Roy Rogers in 1990. Several Hardee's locations closed in the 1990s, however, as the chain faltered.
For a short time in the early 1990s, Hardee's outlets sold the popular fried chicken recipe acquired from Roy Rogers, which Hardee's claimed in their advertisements beat KFC in a taste test, 63 to 37. However, they had only compared it to KFC's Original Recipe, thus giving KFC a clever counter-advertisement in which they claim that their Extra Tasty Crispy chicken beat Hardee's chicken. Hardee's chicken was quickly discontinued at some locations a few years later in another series of cost-cutting moves. However, some Hardee's franchisers still offer fried chicken and traditional chicken dinner side dishes at a few locations. Commercials advertising a free bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce with the purchase of a family-sized chicken dinner were aired as recently as the summer of 2006. At one point the chain expanded to 2,500 locations in the United States, but the chain's expansion has contracted in recent years.
An Experimental Hardee's existed in Rocky Mount, North Carolina until the early 2000's. This Hardee's is where menu items tried out to test market appeal, as well as restaurant designs and amenities. Menu items featured constantly changed, featuring such things as buffets, pizza, philly cheesesteaks, unique ice cream flavors, and pasta. The interior featured a lounge area with sofas and chairs, a television, and children's toys. On the outside there was a playground similar to those at McDonald's restaurants. The restaurant was torn down in 2005 and replaced with an Advance Auto Parts
In 1997, the 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, though CKE is reported to do some supplying of them). Over time, some Hardee's restaurants were converted to serve the relatively higher-quality hamburgers and other 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., this was a year after Wendy's and Tim Horton's purchased all the Hardee's stores in Michigan.
As of 2006, Hardee's operates 1,993 restaurants in 31 US states. 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 US army veteran.
Controversies, disputes and legal issues
Burger Chef Copyright Challenge
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, IL for the use of the Burger Chef trademark and name. Shortly thereafter, Hardee's reissued the Burger Chef Big Shef sandwich in Terre Haute, IN as a trial offering and later in other Indiana, Ohio and Missouri markets for a limited time. The reissue of the Big Shef has also utilized the Burger Chef name and logo in advertisements in the makets it is being offered. The claim was to provide Burger Chef fans with their Big Shef "fix". Some claim, however, that the move is an attempt by CKE and Hardee's to prohibit the revival of the Burger Chef franchise. The trademark case is still pending.
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.
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.
The point of most Thickburger commercials, however, is that most adults prefer to eat large, restaurant-quality hamburgers instead of smaller, allegedly lower-quality hamburgers sold by fast-food establishments targeted at children, in particular McDonald's. The commercials took the rival fast food chain to task for the quality of its food and because it offers toys with meals marketed toward children. One of the commercials depicted a pregnant woman enjoying a Thickburger and the announcer telling her to enjoy Hardee's while she can, since she will "be eating at McDonald's for the next 12 years."
Commercials that did not mention McDonald's by name overtly referred to the chain, such as an ad where a man works on a classic car while eating a Thickburger. The announcer then says that "it's awful hard for those other chains to fit a busted carburetor in a bag" and then says that Hardee's "has big burgers because men need big toys."
The Thickburger is derived from the Six-Dollar Burger product served at Carl's Jr.
Hardee's cavalier marketing is not simply confined to burgers. Recent ads for its chicken products state that "we have chicken breast strips because scientists have proven chickens don't have nuggets" and another for its 1/3-pound chicken breast sandwich where a chicken walks around with a black "censored" bar over where its breasts would be if it was a human to burlesque music.
In 2005, Carls Jr. and Hardee's aired a controversial commercial featuring hotel heiress Paris Hilton soaping up a Bentley in a skimpy bikini while striking poses and eating the Six-Dollar Burger/Thickburger in a sensuous manner. Carl's Jr. aired the ad first, and Hardee's soon followed.
My Town My Hardee's
In late May of 2007 a Tennessee Valley regional marketing campaign was launched stressing the small-town nature of Hardee's throughout the Southeastern United States by focusing on the stories of local residents. The campaign was developed by Coptix and Big Boom Town and was called "My Town My Hardees".
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 and Nickelodeon 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.
- Hurry On In to Hardees - Where the Burgers are Charcobroiled (60's -early 70's)
- Hardee's - Best Eatin' in Town, Up and Down and All Around (late 70's)
- We're out to win you over. (1989)
- Are You Ready for Some Real Food? [early 1990's; featuring Hank Williams Jr. singing to the tune of the longtime MNF theme (itself derived from 1984's "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight")].
- Hardee's - Where the food's the star. (post 1997)
The marketing of this burger may represent a neo-comfort food movement against alarms raised by nutritionists about an obesity epidemic. In an interview on CNBC, Hardee's CEO Andrew Puzder said the sandwich was "not a burger for tree huggers." The burger was also parodied on an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman when the "CEO of Hardee's" came out to talk about the then-new Monster Thickburger to David Letterman, only to die from a heart attack after just taking one bite. Nevertheless, sales for the 2,067-restaurant chain have risen steadily since the introduction of the Thickburger family in 2003, with same-store sales up 7.8% annually.
The Monster Thickburger is based on the Monster Burger, which had similar ingredients but was the size of a double quarter pounder instead of two-thirds of a pound.
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 for this time of the day. The average Hardee's restaurant generates 40 to 45 percent 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 are its biscuit sandwiches, reflecting the southern origins of this chain. The meats on these biscuit sandwiches vary regionally. Most Hardee's biscuits have traditional fare such as a sausage, bacon, or ham. More unusual biscuits with chicken fried steak or pork chop can be found in the southeast, but are more difficult to find in Hardee's outside this region.
In 2002, CKE Restaurants removed several of the breakfast items from the menu, including the popular cinnamon raisin biscuit, in an attempt to focus Hardee's on its new burger menu like its sister restaurant, Carl's Jr. Customers were upset by this, and the restaurant experienced less business as its eastern customers still hadn't fully conformed to the burger menu. A year later, the removed items were returned to the menu, and Hardee's advertised the re-additions on regional television.
Country Breakfast Burrito
Launched October 15, 2007, this burrito contains:
- Two egg omelets
- diced ham
- cheddar cheese
- hash browns
- sausage gravy
Like the Monster Thickburger before it, this menu item has drawn negative criticism from nutrition and health advocates for its high fat and calorie content (920 calories and 60 grams of fat). Jayne Hurley of The Center for Science in the Public Interest said that the burrito was "another lousy invention by a fast-food company" and that it was a "country breakfast bomb".
Hardee's features low-carb menu items for breakfast and lunch/dinner.
- Yum! Brands (#2 QSR chain world wide, similar business concepts for multi-brand store locations)
- Hoovers.com. "CKE Restaurants, Inc". Hoovers.com. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Hoovers.com. "McDonald's Corporation". Hoovers.com. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Hoovers.com. "Burger King Holdings, Inc". Hoovers.com. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Hoovers.com. "Wendy's International, Inc". Hoovers.com. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Goodbye Hardees
- *Stock, Sue (2007-03-10), "Losing Hardee's No.1", The News & Observer Publishing Company Check date values in:
- "Hardee's Stresses Regional Appeal". The Chattanooga Times Free Press. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
- "Good day, sunshine: music in the morning: whether you want to draw customers in or keep them moving, a good mix can set the pace - Ambience". Nation's Restaurant News. 2003-08-11. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
- "60 grams of fat for breakfast!" from CNN.com
- Hoovers.com. "YUM! Brands, Inc". Hoovers.com. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Historical, promotional franchise materials, on display in lobby of Hardee's, Chipley, Florida as of 27 December 2006. Sign options drawing by Allen Displays, dated 29 December 1964.
- Indianapolis Star Article About Hardee's Burger Chef Trademark challenge
- Hardee's being challenged for Burger Chef trademark
- Hardee's official website
- Sandy's, national fast food chain bought out by Hardees in 1973
- My Town My Hardee's
- Nation's Restaurant News, August 11, 2003
- Article on the release of the Monster Thickburger with information on the marketing and success