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Hardee's Food Systems, Inc.
Wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Restaurants
Founded Rocky Mount, North Carolina (1960)
Founder Wilber Hardee
Headquarters St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Number of locations
1,944 (January 2013)[1]
Key people
Andrew Puzder, CEO
Products Fast food (including hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes)
Parent CKE Restaurants

Hardee's Food Systems, Inc., is an American fast-food restaurant chain, which predominantly operates in the Southern and Midwestern states. It has evolved through several corporate ownerships since its establishment in 1960. It is now owned and operated by CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl's Jr., which has been amalgamating the chains with similar menus, logos and advertising.

In 2012, Nation's Restaurant News rated Hardee's as the No. 28 foodservice chain in the United States based on sales through 2011. Carl's Jr. was listed at No. 37. If the two chains' sales were combined, they would have been at No. 15.[2] In 2013, QSR listed Hardee's at No. 20 and Carl's Jr. at No. 24; if combined they would have been listed at No. 14.[3]


  • Profile 1
    • History 1.1
    • 1960s 1.2
    • 1970s 1.3
    • 1980s 1.4
    • 1990s 1.5
    • Today 1.6
  • Controversies, disputes, and legal issues 2
    • Burger Chef copyright dispute 2.1
    • Harvey's controversy 2.2
  • Advertising 3
    • NASCAR sponsorship 3.1
    • Thickburger campaign 3.2
    • Children's advertising 3.3
    • Criticism 3.4
  • Products and nutrition 4
    • Monster Thickburger 4.1
    • Breakfast 4.2
    • Low-carb 4.3
    • International menu 4.4
  • Global locations 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8



Hardee's founder, Wilber Hardee, opened his first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina, on September 9, 1960.[4] 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 was opened in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in May 1961 by James Carson Gardner and Leonard Rawls on McDonald Street in downtown Rocky Mount. That location has since been razed.[5] According to Wilber Hardee, Gardner and Rawls won a controlling share of the company from him in a game of poker. After realizing that he had lost control over his namesake company, Hardee sold his remaining shares to them as well.[6] The chain was headquartered in Rocky Mount until 2001.

Jerry Richardson (owner of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL) following his NFL career embarked on a successful business career. Richardson used his 1959 NFL championship bonus with the help of Charles Bradshaw to open the first Hardee's franchise in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The two ended up each owning half of the Hardee's business. The business expanded rapidly under his hands-on management style. From company headquarters in Spartanburg, he co-founded Spartan Foods which was the first franchisee of Hardee's. He later was the CEO of Flagstar, which was the sixth largest food service company in the nation, controlling 2,500 restaurants and 100,000 employees, and retired in 1995.


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 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 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, South Carolina, location is still open.

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 shakes (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 with the last of the restaurants converting to Hardee's by 1979, 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 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. It can still be seen at a few older locations.

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 1980s and into the 1990s 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.[7]


For a few years in the early 1990s, Hardee's outlets sold the popular fried chicken recipe acquired from the Roy Rogers fast food chain, hoping it could compete with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hardee's locations in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina 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 Hardee's was a competitor to Arby's for roast beef sandwiches, an item still sold at some franchised locations.

In addition to Roy Rogers, Hardee's 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 purchased by Frederick, Maryland-based Plamondon Enterprises.)[8] Over time, some Hardee's restaurants were converted to serve Carl's Jr. products and use the Carl's Jr. star logo. Some locations were 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.

Hardee's moved its headquarters from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to downtown St. Louis, Missouri, in 2001.[9]

Hardee's co-branded with Red Burrito, in Perry, Florida.

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 by Yum! Brands with its KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W Restaurants and Long John Silvers concepts to expand brands without the expense of new buildings and land.[10]

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,[11] due to problems with franchising rights.

On March 12, 2007, the first 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.[12]

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. There are also four Hardee's branches in Muscat, Oman.

In May 2011, Hardee's opened a branch in Almaty city, 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.

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 by Connecticut 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. Hardee's once had a larger presence in the Northeast in the 1990s, but since then has had only a small scattering of stores in Pennsylvania, most of them in the Harrisburg area as well as a couple of locations within the Pittsburgh area and a location in Breezewood, Pennsylvania.[13]

On April 24, 2015, Hardee's opened it first location in New York, located in Lake Katrine, NY.

Controversies, disputes, and legal issues

Burger Chef copyright dispute

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 Chef trademark 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, 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 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.[14]

Harvey's controversy

Due to a trademark dispute with Canada's Harvey's burger chain, the Hardee's name cannot be used in that country. Instead, CKE Restaurants has opened stores there under the Carl's Jr. name.[15]


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.

In 2013, Hardee's began to advertise nationally in conjunction with Carl's Jr. for products that both chains sell, with much of that coming during WWE programming. Carl's Jr. takes precedence in the ads for lunch & dinner menu items, while Hardee's takes precedence for breakfast items. The June 10, 2013 episode of WWE Raw in Richmond, Virginia featured Hardee's heavily in product placement throughout the show.[16]

NASCAR sponsorship

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.

Thickburger campaign

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.

Children's advertising

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.


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.[17][18]

Products and nutrition

Monster Thickburger

Monster Thickburger
Nutritional value per 1 sandwich (413 g)
Energy 1,410 kcal (5,900 kJ)
46 g (15%)
Dietary fiber 2 g (8%)
107 g
Saturated 36 g (225%)
70 g
Other constituents
965 kcal (4,040 kJ)
Cholesterol 210 mg

May vary outside US market.
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: (PDF)

The burger contains 1,410 calories (5,900 kJ), 107 grams of fat, and 2,740 mg of sodium.[19]

Ingredients include a fresh-baked bun, mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, butter-flavored shortening, and two patties of ground beef made from Angus cattle for a total of 2/3 lb (300 g uncooked) of meat.


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.[20]

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, fried bologna and Velveeta, 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, CKE returned these breakfast items to the menu, and Hardee's advertised the re-additions on regional television. Furthermore, Carl's Jr. restaurants later started to sell Hardee's biscuit sandwiches.


Hardee's features low-carb items on both the breakfast and regular menus. Hardee's carries a Low-Carb 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.

International menu

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.[21] The menu at these locations is very similar to the Hardee's menu of the 1980s 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".

Global locations

Map showing the states with locations of Carl's Jr. in yellow and states with locations of Hardee's colored red. States with both Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are colored orange
 United States, states currently with Hardee's
Other countries
Countries formerly with Hardee's

See also


  1. ^ "CKE Restaurants, Inc. Announces Preliminary, Unaudited Fourth Quarter and Full Year Fiscal 2013 Results". Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Top 100 Chains: U.S. Sales" Nation's Restairant News
  3. ^ Oches, Sam "The QSR 50" QSR (August 2013)
  4. ^ (Arcadia Publishing, 2001), p114Images of America: GreenvilleRobert Kammerer and Candace Pearce,
  5. ^ "Rocky Mount, NC - First Hardee's Franchise". 
  6. ^ "Hardee’s founder Wilbur Hardee dead at 89 - Food Inc. -". 
  7. ^ "Americana Group - Hardee's". 
  8. ^ Kretikos, Eleni (2003-11-17). "A burger and a shake-up". 
  9. ^ "", Hardee's Food Systems, Inc./. Monday June 23, 2008. Retrieved on August 18, 2009.
  10. ^ "YUM! Brands, Inc.". Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  11. ^ "Goodbye Hardees". 
  12. ^ *Stock, Sue (2007-03-10). "Losing Hardee's No.1". The News & Observer Publishing Company. 
  13. ^ Salter, Jim (2013-10-01). "Hardee's plans to expand to the Northeast". USA Today. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Carl's Jr. set to launch in Ontario". Canadian Restaurant News. 
  16. ^ UPROXX. "The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 6/10/13 - With Leather". UPROXX. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  17. ^ Parents Television Council "Weekly Wrap", - Retrieved 2009-07-02
  18. ^ "". 
  19. ^ "". 
  20. ^ "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. 
  21. ^ "Americana Group - Homepage". Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Hardee's on Twitter".  
  23. ^ Carl's Jr. New Zealand. Accessed 15 November 2014.
  • 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.

External links

  •, Hardee's official website
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