Hardee's Hopes To Retake The Northeast By Storm
As its better-known rivals tout reduced-fat french fries and Happy Meals with milk in an effort to woo today’s health-conscious consumers, the home of the 1,300-calorie, 2/3-pound Monster Burger is doing it the old-fashioned way. Hardee’s plans to open about 200 new restaurants in the Northeast over the next five years, starting in New York and New Jersey and then expanding into Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The “cult-favorite fast-food chain best known for its biscuits and Thickburger,” as The Daily Meal’s Dan Myers puts it, ultimately hopes to have 1,000 or so outlets in the Northeast. And he, for one, seems to look forward to killing off a few of those “born-from-scratch” Pork Chop N’ Gravy Biscuits you can only get at Hardee’s.
The company is also “known for … its titillating advertising featuring Katherine Webb (Miss Alabama 2012), supermodel Kate Upton, celebrity cookbook author Padma Lakshmi and others,” New York Business Journal’s Dan Orlando points out (after suggestively suggesting that he’d “rather have Katherine Webb in town than the burger chain she shills for” in his lede.)
Orlando left out Heidi Klum, who likes the fact that the commercials are not only “super sexy” but “also have a lot of humor to them” in one of the “behind-the-scenes” videos about the shoots that Hardee's and Carl's Jr. cleverly post to YouTube.
Orlando links to a story about the new Webb spot that ran in the New York Daily News last week.
“To be in this type of A-list crew was so neat," Webb tells Margaret Eby and Chiderah Monde. “Jennifer Lopez's make-up artist did my make-up, and Kim Kardashian's hairstylist did my hair. I was most excited about that. They're so well known at their craft. I took a bite out of way too many hamburgers. I lost count!”
Speaking of count, Hardee’s is based in St. Louis and currently has 1,965 company-owned and franchised outlets predominately located in the Southeast and Midwest. It has been a division of Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants — also home of the Carl’s Jr., Green Burrito and Red Burrito chains — since 1997. It had locations in the Northeast in the past but not since the ’90s, the AP’s Jim Salter reports.
The expansion is “a massive advance into prime territory and a tremendous opportunity for a highly anticipated return,” Jim Sullivan, SVP of domestic franchise development for CKE, says in a release. “We’ve heard from residents all across the region for years, begging us to bring our food back to them. We just needed the right partner.”
That turns out to be Bhupen “Bob” Patel, “who was selected for his deep knowledge of the industry and the area.” No one seems to know much else about Patel, and “no further information was provided by CKE,” writes Peter Van Allen in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
We do know, however, that Hardee’s was founded by Wilber Hardee in Greenville, N.C., in 1960 with two fellow businessmen. Alas, “the business venture went south one night when the three men were drinking and playing cards,” the Los Angeles Times reported in a 2008 obituary. “Hardee later told his family he bet his newly minted Hardee's stock during the game. He lost. The next morning, Rawl and Gardner owned a 51% controlling share in the company.”
Hardee sold his remaining stake for $37,000 and went on to form other ventures, his daughter said.
For his part, Patel says in the release that he was “in search of a better burger brand to support and grow, and as soon as I learned there was interest and the potential to reopen Hardee’s here in the Northeast, I knew I had found what I was seeking.”
Evidently, fulfillment comes in the likes of the Buffalo Blue Cheese Thickburger, which seems to be heavily advertised everywhere since the football season began, eliciting “ughs” from my viewing companions. But fret not, my tofu-loving friends; there’s something for everybody. You can always opt for the seldom-if-ever advertised Veg It Thickburger (“Hold the Patty”), which weights in at a mere 510 calories for the chain’s famous “premium produce and all the fixings” on a 4.5-inch seeded bun.
Or you can just follow the advice of Miss Alabama, who tells Eby and Monde, "growing up in the South, we're known for not always eating the most healthy. I'll indulge in a hamburger or hot dog or pizza." She “makes up for it ‘at the gym,’” she avers.