Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Jim Edwards
Even though Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are completely different restaurants, they are owned by the same owner, CKE Restaurant. For people who are unaware of their origin story or their original brand, it may be surprising to find out how exactly the two brands merged. After all, both brands have a similar brand image and offerings. Even so, the concept of the two brands varies greatly, as do their areas of operation.
History of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and Their Business Relationship
History of Carl’s Jr. Restaurants and Success
Despite what you might think, Carl’s Jr. has humble origins as the Los Angeles-based founder of the company used to sell hot dogs, chili dogs, and tamales in a food cart before making it big. Carl N. Karcher was an entrepreneur with a smart business sense. This was only four years before the brand became highly successful.
In 1941 when Carl closed his food cart and earned a total of $14.75 with the sales of his food items, he knew he had found success. He and his wife Margaret worked tirelessly to establish the food cart and soon owned four of them in Southern California. In 1945, Carl and his wife opened up a drive-in eatery in Anaheim, which he called Carl’s Drive-In Barbeque. The restaurant didn’t have burgers on the menu until 1946 and didn’t have a location for diners until 1956.
Karcher also experimented with other ideas while expanding the chain of Carl’s Jr. restaurants. Some other concepts were Scot’s coffee shops and Carl’s Whistle Stop. All his restaurants were merged into a single large enterprise called Carl Karcher Enterprises, the same company to be called CKE Restaurants in the future.
History of Hardee’s and Its Success
On the other hand, while Carl N. Karcher struggled to establish his business in Los Angeles, an idea was brewing in the mind of Wilber Hardee across the country. He was a fast-food pioneer in the making as he had already created a well-known image in Greenville, North Carolina.
Wilber opened the first location of his restaurant Hardee’s, in 1960. His recipe and cooking methods were unique and loved by the public. His special charbroiled burgers were the all the rage in the town and helped him open his first franchise just after the opening of his restaurant after five months. Hardee’s success was much more fast-paced than Carl’s Jr. in the beginning.
His restaurant Hardee’s Drive-in was a huge success, and soon, entrepreneurs Jim Gardner and Leonard Rawls encouraged him to form a partnership. Although Gardner and Rawls had bought parts of the company, the chain still was named Hardee’s.
More restaurants had also been added in the Midwest and South of the USA, and within the ten years that followed, 200 new locations had opened up across the country. The company began to be called Hardee’s Food Systems.
The Merger of the Two Companies
Hardee’s Food Systems corporation changed ownership to Trans World Corp. from Spartan Food Systems and afterward was owned by Imasco, which was a Canadian Company in 1981.
By the late 1990s, Hardee’s had become the fourth biggest fast-food chain in the USA. Inspired by its growth trajectory, CKE decided to buy Hardee’s for a whopping $327 million. Altogether, the brand owned 3000 Hardee’s locations along with 700 Carl’s Jr.’s stores.
Until 2018, the two fast-food chains had a similar brand image and advertising; however, after a new CEO entered the space, they decided to separate the two restaurants, albeit by only a little. Both chains of the restaurants have scratch biscuits and Thickburgers on the menu and a star sign logo; they have found ways to distinguish themselves for their true fans.
The Difference between the Two Companies
Trademark Dispute in Canada
Hardee’s does not exist in Canada due to a trademark dispute of trademark. Due to the similarity of its name with a burger-chain company called Harvey’s in Canada, Hardee’s has been unable to enter the Canadian market. However, CKE was free to expand the Carl’s Jr. restaurants in Canada. Although many locations of Carl’s Jr. opened in Canada, the expansion was fruitless as most restaurants closed and struggled to survive in Canada.
Both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s serve burritos to their customers. While green burritos are a specialty of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s offers red burritos. It doesn’t have to do with the burrito’s color but with the trademark for the name “Green Burrito.”
As CKE incorporated its Tex-Mex restaurant “Green Burrito” with Carl’s Jr. to create a more Mexican theme, the name caught on. To introduce burritos for its similar restaurant Hardee’s, CKE introduced the red burrito for the franchise since most of Hardee’s restaurants were in the Southern and Midwest red states.
Carl’s Jr. is a restaurant providing much healthier food options. The restaurant caters to the lifestyle of the Americans living on the West coast, demanding healthier, fresh, and light food.
Carl’s Jr. offers a charbroiled chicken salad, plain salad, fried zucchini, and lettuce wrapped Thickburgers. Whereas Hardee’s serves comfort food that is laden with calories. Decadent hand-scooped shakes, crispy curly fries, chicken tenders, jumbo chili dogs, nachos, and quesadillas are served in large portions for the customer who wants to be cared for at this large restaurant.
Carl’s Jr. advertising is in-your-face ads that cater more to younger audiences looking for late-night munchies and unhealthy breakfast after a night out. Carl’s Jr.’s marketing team isn’t afraid of being out there as they used Matthew McConaughey’s sexy Southern drawl to promote their Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Even Paris Hilton and other models have promoted the brand’s creatively weird menu items and marketing tactics.
On the other hand, Hardee’s caters to a more traditional American image of togetherness and wholesomeness. With southern accents in their advertising, their ads are much more moderate and aim to embrace country life to appeal to college students.
10 Reasons Carl’s Jr. & Hardees ARE DIFFERENT!!!
Here’s a list of 10 differences between Carl’s Jr. & Hardees. While Carl’s Jr. & Hardees are as similar as fast-food restaurants get, these are the top 10 differences between Carl’s Jr. and Hardees!
Hardee’s Vs. Carl’s Jr. – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s the same thing?
Although they have similar branding, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are not the same restaurants. They are two different brands under the same company.
Who owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s?
CKE Restaurants is the owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
Although Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have a similar logo, they have distinct branding and menu differences that cater to two separate fanbases. From different-colored burritos and ingredients, there are major differences between the two restaurants that give each brand its own unique identity. Nevertheless, if you are craving a deliciously juicy Thickburger, you can get one at both Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., no matter where you are in the US.
To read more exciting details about Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., click on any of the following related articles about the brands.
Image Credit – Gage, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit – CKE Restaurants, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit – Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
I’m Jim Edwards and I started this website to share my love of Junk Food. We cover new junk food, desserts, snack foods, fast food secret menus, candy (of course!) and other related news. We love trying “secret menus” at restaurants. And we love trying new products too. So, we are trying to have some fun with our hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send us your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have products you would like us to try, let us know…!