PHOTO: Employees of Franklin’s CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc., gather outside the Bellevue Hardee’s for the grand reveal of the first newly branded restaurant on Friday, June 1, 2018./Brooke Wanser.
By BROOKE WANSER
On Friday morning, employees and strategists held a ribbon cutting at the Hardee’s in Bellevue to reveal the details behind a new national marketing plan.
The Bellevue location, which has been in operation for seven years, is the first restaurant to undergo the rebrand, Tom Brennan, the COO of parent company CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc., said.
“We know that we want to continue to keep our brand contemporary, and a lot of thought went into how we tell our brand’s story,” he said.
Carl’s Jr. is the other half of the burger-chain duo under CKE Restaurants. While Carl’s started as a hot dog stand in Anaheim, California in 1941, Hardee’s began in North Carolina in 1961, known for their char-broiled burger that set them apart from competitor McDonalds.
The two chains merged in the 1990s, and CKE Restaurants moved their headquarters from Anaheim to Franklin in 2017.
Carl’s Jr. operates about 1,150 restaurants throughout the West Coast, while Hardee’s, located in the Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast, has around 1,870 stores.
Brennan said the difference is in the storytelling elements; a new drive-in counter is shaped like a racecar, a nod to the restaurant’s emphasis on speed of service and history with stock car racing. The Hardee’s logo adorned NASCAR driver Cale Yarborough’s cars and fire suits in the 1980s.
Phrases like “Made from scratch biscuits” and “100% Angus beef” now adorn the exterior of the Bellevue restaurant, which Brennan said point to the restaurant’s quality in the quick-service restaurant industry.
Changes are expected take place at another five restaurants between now and September, before a systemic roll out to all Hardee’s over the next two-and-a-half years.
Brennan deflected any worries about the fast-food market, saying he sees “tremendous opportunity for both of our brands.”
CKE’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jenkins said the company is also playing up their focus on food quality. “Chefs are the new rockstars,” he said.
Jenkins said chicken tenders are hand-breaded in house, and a biscuit baker comes to the restaurant each morning at 4 a.m. to create the baked goods from scratch.
“We’re not going to cut corners just because everyone else does,” he said. “We can deliver the same price, but with better quality.”
Chief Development Officer Jim Sullivan said the company moved to Tennessee last year to consolidate the brands and take advantage of the state’s business-friendly policies and low taxes.
CKE Restaurants is headquartered at 6700 Tower Circle at Cool Springs’ Franklin Park development.