Carl’s Jr. finds its origins in the purchase of a hot dog cart in 1941. Carl Karcher and his wife, Margaret, invested all they had and successfully opened Carl’s Drive-in Barbeque. Less than 5 years later. Carl’s Jr. came along when the couple opened smaller locations of the original barbeque restaurant during the 1950s. Corporate headquarters for Carl’s Jr. are currently located in Anaheim, California.
Why is it Called Carl’s Jr.?
It’s obvious to see that the “Carl” in “Carl’s Jr.” comes from the founder himself. However, in 1964, the company became Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE). What most people don’t know is that CKE actually bought Hardee’s in 1997—for $327 million. That’s quite a pricey hamburger!
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, while housed under the same company, still retain (most of) their individual characteristics. You probably won’t find too many Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants near one another. And though they may look alike brand-wise, customers still associate each name with their corresponding menus.
Image Source: Under Construction
The Yellow “Happy Star”
Coupled with the red lettering, Carl’s Jr.’s “Happy Star” is nearly as iconic as the Golden Arches. The Happy Star first debuted in the 1960s and has stayed with the brand ever since. New renditions of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s logo include only the shape of the star, but even without the cheerful smile, customers are sure to easily recognize the red and yellow signage.
It’s hard to believe that a company that took in only $14.75 on their first day was able to buy Hardee’s for millions of dollars, but in over 70 years, CKE has managed to establish itself as a fierce competitor for the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King, to name a few.
The Future of Carl’s Jr.
Like most fast-food chains, Carl’s Jr. isn’t without its controversies. In fact, Karcher was removed as chairman of CKE in 1993, after being accused of insider trading in 1988. An agreement with the SEC settled the issue, costing the Karchers over half a million dollars. They say the hamburger business is tough, and with competitors like Ronald McDonald and The King nipping at your heels, perhaps Carl’s Jr. did in fact play dirty.
In more recent years, Carl’s Jr. has been criticized for its sexually-provocative commercials. Sure, Hooters and similarly-themed restaurants have been capitalizing upon such drives for a long time, but those businesses don’t call themselves family restaurants, marketing their menu for all ages.
Carl’s Jr. is now working with a different ad agency, and they’ve seemingly taken this history in stride. Watch the newest commercials and you’ll see that the agency is doing some clean-up, putting the past behind them and promising a pioneering view that first drove Carl Karcher to open a burger joint.
Will this new ad campaign save Carl’s Jr.? Or will one of the burger giants take a bite out of the Happy Star? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Rebecca Henderson is the published author and professional editor at The Kreativ Space. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber as well. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.