Simple beginnings sometimes lead to huge companies.
Hardee’s is an American fast food chain that got its start in a small town and has grown, through several corporate changes of hands, to become a major fast food chain.
The company is headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee. It operates mainly in the Southern and Midwestern areas of the United States. Hardee’s has more than three thousand restaurants in forty states and eleven countries. The company is considered a family oriented fast food chain.
Hardee’s began in 1960 in the small North Carolina town of Greenville. Its founder, Wilber Hardee, found enough success after a year to open the first company store in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Until its demolition in 2007, that first Hardee’s was known as store #1.
Hardee partnered with James Gardner and Leonard Rawls to further expand the restaurant chain. Even as the company expanded wildly, it maintained its corporate headquarters in Rocky Mount. The company built a massive building to house its operations in the midst of tobacco fields, supporting and expanding the local economy.
Within a decade of its founding, Hardee’s had expanded to two hundred restaurants across the United States, and even in Germany. It moved out to the Midwest, and up to the Northeast.
Over the next two decades, Hardee’s bought smaller chains like Sandy’s and Dee’s Drive-In.
Buyouts and Buyouts
In 1981, Hardee’s was bought by a Canadian company, Imasco Limited. The company extended the reach of the Hardee’s brand by converting Burger Chef’s to Hardee’s. This led to a major expansion of the Hardee’s brand, which continued through the 1980’s.
In 1997, California based fast food chain Carl’s Jr. bought out Hardee’s. Carl’s Jr. only had six hundred and seventy-six stores to Hardee’s more than three thousand.
In 2006, Hardee’s unveiled a new logo that featured the Carl’s Jr. Happy Star, which went a long way towards unifying the two brands.
In the early 2000s, a series of edgy Hardee’s commercials were criticized by a range of family groups, including the Parents Television Council. These suggestive advertisements sometimes featured women in unbecoming positions and wearing less than family friendly clothing. The company sought to expand to a wider audience with this series of ads, but that mission failed as it more effectively alienated the traditional audience that patronized Hardee’s.
In 2015, the company again ran into trouble when feminist groups and religious groups called for the removal of an online Super Bowl ad that featured women in sitiuations that some groups said set feminism back for many decades. Despite the pushback, that online ad became one of Hardee’s most viewed advertisements.
In 2018, the CEO of Carl’s Jr, Jason Marker announced that the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. branding would be separated after more than two decades of joint branding. The reason given was that Carl’s Jr.’s edgier marketing and advertising campaigns were not compatible with the family oriented branding of Hardee’s.
The renewed separation of the two brands appears to be a positive change for the company. Hardees has been a recognizable brand for more than fifty years, and that’s got a lot to do with its wholesome, down to earth image.