Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. together are among the top national chains, with a combined footprint in nearly every U.S. state (more on that later). But what’s the deal with the two chains both having the exact same look and design, with a really similar menu? Read on to learn 10 things you didn’t know about Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
But first, a little history. Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are indeed two completely different chains that have had the same parent company, CKE Restaurants, since 1997. Hardee’s was founded by a man named Wilber Hardee in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1960, and Carl’s Jr. got its start as a Los Angeles hot dog cart in 1941, founded by a 24-year-old bread truck driver named Carl Karcher and his wife, Margaret. This quickly expanded to five full-service barbecue restaurants, Carl’s Drive-In Barbeque, and he named two smaller burger-focused spinoffs, which opened in Anaheim and Brea, California, in 1956, called Carl’s Jr.
Both chains found their fair share of success, with Hardee’s becoming a fixture in the South and Midwest and Carl’s Jr. becoming a familiar sight in the West. By the mid-‘90s Hardee’s was the country’s fourth-largest fast-food chain with 2,500 locations (a strategy to open in smaller towns not serviced by McDonald’s or Burger King paid off), and Carl’s Jr.’s parent company, CKE Restaurants (short for Carl Karcher Enterprises) jumped at the opportunity to purchase it and expand its presence to the East. CKE purchased Hardee’s in 1997 for $327 million, and while they updated Hardee’s look and signage, they didn’t begin introducing Carl’s Jr.’s items to the menu until the early 2000s.
Today, the menus at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are still quite different if you look closely enough (Hardee’s is a lot more breakfast-centric), but there are plenty of crossover items (like biscuits and Thickburgers), and the branding is completely identical. But even though they might be similar, loyal devotees of Carl’s Jr. will tell you that there’s no comparison between the two, and Hardee’s fans tend to agree. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about these two sister chains.