Industry News | January 21, 2003

Hardee's Breaks Rank from Competition with New Premium Burger Menu

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Consumers soon will have a radically new fast food dining experience available to them. Hardee's Food Systems, Inc. today announced plans to convert all of its more than 2,200 restaurants to an entirely new menu focused on 1/3-pound, 1/2-pound, and 2/3-pound Angus beef burgers, called "Thickburgers." The new menu already has been installed in more than 200 restaurants, and conversion of the entire system is scheduled to be completed over the next several months. Hardee's popular breakfast menu will remain unchanged.

"We are distinguishing ourselves from the competition as the premium burger specialist among quick-service restaurants," said Andrew F. Puzder, CEO and president of Hardee's Food Systems, Inc.

"The great success of our award-winning Six Dollar Burger last year taught us that fast food consumers are willing to pay more for exceptional taste and quality, so we spent much of the past year developing an entire menu of bigger, better burgers," continued Puzder. "Consumer research information and feedback obtained from more than 200 Hardee's restaurants where we have been selling the new 1/3-pound, 1/2-pound, and 2/3-pound line of Angus beef Thickburgers confirmed that this is still the case, and that we are offering fast food consumers what they truly want.

"We not only made the burgers bigger and began using higher quality Angus beef," added Puzder, "we also improved the quality of virtually every ingredient on the burgers. We even made our pickles better. At a time when most of our competitors have turned to discounting tactics, Hardee's is banking on America's ongoing love affair with truly great burgers."

Hardee's also will significantly streamline its menu with the rollout of the new Thickburger line, eliminating up to 40 items currently sold during lunch and dinner. "Trying to be all things to all people just does not work," said Puzder. "We identified and eliminated menu items with limited appeal as well as the items that interfered with our ability to provide consistent quality, service and cleanliness throughout the chain. The transition from our previous variety-discount approach to the new premium burger focus not only provides better quality food for our customers, but better service as well."

Hardee's franchisees also have expressed support for the program. The Independent Hardee's Franchisee Association (IHFA) stated that it "has worked closely with Hardee's Food Systems throughout the process of developing the new menu. The IHFA believes that the results of the market research and customer feedback are compelling. Franchisees that have been involved in the test are supportive and have reported positive results."

"Product improvement is something that the IHFA consistently has requested, and Hardee's now has delivered," said IHFA president Jim Reynolds. "We're impressed with the menu, the initial results, and the potential to change customer perceptions about Hardee's."

The Hardee's menu change features seven new Angus beef Thickburgers in addition to the chain's popular Six Dollar Burger(TM). All of the 1/3-pound, 1/2-pound, and 2/3-pound burgers are charbroiled and are served wrapped in individual boxes.

"We completed a great deal of consumer research during the development and evaluation of the Thickburger menu, and I have to say that the feedback was very gratifying," explained Brad Haley, executive vice president of marketing for Hardee's. "Andy [Puzder] challenged us to create a line of burgers that wasn't just as good as, or marginally better than, our competition's products, but to target a 'wow' response from true burger lovers. So, we were very pleased to find in the research that we nailed it, and that our guests were more likely to compare the new Thickburgers to burgers they make at home on their grills than to other fast food fare. I've never seen anything in fast food elicit that kind of a reaction.

"This is a pure quality strategy and it's very reassuring to see that fast food consumers appreciate what we've done," added Haley. "It definitely marks a break from the traditional low-cost, and therefore low-quality, approach to developing fast food products that has been the predominant model in the industry for the past half-century. It's also nice to deliver a menu to Hardee's franchised and company-owned restaurants that provides food quality rivaling that of sit-down restaurants, and which anyone would be proud to serve to their guests."