Hardee's and Carl's Jr. parent CKE Restaurants named former Papa Johns executive Max Wetzel its new CEO, effective immediately.
He joined Papa Johns in November 2019 as chief commercial and marketing officer and advanced to chief operating officer in May 2022. Prior to restaurants, Wetzel spent time at PPG Industries and The Kraft Heinz Company.
“The entire CKE team has built an incredible business and accomplished so much over the last several years. I see massive opportunity to build on these accomplishments and accelerate growth of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands,” Wetzel said in a statement.
He follows Ned Lyerly, who spent more than 30 years with the company. The industry veteran served as executive vice president of global franchise development starting in April 2010 and moved to executive vice president of international in June 2012 and president of international in July 2014. He was promoted to CEO in April 2019, replacing Jason Marker, a former KFC U.S. president who stepped into the role in 2017.
Wetzel takes over a company with more than 3,800 franchised or company-operated restaurants in 44 states, 43 countries, and U.S. territories. Hardee's had 1,752 U.S. restaurants at the end of 2022 compared to 1,846 at the end of 2019, according to its FDD. Carl's Jr. is now under 1,100 stores after having 1,122 at the end of 2019.
Last year, CKE announced a $500 million reimaging program that calls for physical and digital transformations in the next four to six years. Announced in May, the company targeted more than 500 locations across 20 markets by the end of 2022. Some examples of updates include new signage, brand statement elements, freshly installed interior and exterior digital menu boards, and upgraded lighting, bathrooms, and subway tiling.
CKE also used 2022 to launch its first loyalty program, which is part of a larger technology overhaul at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. It's a venture that Wetzel is familiar with; Papa Johns has more than 28 million loyalty member accounts, and these members mix nearly 50 percent.
“We are excited to welcome Max to lead CKE. His proven record leading brands to realize their growth potential is ideally suited for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s as the brands set forth on their next chapter,” Sarah Spiegel, CKE board member, said in a statement.