Burger chain Carl’s Jr. plans to bring its trademark smiling yellow star to the Seattle area next year. Owned by Carpinteria’s CKE Restaurants Inc., Carl’s has only a handful of restaurants now in Washington, all on the eastern side of the state.

An established California-based Carl’s franchisee will be the first to open Carl’s Jr. stores in Western Washington. NorthWest Foods LP, a new division of Carl’s franchisee Trani Food Group of Modesto, plans two dozen stores around south Puget Sound over the next eight years. The franchisee has identified some 30 possible store sites in its territory.

Seattle was chosen as Trani’s next Carl’s market for two reasons, said John Trani, vice president of development. Trani’s Northern California market is close to saturated for Carl’s Jr. And because Seattle is a top-priority expansion market for franchisor CKE (NYSE: CKR – News), NorthWest will enjoy unusual corporate support for the move: A corporate ad director for Carl’s Jr. will be based in Seattle to oversee the marketing push next year, a Carl’s Jr. spokeswoman confirmed.

Trani’s first store should open in or around Tacoma, he said, one of two to three units expected next year. Even though some of Washington’s restaurant-operating costs, especially wages, are high compared with other states, Trani said he still sees the south Sound as brimming with opportunity.

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