Monday, June 04, 2018

Goin' Hard

Place: Hardee's
Lunch: Memphis BBQ Thickburger, chicken tenders (w/ranch), Coke

I notice on the door that the payment options now include Apple Pay, just as it should be at every business in the world.  So I order and hold my phone near the card reader.  Apple Pay does NOT ensue.  Nothing ensues.

Me:  "What's the deal?"

Smiling Counter Girl: "I'm not sure!"

She runs to a manager.  Manager mumbles something.  Smiling Counter Girl returns.  "You have to hit the Credit button first, and then hold your phone."

Nothing indicates a credit card button, as the display has gone to Happy Star screen saver mode.  "Oh dear!  Hang on..."  She enters something in the register, leans over, and taps a button.  Nothing happens on the screen, but suddenly my phone accepts the transaction.

"Yay!" she exclaims.

Raising Cane's opened their first local location last week, and everybody's raising cane about it.  Lines not seen around here since the first Chick-Fil-A opened in town.  I don't get the appeal.  They sell chicken tenders.  Chicken tenders, toast, and fries.  That's it.  And none of it is anything special.  Their chicken tenders are fine, a little bland to my taste, but for some reason people go nuts over them.

I like Hardee's tenders better.  I like a lot of places tenders better.

I guess as long as it keeps the masses out of my way, it's fine.

Hardee's is going through an identity crisis.  The chain was acquired by Carl's Jr parent CKE restaurants back in 1997 from a Canadian tobacco giant who had basically run the chain into the ground.  CKE had intended on converting all the Hardee's stores into Carl's Jr stores (much like Hardee's did to chains like Sandy's and Burger Chef over the years) with the Carl's Jr lunch/dinner menu and the Hardee's breakfast biscuit menu, the one successful thing Hardee's had going for it at the time.  What actually ensued was a complete disaster that lasted for nearly a decade that included different logos, different menus, and even different cooking styles (fried burgers vs charbroiled) at restaurants across the system at the same time.  Roughly half the system's locations closed.  It was fascinating to watch as a bystander, and I was obsessed.

It was the Thickburger menu that finally stuck and brought Hardee's back from the abyss.  It succeeded to the point that Hardee's location count actually started growing again.

In recent years, Hardee's and Carl's Jr have been more closely aligned, sharing the same logo, restaurant designs, and some (but not all) common menu items.  A number of limited time burgers in recent years have been advertised as being "at Hardee's and Carl's Jr" in national ads.

Apparently, that's changing.  Hardee's television advertising recently has gone back to the pre-CKE Sunrise logo.  Nothing in the restaurants or on the Hardee's website are supporting this.  It's just the TV ads.


There's talk in the media that more changes will come, including Hardee's having more unique, non-shared menu items, and a new look at the restaurants.  To have more of its own identity.

I don't get it, unless CKE's ultimate plan is to sell off Hardee's completely, and therefore is differentiating the two.

There are some who speculate this is a way of separating Hardee's further from Carl's Jr's sexy advertising (a practice they stopped with the terrible "Carl Hardee Sr" campaign), which they perceive as not playing well in the Midwest (to which I say, you really don't know the Midwest).  If that's the case, who approved the "Goin' Hard at the Hardee's" advertising slogan?  "Goin' Hard" is something you do in the back room of the adult book store.  I don't want to see anyone doing that in the dining room.

The one thing I ever wanted out of all of this was to be able to buy charbroiled Famous Stars locally.  And that never happened.  (Well, it did, for about two weeks.  Then all of a sudden, here came the Thickburgers.)

I actually have a radical idea for Hardee's.

But nobody listens to me.