Fat Profits. (Portfolio)
The uniqueness isn’t the only thing that’s hard to get your head around. During the past few years, CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has employed an audacious go-for-bloat approach that defies just about everything you’ve come to assume about the business of modern fast food. (See nutrition data for CKE franchises and other fast-food chains.) In an age when other chains have been forced to at least pretend that they care about the health of their customers and have started offering packets of apples and things sprinkled with walnuts and yogurt, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are purposely running in the opposite direction, unapologetically creating an arsenal of higher-priced, high-fat, high-calorie monstrosities—pioneering avant-garde concepts such as “meat as a condiment” and “fast-food porn”—and putting the message out to increasingly receptive consumers with ads that are often as controversial as the burgers themselves.