Based in the United States and with an international network spread across the globe, CKE Restaurants Holdings is reinventing the wheel for quick service restaurants with its new restaurant prototype. Here, RLI speaks with Marc Mushkin, Vice President, International Franchise Sales and Development at CKE Restaurants Holdings and Don Jones, Director, International Design and Construction at CKE Restaurants Holdings to learn more.
The history of CKE Restaurants Holdings can be traced back to 1941, but the merging of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands did not take place until 1997 with the acquisition of Hardee’s by CKE Restaurants Holdings. Today the two brands continue to operate under one corporate entity with their individual banners and CKE’s global footprint is nearly 4,000 restaurants spread across more than 40 countries and 19 time zones.
“Hardee’s represents almost 2,200 of this total and Carl’s Jr. has over 1,600,” explains Marc Mushkin, Vice President, International Franchise Sales and Development. “Our presence outside the United States totals around 1,020, with Carl’s Jr. representing just under 600 and Hardee’s over 400. Carl’s Jr. is the brand we develop in all international markets except in the Middle East and Africa region where we develop Hardee’s restaurants exclusively,” he continues.
A groundbreaking and exciting development within their restaurant portfolio took place in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in February this year with the launch of the company’s new restaurant prototype called the International “OMNI – Next Generation”, which has been modified to meet the site’s small size and omni-channel sales model.
“It features a dual-level split kitchen, second floor dining room, freshly updated International Urban Light Design scheme and fresh, new, California-inspired graphics,” comments Don Jones, Director, International Design and Construction. “The kitchen design uses the new efficient OMNI kitchen plan which centralizes the packaging area to allow quick access to the drive-thru window, the new exterior-accessible delivery window, dine-in table service and to-go orders in a new smaller footprint layout.”
In addition, the dedicated curbside order pickup station is covered by a distinctly labelled canopy that was incorporated into the site plan adjacent to the kitchen access door for quick service.
Along with the multiple methods for guest ordering from on-site to off-premise, the new site in Mexico is equipped with QR ordering via a guests’ mobile phone at the table for full orders or additional menu items after the meal. Guests can also use QR ordering whilst in the comfort of their car at the designated curbside ordering point.
What all these experiences mean is that the new restaurant ensures that CKE guests have a unique experience each time they visit, no matter where they choose to enjoy their food, be it in-restaurant, order ahead, to-go, or via one of their many delivery partners.
The original goals of this new concept restaurant were to reduce building costs and footprints, design kitchens meant for several omni-channel sales channels, simplify the overall design and create a building prototype that is very flexible and easy to adapt to different size and shaped real estate opportunities.
“The overall design is the most flexible building layout we have offered to our franchisees, and it provides the tools to design restaurants to meet what the market dictates. In a sense, it is a “plug-n-play” approach to restaurant design to allow you to build what you need and easily omit features you don’t (e.g. build with purpose),” Jones highlights.
To do this, they created a new kitchen layout that is the ‘engine’ of the overall design, from here they could add elements such as dining rooms with variable seat numbers, flexible drive-thru window positioning, outdoor terraces, curbside pickup/ordering, dedicated exterior delivery window pickup and single and double drive-thru lanes.
“The OMNI also boasts a new concept within it which is an off-premise pickup and drive-thru model that has no dine-in seating, but optional al-fresco seating with a walk-up window or QR code ordering via a mobile device. We are currently calling this the Carl’s Jr. GO! Concept and it will have its very own branded signage. Our building footprints range from 110 sq m to 205 sq m or greater if needed. There is no “one size fits all” approach in QSR anymore and this new prototype is a perfect fit for the future,” Jones comments.
When discussing the upcoming development pipeline, Mushkin explains the company is in an exciting period of growth that combines their decade-long trajectory of opening in new markets and working with new franchisees, whilst Jones says that while the new prototype is still in its early stages, they are continuing to identify franchise partners and locations to build additional OMNI restaurants moving forward.
“Our Mexico franchisee which just opened its first location is excited to open another one, and we are already in the process of discussing site planning and we will bring in new learnings from the original site into this second location that uses the OMNI design,” Jones comments.
“We are focusing a lot of our resources on plans to expand Carl’s Jr. in Europe into markets we have not yet ventured into, with the UK and Germany being primary targets,” says Mushkin. “Around the world we are equally focused on new growth opportunities in the Americas (primarily Brazil and Canada) as well as Australia. While for Hardee’s we are looking at growth in Israel and Africa (starting with South Africa),” Mushkin continues.
A watchword in the i`ndustry right now, sustainability is not something new to CKE Restaurants Holdings and they are actively researching new packaging and materials that will reduce their impact and footprint in critical areas. Together with their vendors they are working towards their sustainability goals up and down the supply chain and it is an important part of their forward-thinking planning, and the company remains committed to making meaningful changes.
While there are many reasons that the company has achieved long-term global success, the core of its continued momentum is down to its great food, “All-Star” service, attractive and efficient facilities and a compelling business model for their franchisees.
“Our quality food, including real Angus beef burgers, hand-breaded chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches, hand-scooped real ice cream shakes, and more, undoubtedly set us apart from our competition,” highlights Mushkin.
Alongside this, their great and experienced leadership team that begins with company CEO, Ned Lyerly, who has been in leadership roles with the company for over 35-years and their President of International, Mike Woida are what set the business apart from its rivals.
Looking to what comes next, accelerated growth is what’s in focus and according to Mushkin and Jones, “it is an exciting time at both the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands!”
“We pride ourselves on being agile enough to pivot to new solutions while being a big enough company to weather any storms. Our 80-year history proves we are resilient and an enduring player in the restaurant industry. The future looks bright for our company,” concludes Mushkin.