Carl's Jr in the UK

15/12/2018 18:00 | Fast Food Franchises

carls jr uk

Carl’s Jr is a household name in its native USA. However, in the UK, relatively few consumers know the name. As a popular and successful franchise that has successfully expanded into other international markets, we wondered whether Carl’s Jr is ever likely to make the jump to the UK. Here, we explore the past, present, and future of the franchise and ask whether the UK market is ready for Carl’s Jr.

What is Carl’s Jr?

Carl’s Jr is a US fast food restaurant chain that specialises in burgers and other similar food items. The restaurant chain boasts approximately 1,490 locations around the globe. It is owned and operated by the parent company CKE, which also owns the Hardee's chain, as well as both the Green Burrito and Red Burrito businesses.

The brand is famous for its burgers, unique advertising campaigns, and for many high-calorie menu options that are well-known for their size. This includes the 1,250 calories Thickburger. As well as large-scale operations in the US, Carl's Jr also boasts a substantial presence in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.

A brief history of Carl’s Jr

Established in 1945, Carl’s Jr began life as a single hot dog cart. It quickly grew into an entire fleet of hotdog carts, and then made the jump to a full-service restaurant. However, it wasn’t until 1950 that hamburgers were added to the menu. All of these businesses operated under different names, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the first two restaurants bearing the Carl’s Jr name officially opened.

By the 1960s, the business had experienced a period of such dramatic growth that it had gone from operating four restaurants to running 24 restaurants in a matter of years. Throughout the ‘60s, the menu was kept relatively simple to improve the speed of service. However, this changed in the ‘70s, when the decision was made to equip all Carl Jr’s with a salad bar. By this time, the network had grown to encompass more than 100 restaurants.

The first franchised restaurant opened in 1984 and numerous additions to the menu and service were made during this decade in an attempt to keep up with the variety offered by competitors. This period of success was followed by a decade of discontent, during which the owner Don Karcher regularly clashed with the directors of the company over the direction the business was heading. However, with Mr Karcher’s passing in 1992, Carl’s Jr was bought out by CKE Restaurants and became a wholly owned subsidiary of this parent company.

In the 2000s and 2010s, Carl’s Jr focused on international expansion and, faced with something of a backlash against unhealthy fast foods, sought to freshen up its menu with more wholesome selections. To a large degree, this has worked, and over the last few years, Carl’s Jr has repeatedly been voted one of the US’s most successful franchises.

Does Carl’s Jr offer franchising opportunities?

Carl’s Jr has offered franchising opportunities since 1984. Franchisees must have previous experience of the franchise sector or restaurant industry and be committed to developing at least three restaurants. It’s also necessary to have a net worth of $1,000,000 and to have liquid assets of approximately $300,000. Though these figures may vary slightly depending on the country and market, they’re the minimum requirements expected of any US franchisee.

What level of investment is required to become a franchisee?

To start a Carl's Jr franchise, prospective franchisees must be prepared to invest somewhere between $1,600,000 and $2,000,000 to get the franchise off the ground. This can be broken down into payments of $10,000 per restaurant for each unit, as well as $15,000-$20,000 franchise fee. Franchisees must pay 4% of gross sales in royalty fees and somewhere between 1-7% of sales is payable to cover the advertising fee.

Though this is one of the more expensive fast food franchise opportunities, the cost is balanced by the fact that the franchise agreement lasts for a remarkable 20 years. Franchisees are also enrolled in one of the most comprehensive 10-week training programmes in the industry and receive high-quality support throughout their franchise ownership.

Does Carl’s Jr operate on an international scale?

Carl’s Jr operates in a large number of international markets and is always looking for ways it can expand into new, profitable regions. While the US remains the company’s biggest market, it has more than 200 restaurants in Mexico, and its network is also growing in Canada. Recently, the brand’s first Indian restaurant location opened in Delhi.

CKE, Carl's Jr's parent company, has experience in a remarkable number of foreign markets and, as of 2017, operates locations in 39 countries. These include Australia, Chile, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Spain, and Nicaragua. This means that they have considerable experience managing franchisees in other nations and will be well prepared to support UK franchisees too.

Does Carl’s Jr operate in the UK?

Currently, there are no Carl's Jr UK restaurants. However, in the past, there have been strong rumours that Carl's Jr is looking for a way into the UK market and that it is prepared to offer a suitable individual a master franchise agreement. In particular, there was news in 2011 that Carl's Jr was seeking £16 million from investors to launch roughly 25 units across the country. However, it appears as though these plans came to nothing.

What alternatives are there to Carl’s Jr?

The fast food sector is one of the industries most associated with franchising. Consequently, there are a large number of alternatives to Carl’s Jr to choose from. For instance, prospective franchisees could opt to launch a Wimpy franchise. For a more gourmet option, Loaded Burgers offer franchising opportunities and are a popular choice amongst those who want to get into the franchising game. Finally, Rocket's is an international chain that focuses on fast service and fresh produce and has managed to establish itself as a well-known and reputable brand.

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