Not so soft on Hardee’s®

I’m an easy-going guy – 98% of the time. I enjoy a good laugh, I let people merge into traffic. But then there’s the other 2%, when the smallest things drive me nuts. Like NFL pre-game shows or forwarded e-mails commanding you to follow asinine instructions. Things like this usually fall victim to one of my diatribes – I have a soapbox and I’m not afraid to use it. And one thing that really gets me riled up; that angers me more than any of the aforementioned is…Hardee’s. Yep, the middling fast food chain that’s too dumb to die.

I can go on about the ills of this greasy albatross. How everything they cook actually does taste like chicken or that each restaurant looks suspended in 1974. As troubling as funky fries and out-of-date décor can be, my biggest problem is that their brand is focused solely on stereotypes. They assume we’re all non-informed, sugar-water guzzling, calorie-consuming knuckleheads – whether they’re pushing a 1,400-calorie hamburger or serving fried bologna biscuits. Like anyone would purchase a fried bologna biscuit without a double-dog dare.

I’ll give them this for such prolific pandering though – they don’t try to hide it. If you look at one of their recent TV spots, this isn’t hard to figure out (sexual innuendo be damned). Hardee’s is blatantly selling sex. Just take a look at this video starring Padma Lakshmi, of Top Chef fame, enjoying something called a Western Bacon Thickburger.

CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of Hardee’s Food Systems Inc. has also received some negative publicity about a campaign promoting their new “biscuit holes”. A chairman of their biggest franchisee made his dislike public prompting the following statement:

“CKE Restaurants, Inc., owner and franchisor of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants, adopts a creative approach to our advertising. It is intended to communicate the core message of our premium quality food to our target audience of young, hungry guys. We do not aim to exclude or offend any other group with our efforts, but merely to appeal and amuse a very specific audience. We understand that not everyone may view our advertising the same way and we respect all views. With respect to the referenced commercial for Biscuit Holes, the spot is only airing after 9 p.m. Our franchisees have the opportunity to provide input on which commercials will air in their respective markets and can choose not to air any that they might have a particular concern with. There are no present plans to drop the ads.”

It’s like they raided the Jay Leno Comedy Vault and found the “lowest common denominator playbook.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m the farthest thing from a prude. I’m a guy who giggles like a child whenever I see a chimp dressed in human clothing. It doesn’t take much to make me laugh…heck, I’m a young, hungry guy.

And though this bothers me unbelievably, the strategy seems to be a profitable one. CKE Restaurants Inc. reported a fourth-quarter profit at the beginning of this year… So maybe this knucklehead should just line up for some B-holes himself.