The new and improved Carl’s Jr. (now cleavage-free!) is ready to launch its flagship store in New York, according to some loudmouthed real-estate brokers in town. Two execs at Kassin Sabbagh Realty tell Nation’s Restaurant News that parent company CKE Restaurants has signed a 15-year lease for a 4,400-square-foot store located on Seventh Avenue, right by Penn Station — they call it one of “the most heavily trafficked intersections” in the city. CKE didn’t comment, but the brokers say Carl’s expects a January 2018 grand opening.
It’s the chain’s first New York store. CKE reportedly spent two years negotiating the deal, before agreeing in August. Past reports have suggested ambitious expansion plans for the city, and per NRN, “more Manhattan locations” are already in the works, in addition to a store out in Coney Island.
What’s interesting is CKE’s decision not to use “Hardee’s.” CKE bought the rival in 1997 and gave Hardee’s the same menu as Carl’s, but decided not to rename locations — of which there are more than 3,000 out east. CKE seemingly hopes to capitalize on Carl’s name recognition, even if that’s a name with bad optics to many New Yorkers. To merely scratch the surface: Ex-CEO Andy Puzder’s disastrous Labor secretary fight did them no favors, the chain’s record on workers’ rights is historically less than stellar, and then there are the ads objectifying women. Of course, Carl’s has gone into full-on rebrand mode now that Puzder is gone; it launched a “Purge” ad in the spring where workers burned crates of bikinis and drums of tanning oil.
It’s worth pointing out other cult fast-food brands that don’t share so-called “New York values” have done fine in the city, but always by sticking to their guns. For instance, Chick-fil-A’s next NYC store will be located one block from Ground Zero, and give passersby “a subtle impression of the Twin Towers.” The kinder Carl’s hasn’t been a runaway hit yet, so a lot is riding on this New York rollout.