Here's How Much It Really Costs To Open A Hardee's Franchise

Hardee's is owned by Franklin, Tennessee-based CKE Restaurant Holdings, which runs and operates more than 3,800 locations of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. restaurants in 44 states and 43 foreign countries and US territories (via CKE). The very first Hardee's opened in 1960 when Wilbur Hardee decided to offer 15-cent hamburgers, 10-cent fries, and 20-cent milkshakes at his first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina. CKE Restaurants acquired Hardee's in 1997, expanding the chain from 2,000 locations to what it is today (via Hardee's).

The company recently welcomed former executives from Jack in the Box, Shake Shack, and Godiva to the team, strengthening the management group, according to QSR Web. The Hardee's team is responsible for brainstorming and creating dozens of limited-time offers and innovative menu items, such as the chain's new Prime Rib Menu, featuring a Prime Rib Burrito, Prime Rib and Fried Egg Biscuit, and Prime Rib Thickburger (via Chew Boom). It's promotions like these that might have prospective franchisees chomping at the bit to own a store of their own. But, what is required of franchisees upfront, and what does Hardee's request in return?

How to become a Hardee's franchisee

For starters, you may be surprised to hear that it's not a dealbreaker if you don't have the restaurant experience required by most other fast-food corporations. While Hardee's prefers franchise candidates to have previous restaurant experience, it's not explicitly required (via Hardee's). The company does ask its franchisees to sign a 20-year agreement and come to the table with liquid assets of $300,000 and a net worth of $1 million. There's also an initial franchise fee of $15,000 to $25,000, with a three-restaurant commitment minimum. Your total initial investment will range somewhere between $1,600,000 to $2,120,000.

Franchisees are also regularly offered the opportunity to help create new, innovative menu items for Hardee's. A recent franchisee contest resulted in the creation of Hardee's Southwest Omelet Biscuit, and a #HardeesBiscuitChallenge hashtag challenge encouraged Hardee's fans to submit their own ideas for the next handcrafted, hometown favorite (via a press release).

Additional details about becoming a Hardee's franchisee

If you've fallen in love with those breakfast biscuits, Famous Stars and Thickburgers, and are ready to peddle them as a Hardee's franchisee, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. According to Hardee's franchising FAQ, you are welcome to contact existing franchisees during your research, and those names and phone numbers are available by request.

Once you're ready, Hardee's can assist you with site selection and design, but you'll be responsible for acquiring the real estate and contracting for the construction of your restaurant. When the restaurant is built, Hardee's will support you with equipment, food, and supplies for your store. A Franchise Business Consultant will be assigned to you that can help improve the business. Ongoing research is provided by the R&D department, and the marketing team will keep you up-to-date every step of the way. Still want to think it over while enjoying a Western Bacon Cheeseburger or a Frisco Thickburger? You can view the map of available restaurant territories in the Eastern US online (via Hardee's).

Is Hardee's the same company as Carl's Jr?

East Coast/West Coast transplants may have noticed similarities between Hardee's and Carl's Jr. That familiar smiling Happy Star logo and lookalike menu items lead many to believe that Hardee's and Carl's Jr. are one restaurant with two different names. While they are now owned by the same corporation, there are several differences between Hardee's and Carl's Jr. First of all, Carl's Jr. was opened in 1956 by Carl Karcher in Anaheim, California (across the country from Hardee's). It's also worth noting that Carl's Jr. charges a franchise fee of $35,000 versus Hardees' $15,000 to $25,000.

When CKE merged the two companies in 1997, the star logo, and menu items such as biscuits and Thickburgers, began to merge as well. In 2018, the two companies started to get their own identities and menus, thanks to CEO Jason Marker, a former KFC president. Marker recognized that Hardee's and Carl's Jr. had unique personalities. While Carl's Jr. tries to exude an aura of bold, unapologetic "West Coast cool," Hardee's tries to appear more modest (via USA Today). Marker also saw that customers visited the two restaurants in different ways. Hardee's did 47 percent of its business at breakfast, while Carl's Jr. only pulled in 17 percent at breakfast. In February 2020, the two brands united again, with the launch of the "Feed Your Happy" campaign. The campaign featured the iconic Happy Star logo rescuing people from their humdrum adult routines (via Business Wire).