The Meaning Behind Carl's Jr.'s Name Isn't What You Think

Naming a restaurant or fast food chain requires brainstorming, thought, and strategy. Many of the popular fast food joints across the United States and around the world began as mom and pop shops that became so successful that the owners decided to franchise. That's exactly what happened in the case of the yellow star logo of Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. may be most famous for their array of charbroiled hamburgers and fried chicken sandwiches, per the Carl's Jr. menu. But what may be surprising is that this fast food restaurant initially began as a hot dog cart in 1941 in the city of Anaheim in Southern California, according to the official website

Owners Carl and Margaret Karcher used their savings of $15 and took out a bank loan to open their first hot dog stand, according to Mental Floss. When they built up a customer base and were turning a profit, they decided to expand and grow the business. Within a few years, they had expanded to four hot dog carts, per the official website. 

When Karcher realized that his hot dog cart business was a success, instead of stopping and relaxing, he decided to launch a full-service restaurant. Carl's Drive-In Barbecue offered hamburgers, according to Mental Floss. Within a few years, his restaurants, like his hot dog carts, became successful. 

This is what the name Carl's Jr. really means

But what inspired the name? Is there really a Carl Jr.? Carl Karcher is the Carl, but the Jr. is not as a straightforward as it appears.

The name Carl's Jr. may seem to imply that Carl and Margaret named the fast food empire after their son, but that's not the case. They did have a son named Carl, but their successful empire chain wasn't actually named after him. Talk about confusion. Using the diminutive Jr. often refers to someone's son, but in this case, the Karcher's use the definition of junior to refer to something little or smaller.

The real reason for naming the chain Carl's Jr. was to distinguish between their restaurants. According to Mental Floss, the "Jr." designation was meant to indicate that they were smaller, express versions of his larger namesake location, and would offer hamburgers and quick service. It just goes to show that what may seem obvious isn't always the case. When the original Carl's Jr. restaurants proved successful, the Karchers decided to continue expanding, and the name stuck. Of course, what we know as Carl's Jr. today is likely quite different than what it was in the 1950s and 1960s!