The Truth About Hardee's Biscuits

Hardee's should be encapsulated as America's favorite sleazy fast food restaurant. And just to clarify, we don't mean sleazy in a bad way, but in a way similar to how you would describe your favorite clubbing heels or Long Island iced tea. In fact, it is so sordid, that people seem to appreciate its barebones atmosphere and greasy texture in a world of hipster coffee shops and $25 taco stands. In comparison to other fast food joints, it's not seen as the top dog, often being overshadowed by the over-achieving and lovable Chick-fil-A, or the forever ubiquitous McDonald's.

However, Hardee's has something that many fast food chains can't top — a banging, made-from-scratch, buttery biscuit. It's arguably one of the best things on the entire menu. Hardee's breakfast menu is the true star of the show only thanks to these wonderful biscuits, with the only travesty being that the biscuits aren't served all day. That being said, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes to make and bake these beautiful bundles of dough. Not to mention, there are some hidden truths about these biscuits and what's made them cultural phenomenon. 

Biscuits weren't always on Hardee's breakfast menu

Since 1960, Hardee's has been dishing out its signature charbroiled burgers, fries, and milkshakes all across the East Coast. However, it wasn't until the 1970s that Hardee's added its made-from-scratch biscuits to the menu. Now one of the most delicious items that Hardee's offers, it's shocking to find out that biscuits almost didn't make an appearance on the menu and the possible ramifications that could have resulted (like no Hardee's biscuits).

According to The Virginian-Pilot, Mayo Boddie, a member of Boddie-Noell Enterprises, which is credited for opening the first Hardee's, was the "Hardee's biscuit originator." In an interview, Boddie explained that Hardee's needed a change in response to dwindling sales at its stores in Atlanta. An associate took Boddie to a small country house-turned-restaurant that sold breakfast biscuit sandwiches, initially sparking the idea of the Hardee's breakfast biscuit. Boddie initially wasn't 100% sold on the idea, but took the plunge for the sake of the business.

In the mid-1970's, biscuits debuted at a Hardee's located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, hoping to appeal to the large military population — and it was an instant hit. However, biscuits weren't introduced to stores nationwide until 1977. Since then, they've continued to be a customer favorite. In fact, biscuits made up almost 50% of Hardee's sales in 2018 (per The Virginian-Pilot). So the lesson learned is listen to those slightly off-the-wall ideas but make sure to credit the small business you take ideas from.

Hardee's goes through a massive amount of biscuits

It's hard to imagine how many trays of biscuits roll out of Hardee's ovens and into the hands of hungry customers every day. Hardee's advertises on its website that a new batch of biscuits is made every 15 minutes, meaning that, if our math skills are as good as our writing skills, biscuit makers roll out around two dozen trays of biscuits per breakfast shift. One restaurant biscuit maker explained that on a busy weekend, they could make close to 60 or 65 dozen biscuits a day (via WYMT). However, every store is different and has potential to be a biscuit-making powerhouse.

In 2020, made-from-scratch biscuits accounted for about a third of total sales at Hardee's (via QSR Magazine). The brand's famous biscuit makers produce around 800 biscuits a day, equating to more than 300 million biscuits storewide every year (per Restaurant News Release). Some veteran biscuit makers can rack up hundreds of thousands of biscuits baked over their career — like one baker who's made over one million biscuits in the 12 years they worked at Hardee's (via WYMT). 

All those biscuits require a whole lot of baking ingredients, and the figures are staggering. In 2021 alone, Hardee's stores used almost seven million pounds of biscuit mix, 508,000 pounds of flour, and around 5.2 million pounds of buttermilk to create the signature breakfast biscuits (via BNE Careers). Safe to say, that's a lot of dough.

The company hosts an annual biscuit making competition

The backbone of Hardee's successful breakfast operation is undoubtedly its team of dedicated and skilled biscuit makers. Hardee's biscuit makers are basically the quarterback superstars behind the magic, except their Friday night lights moment starts at 4 a.m. And to prove just how talented these baking VIPS are, Hardee's largest franchise operator even hosts a Super Bowl-level — though sadly not televised — biscuit making competition every year. Since 1983, the Boddie-Noell Enterprise Biscuit Maker Challenge has been testing Hardee's biscuit makers to see who can make the best biscuit within the company (via The Virginian-Pilot). 

Hundreds of biscuit makers from Hardee's locations across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky compete for the ultimate title of best biscuit maker every year (via QSR Magazine). And the competition is certainly no joke. Each biscuit maker goes through rigorous judging based on their grooming, biscuit making knowledge, knowledge of company procedures, and cleanliness, not to mention the quality of the biscuits they bake (via QSR Magazine). The biscuits themselves are judged equally as intensely based on appearance, texture, color, height, weight, diameter, as well as taste (per Restaurant News Release). From there, the best in show is crowned from among a handful of finalists. And while there's no championship ring involved, the awarded biscuit maker does win a cash prize in addition to eternal gloating privileges — not to mention the world's best icebreaker at all future parties.

They used to offer dessert biscuits

Of course, Hardee's biscuits for breakfast is a wonderful idea — but dessert biscuits for breakfast is an even better solution to the early morning scaries and those days when you need a little pick-me-up. Hardee's has offered a few dessert biscuit options over the years, but none as popular as the Cinnamon N' Raisin biscuit. Originally launched in the 1980s, this breakfast classic got an even sweeter twist with a raisin and spice-infused biscuit topped with hot, sugary icing.

After kicking off the launch of the biscuits with a super successful cartoon ad campaign, Hardee's partnered with the California Raisin Advisory Board to develop raisin figurine toys that could be purchased alongside the sweet biscuit treat (via The Journal of Commerce). The raisin campaign led to one of Hardee's more successful launches in terms of sales. So it's no surprise that customers were more than a little upset when the cinnamon raisin biscuit disappeared in 2002 (via Mental Floss).

Some fans were so devastated they even went as far as to launch a petition to bring these dessert biscuits back to the Hardee's menu that garnered thousands of signatures. In 2014, Hardee's returned the popular breakfast item for a limited time, allowing fans to once again get lost in the sweet, fluffy goodness (via Twitter). Hardee's has also offered a limited-time blueberry biscuit topped with icing a few times in the past, but never to quite the same hype as its predecessor. 

Hardee's had fans submit their best biscuit recipes

Hardee's is always coming up with new and inventive biscuit recipes that consumers want more of. However, in 2019, Hardee's decided to flip the script and asked fans to send in the next best Hardee's biscuit recipe (via Business Wire). 

The #HardeesBiscuitChallenge was inspired by a Hardee's district manager from Wichita, Kansas, who found new menu item favorites like the Southwest Omelet Biscuit and Burrito, Southwest Patty Melt, and Jalapeño Cheddar Fries through a contest submission. In order to find the next best menu item, entries were judged based on innovation, creative twists on hometown favorites, and how well it paired with Hardee's signature and beloved biscuits (per Business Wire).

Dozens of fans flocked at the opportunity to have their biscuit creations possibly appear on the big drive-thru screen with some entries on Twitter ranging from a fried chicken biscuit with cayenne maple butter to a Thanksgiving-inspired breakfast sandwich biscuit. However the winning entry, the Kentucky hot brown biscuit, stole the culinary team's hearts. A hatch chile chicken biscuit and a double-stacked egg burger biscuit rounded out second and third place (via Twitter). The winner won a year's worth of sausage biscuits via a $1,000 gift card, not to mention the coolest addition to their resumé, while the two runners-up also received Hardee's gift cards for $500 and $250 (via Chew Boom).

Making those made-from-scratch biscuits isn't easy

Biscuit making at Hardee's is no joke. In fact, it is an overlooked art that is often overshadowed by the competition's frozen counterparts. Hardee's biscuits are actually made from scratch, by hand, with bakers whipping up and rolling out hundreds of biscuits every day. 

Veteran biscuit maker and multi-winner of Hardee's biscuit making competition, Tony Robinson, chronicled to The Virginian-Pilot his daily biscuit making tasks starting at the ripe hour of 4 a.m. Usually, Robinson spends six hours a day making biscuits, making around 780 to 900 biscuits a shift depending on the day. First, he mixes the secret prepared biscuit mix with buttermilk, aerating it to the point that it resembles beige Play-Doh. Robinson then rolls out his homemade dough, taking the time to flour his biscuit cutter in between each biscuit for clean cuts. Finally, he bakes them for eight minutes until golden brown. He then repeats this process dozens of times throughout the day.

A journalist with the Orange County Register wrote about being a biscuit maker for one morning at the Hardee's-owned, Carl's Jr., and found that its biscuits were anything but frozen. They found that Carl's Jr. came fully decked out with biscuit prep stations as well as industrial ovens and biscuit bakers ready for any breakfast rush. Using the same Hardee's recipe and techniques, each biscuit is carefully baked and quality-checked based on height, weight, and shape before serving to hungry customers — all before the sun rises.

The brand faced backlash for a sexy biscuit commercial

Hardee's has made a name for itself thanks to its outlandish and borderline cringey advertisements. Hardee's commercials have featured Y2K heartthrobs like Paris Hilton and Kate Upton, while others flash glamorous looking women eating ridiculously large burgers. However, an ad campaign promoting Hardee's biscuit holes in 2009 was so controversial, that even the Hardee's chairman couldn't endorse it.

The commercials, produced by longtime Hardee's advertising agency, Mendelsohn Zien, are full of "that's what she said"-style jokes and innuendos. One ad asked customers for name suggestions for Hardee's biscuit holes, resulting in not-so-surprisingly sexual responses like "bisticles," "glory holes," and other NC-17 options. Another had consumers blind taste Hardee's biscuit holes along with competing doughnut holes, labeled A-hole and B-hole, to see which they preferred. I think you can imagine all the possible overtones and feel slightly traumatized for the consumers that saw themselves saying "I like this A-hole" on national television (via Business Journal).

Mayo Boddie, chairman and owner of nearly 350 Hardee's, was appalled, to say the least, and said he would refuse to run the ads at any of his stores, asking why Hardee's would "want to [be] put in a category that diminishes not only the product but the brand itself" (via Business Journal). Boddie even asked the Hardee's executives to cut the commercial altogether but they continued to run them. And one ad even won the 2009 TBS "Funniest Commercials of the Year" award (via QSR Web).

Hardee's offers heart-shaped biscuits for Valentine's Day

Heart-shaped everything dominates the fast food world when February rolls around. From the competing heart-shaped Bo-Berry Biscuits from Bojangles to heart-shaped pizzas and Chick-fil-A samplers, it's the easiest way to say "I love you when you aren't hangry." After all, they say the way to someone's heart is through their stomach. And starting in 2021, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. decided to jump on the love wagon and debuted heart-shaped biscuits perfect for gifting or sharing with the loves of your life (via Elite Daily).

For the course of Valentine's Day weekend, fans are able to indulge in romantically shaped biscuits at select Hardee's and Carl's Jr. locations across the nation to celebrate the holiday. And it's honestly the best option for Valentine's Day — flowers, jewelry, and chocolates lack the original thought that screams "I spent less than 10 minutes thinking about a present for you," as only the quirkiest and most random V-day gifts can do. In addition to the loving biscuits, Hardee's has also offered a buy-one-get-one-free deal on Bacon Beast breakfast sandwich, loaded with eggs, triple bacon, and two slices of cheese. It makes some ironic sense, since the first thing you think of when you put hearts and bacon next to each other is your possibly elevated cholesterol levels. But maybe don't mention that when presenting this breakfast to your beau on Valentine's Day. 

The biscuit bakers make above minimum wage

There's no doubt that being a biscuit maker is hard work and definitely a prestigious job to hold at Hardee's. Naturally, you would want the wage to reflect the effort put in and honestly, making biscuits before dawn for $7.25 an hour won't cut it. However, protests in 2021 for increased wages led to a general uptick in hourly pay across many service-related jobs.

ABC News reported in 2021 that protests held outside a Hardee's in North Carolina were some of the many that took place around the nation rallying for a nationwide wage increase for service workers. Many people from a wide range of businesses, including many fast-food workers, protested alongside Fight for $15 to help raise the federal minimum wage. The demonstrations came at a time when the food service industry was struggling to cope with labor shortages and other issues stemming from the covid-19 pandemic (via CNBC). As a result, McDonald's and several other fast food brands made promises to raise minimum wages — promises that haven't exactly panned out (via GO Banking Rates).

As of 2022, according to Indeed, crew members and back-of-the-house cooks working at Hardee's earned an average of $9 to $11 per hour. On the other hand, biscuit makers average around $15 an hour — another good reason to make a career change as a full-time biscuit baker (via Glassdoor).

Hardee's biscuits are not the healthiest option

Let us preface this by saying that by no means do we endorse forgoing Hardee's biscuits in order to restrict yourself for the sake of calorie counting. Health is subjective and we are not here to tell you what's healthy or what you should or shouldn't eat. However, if you're wondering how Hardee's biscuits stack up nutritionally against the other fast food breakfast options out there, Mashed did the digging for you. 

Truth be told, most fast food biscuit options are around the same in terms of fat, carbs, and sodium with the most differences being within calories. Hardee's biscuits are around 260 calories (via Fast Food Nutrition), which is the same as McDonald's biscuits (via FatSecret). The biscuits at Wendy's come in a little lighter with 210 calories (per Myfitnesspal). Bojangles' biscuits lead the pack with 310 calories each (via Fast Food Nutrition), while the well-loved Chick-fil-A biscuit clocking in at 290 calories (before you add the chicken). Hardee's biscuits contain 13 grams of fat and 750 milligrams of sodium. 

It's also worth noting that Hardee's biscuit sandwiches aren't the healthiest options on the chain's own breakfast menu. They also offer things like breakfast burritos and croissant sandwiches that are a little lighter in the calorie department.