Hardee’s, operating under the name, Hardee’s Food Systems, Inc. is a fast-food chain restaurant specializing in hamburgers. Despite the fact that the number of locations have declined in the last 30 years, it is still the sixth largest restaurant chain in the United States.
Hardee’s was founded in North Carolina in 1960 by Wilbur Hardee. Its signature hamburger, the Huskee, gained instant popularity that gave way to franchises within a year. The restaurant enjoyed steady growth over the next two decades by expanding on its original line of hamburgers.
By 1980, Hardee’s reached its pinnacle of growth with over 4,000 stores. The chain was purchased shortly after that by a corporation in the process of acquiring several successful retail chains. The new owners almost immediately began changing the menu that made the chain popular and discontinued the signature charbroiling cooking process.
Over the next 20 years, Hardee’s and its owners merged the chain with other acquisitions, including Roy Rogers Fried Chicken and Rax Roast Beef. The regularly changing menus led to a decline in popularity and number of outlets. In 1997, the chain was sold to CKE Restaurants, which also owned the Carl’s Jr. Hamburger chain. The new owners moved the headquarters from its longtime North Carolina location to St Louis, Mo., and closed the original franchise location in 2007. In recent years, Hardee’s has finally begun expanding again, and is opening locations in the Northeast after decades of firm roots in the Southeast and Midwest.