Carl Karcher Enterprises said it will begin construction later this month on a 5,562-square-foot flagship restaurant in front of its corporate headquarters in Anaheim.
When complete in late March or early April, the $400,000 restaurant will be the largest in the 459-restaurant Carl's Jr. chain. About 390 of the stores are company-owned and the balance are franchised.
Demolition of the existing Carl's Jr. restaurant on the North Harbor Boulevard site will begin Monday, and until the new restaurant is completed, a self-contained Carl's Jr. on wheels will continue to dispense burgers, fries and Cokes from the site.
Described by the company as an "entirely new restaurant concept," the new, nostalgia-themed eatery will have a total of 180 seats in four separate dining rooms, including a 70-seat banquet room. "We wanted to have a showcase restaurant at our headquarters," said Paul Mitchell, vice president. Four television sets will be deployed so customers can watch while munching on Famous Stars, nibbling on fries and sipping Cokes. The sets probably will be used at times for promotional and special productions, Mitchell said.
But while appearance and ambiance will change at the new Carl's, form and function will remain the same. No menu changes are planned, and the new restaurant will be the traditional self-service style, the company said.
But the new attention to architecture and decor at the new Carl's reflects the tough fight within the industry for customers. The new restaurant will have French windows and doors, yellow awnings and neon signs. No other like-size Carl's Jr. restaurants are planned "at this time," Mitchell said.
Citing the rapid expansion of fast-food restaurants in recent years and the slump in the industry attributed to high consumer debt levels, industry analysts don't seem to think there will be demand for another big outlet.
"Large-square-footage restaurants are not something that anyone is doing," said Sarah Stack, an analyst with Bateman Eichler, Hill Richards Inc. in Los Angeles. "I don't see this as a trend at all."
Stack also does not envision a bright future for trailered fast food stands. "It's very expensive and (other companies) seem to be using it to gain market share in very competitive areas," she said.
Dubbed the Star Diner, the portable restaurant that will pinch-hit while the new flagship store is being built does have an innovation to help separate it from others in the industry, however.
Trailer Will Go on Road
In view of the fact that about 40% of the fast-food industry's receipts come from sales at drive-up windows, the company said, the $175,000, custom-made trailer will have one--apparently the first in a mobile restaurant.
When the 40-foot trailer completes its tour of duty at the Harbor Boulevard site it will go on the road for special events. It might also be used as a rolling test wagon to determine whether a Carl's Jr. would be profitable in a certain area.
For the six months ended Aug. 11, the company reported net income of $2.4 million on revenue of $166.6 million, compared to net income of $2.3 million on revenue of $174.6 million for the same period a year earlier.
For Carl Karcher, the company's founder and chairman, the new restaurant is the third venture at the site. Carl's Drive-in Barbeque moved there in 1955 from the founding site across the street. That restaurant gave way to Carl's Charbroiler in 1963. In 1970, the rear, car-service section of the restaurant was remodeled into a Carl's Jr., and in 1979, the Charbroiler restaurant was remodeled into the Sunshine Broiler.
The Sunshine Broiler is one of two company-owned coffee shops; the other is on Katella Avenue in Anaheim.