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Karcher to Pitch Again for Carl's Jr. : Fast food: Founder and former chairman will return to role in TV ads as part of a revamped marketing effort.


ANAHEIM — Hamburger magnate Carl N. Karcher, 78, forced out last year as chairman of the company he founded more than half a century ago, will soon return to his well-known role as television pitchman for the Carl's Jr. chain.

Karcher's return as spokesman is part of a revamped marketing program that will emphasize quality rather than low prices at the ailing Anaheim-based burger chain.

The company also announced Monday that Bay Area franchisee Tom Thompson has been named to the new post of chief operating officer of the Carl's Jr. chain. Thompson will report to Donald E. Doyle, president and chief executive of CKE Restaurants, parent of Carl's Jr. and Boston Pacific Inc., operator of the Boston Chicken chain.

Karcher's return to commercials is part of the fast-food chain's decision to reverse its strategy and again emphasize food quality rather than attempting to cast itself as a low-priced leader, CKE Restaurants Chairman William P. Foley II said Monday.

The Carl's Jr. chain has lost market share in recent years to large national chains, including Taco Bell and McDonald's, that successfully marketed themselves as value leaders.

"In theory, the thought was that you fixed (falling revenue) by lowering the prices, attracting more customers and driving store sales up," Foley said. "But we basically started to charge our existing customers less, and we weren't attracting enough new customers to make store sales go up."

The return to TV is sweet news for Karcher, who was forced out as chairman of the Carl's Jr. chain last October during a bitter boardroom battle over corporate strategy. Foley, an Orange County businessman who last December took a controlling interest in CKE Restaurants, subsequently invited Karcher to return as chairman emeritus.

"I'm very happy about coming back as the TV personality for Carl's Jr.."

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