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Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s Menus: New, Old, Borrowed and Smart

carls_grillcheebacbrgerCKE Restaurants this week recycles some menu ideas, reduces some prices and also launches something wholly new. Carl’s Jr. launched the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger (left), a new menu item that the chain proclaims has “all the comfort and deliciousness of the grilled cheese sandwich mom used to make.” First girlie salads, now a reference to moms? I don’t even know you, Carl’s Jr.

hardees_jalapthickAlong with burger, bacon and melted Swiss and American cheeses, the build includes grilled sourdough bread, just like the Portobello Mushroom Melt that Hardee’s rolled out in November. But CKE apparently didn’t want back-to-back melts so the Grilled Cheese—which the chain was testing last fall—is just a mom-pleasing burger, priced from $2.49 for a 820-calorie single-patty model up to $4.49 for 990-calorie Six Dollar status.

The Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger will get new TV commercials from agency Mendelsohn Zien. Hardee’s, however, gets recycled content. With Hardee’s menu, CKE has adopted the television networks’ saying about reruns: If you missed it the first time, it’s new to you. As Disney does with the “Snow White” video, CKE brings a burger out of the vault for a limited time, promotes the heck out of it and then returns to the vault to cool down for a few years.

So the Jalapeño Thickburger (above, right) is back at Hardee’s after two years away. Reemergin from the menu vault with it is the Jalapeño Chicken Sandwich, last seen on Carl’s Jr.’s menu two years ago. TV commercials are recycled, too, and since the 610-calorie Jalapeño Chicken spot (watch it here) includes a woman in a swimsuit, it’s still right in line with the CKE ethos. Even better, the spot can be retagged “new at Hardee’s” instead of “back at Hardee’s” for the Jalapeño Thickburger (watch the commercial here). From a menu R&D perspective, it’s not particularly innovative. But in a marketplace where menu news can bring trial and shift share, it’s darned smart. They’re new to you.

And give Hardee’s its props: This time around, it has dropped the entry-level price for the Jalapeño Thickburger to $2.59 for a quarter-pound version (600 calories). When first offered in 2006 and then revived in 2008, pricing started at $3.49. A third-pounder at that price is available again this year. The Jalapeño Chicken Sandwich is $3.99, the same price point Carl’s Jr. used in 2008.

Hardee’s breakfast menu was expanded with a Double Sausage, Egg ‘N’ Cheese Biscuit. It’s new, although really it’s a bulked up Bacon and Egg Biscuit. Extra sausage and cheese increase calories to 830 from 610, fat grams to 63 from 44 and sodium mgs to 2,100 from 1,290.

The week’s not over, so more menu news could be coming. There are all sorts of cool old things in that vault. The Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, the Chili Cheese Thickburger, the…

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