9 Facts You Might Not Know About Carl’s Jr.

Carl's Jr. has been serving up charbroiled hamburgers across the west and southwest for 60 some years, and what started as a small-time hot dog stand has now expanded across the country.

1. IT GOT ITS START AS A HOT DOG STAND IN LOS ANGELES.

In 1941, Carl Karcher was a truck driver who lived in Los Angeles with his wife, Margaret. Because his neighborhood had a bunch of successful hot dog stands, he wanted to get in on the action. He and Margaret used all their savings—$15—and took a loan out against their car to buy a pushcart hot dog stand. Their stand was a hit, so the Karchers soon opened three more hot dog stands in southern California.

2. THE "JUNIOR" IN CARL'S JR. DOESN'T MEAN WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK IT MEANS.

With four successful hot dog stands under his belt, Karcher opened a sit-down, full-service restaurant in Anaheim in 1945. Named Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue, the restaurant expanded upon their usual hot dogs by also selling hamburgers. In 1956, Karcher opened the first two "mini" Carl’s restaurants, and used the "Jr." designation to indicate they were smaller, express versions of his larger namesake location, which would offer hamburgers and quick service. (Fun fact: There is no Carl Karcher Jr., though Carl and Margaret did have a son named Carl.)

3. ATTEMPTED CARL'S JR. MEXICAN FOOD AND COFFEE SPIN-OFFS ENDED IN FAILURE.

Karcher wasn’t content with just Carl’s Jr.—he wanted to expand his fast-food empire. He created his own corporation in 1964, which he called Carl Karcher Enterprises, Inc. (CKE). In 1972, CKE opened a Mexican fast-food chain spin-off, amusingly called Taco de Carlos. To differentiate itself from Taco Bell, Taco de Carlos served place-specific food like a California Burrito, as well as Carl’s Jr. hamburgers. Unfortunately, Taco de Carlos was not a success, and CKE sold the 17 locations in the early 1980s. Karcher also tried and failed in the coffee business with a Scottish-themed chain called Scot’s Coffee Shops, where waitresses wore plaid skirts as they served coffee and food [PDF].

4. CARL'S JR. BOUGHT HARDEE'S IN 1997, WHICH IS WHY THE CHAINS HAVE SIMILAR LOOKS.

Chloe Effron

CKE Restaurants, which is still based in California, is the parent company of restaurant chains Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito. In 1997, CKE Restaurants acquired Hardee’s, the fast-food chain predominantly in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast, for $327 million. Hardee’s has kept its name and some of its menu items, but it now has the same branding, logo, advertising, and design as Carl’s Jr.

Carl’s Jr. has locations in the West and Southwest, and its menu reflects its geography. Although Carl’s Jr. does sell Hardee's Southern style biscuits for breakfast, typical western and southwestern lunch and dinner items include the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, Tex Mex Thickburger, and burritos. After trying and failing to establish Carl’s Jr. in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s, CKE Restaurants has been focusing on Texas, specifically Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston, as its top growth market since 2009.

5. AFTER TAKING CARL'S JR. PUBLIC, KARCHER GOT IN TROUBLE FOR INSIDER TRADING.

In 1981, Karcher took CKE public, and by the end of the decade, the Securities and Exchange Commission was accusing him of insider trading. The SEC charged Karcher in 1988 with telling six members of his family to sell their CKE shares right before the stock took a nosedive. The next year, Carl and the Karcher family paid $664,000 plus additional fines to the SEC as part of a settlement. In 1993, Karcher was ousted as CEO after he disagreed with the CKE Board of Directors about marketing and strategy.

6. KARCHER HAD AN ENORMOUS FAMILY.

When he died from Parkinson's disease in 2008, Carl was almost 91 years old and left behind a huge family. He and Margaret had 12 children, 51 grandchildren, and 45 great-grandchildren! His large family was a byproduct of his strong Catholic faith—he was known to attend mass every morning at St. Boniface Catholic Church, the same church where he and Margaret married in 1939. At CKE headquarters, he displayed a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, and he recited a prayer before company meetings.

7. THOSE FAMOUS CARL'S JR. ADS ARE HEAVILY CRITICIZED FOR BEING MISOGYNISTIC.

In 2005, Carl’s Jr. featured Paris Hilton in a commercial for the Spicy BBQ Burger, in which she seductively washed an expensive sports car, wore a revealing swimsuit, and provocatively ate a hamburger. Parent advocacy groups accused the ad of being soft-core porn, but Carl’s Jr.’s specially created website for the ad got so many hits that the site crashed. Since then, Carl’s Jr. has paid other female models and celebrities to appear in ads, such as Padma Lakshmi, Heidi Klum, Kim Kardashian, and Sports Illustrated models Kate Upton and Hannah Ferguson. Critics continue to condemn Carl’s Jr. for using sex and exploiting women to sell hamburgers, but it doesn't seem like they're going to change their strategy anytime soon.

8. CARL'S JR. HAMBURGERS PAIR SURPRISINGLY WELL WITH EXPENSIVE WINES.

In 2006, Carl's Jr. partnered with the Palms Casino in Las Vegas to show that Carl’s Jr. hamburgers were more high-end and lavish than typical fast food. The partnership resulted in a Combo Meal, available only at the Palms hotel, consisting of a Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger, fries, and a $6000 bottle of French Bordeaux. Carl’s Jr. also partnered with Wally’s Wine & Spirits to curate a list of recommended wine pairings: For example, the Jalapeño Six Dollar Burger goes well with Champagne, the Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Pinot Noir, and the Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich with Chardonnay.

9. CARL'S JR. HAD A FOOD TRUCK BEFORE FOOD TRUCKS WERE SUPER TRENDY.

Before food trucks became as popular as they are today, Carl’s Jr. had its own restaurant on wheels called Star Diner. In 2004, Star Diner went on a trip from California to Utah to serve hamburgers, fries, and drinks at the University of Utah vs. Texas football tailgate party. Today, the mobile Carl’s Jr. serves food at large events, fundraisers, street fairs, and sports events.

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Two of the Last Blockbuster Stores Are Closing
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The fact that Blockbuster still has three stores in the U.S. may come as a surprise, but the video rental chain's days are numbered. The brand's two branches in Alaska will be closing up shop next week, leaving only one last holdout in Bend, Oregon, according to Engadget.

"If you'd asked me 14 years ago, there's no way I'd thought we'd be the last one," Sandi Harding, General Manager of the Oregon store, tells Engadget. "It just seems a little crazy.”

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 but continued to license its logo to franchisees. In 2013, there were 13 remaining Blockbuster stores, and by 2016 there were nine. Many of these branches were located in Alaska, where internet is costly and many areas lack a broadband connection, making streaming difficult.

This alone wasn't enough to keep Blockbuster's Fairbanks and DeBarr Road locations in business, though. The stores will close July 16, but they'll reopen the following day for an inventory sale that will last until the end of August.

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, became an unlikely champion of the DeBarr Road outlet last April when he bought the jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man for $7000 and donated it to the store in hopes of generating interest and foot traffic. It worked for a little while, but the effect was temporary and business dropped off once again. Indeed, the age of Netflix marks the end of an era.

[h/t Engadget]

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11 Facts About 7-Eleven on 7/11
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Happy 7-Eleven day! Don't forget to pick up a free Slurpee—and while you're enjoying the iconic slushie, read up on little-known tidbits about the popular company.

1. 7-ELEVEN STARTED IN 1927.

That was when Joe Thompson, an employee of the Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas, began selling eggs, milk, and bread from a makeshift storefront in one of the company’s icehouses. These bare necessities were kept cold thanks to the ice Southland produced, and local residents liked the convenience of avoiding the crowds and aisles of a regular grocery store if they only had to pick up a few items.

Thompson eventually bought out the ice company and started opening convenient little stores all over Texas. Shortly after, a company executive brought a souvenir totem pole back from a trip to Alaska, and set it in front of one of the busiest locations. Soon, the spot had earned the nickname the “Tote’m Store,” not only because of the totem pole, but because customers toted away their purchases. The company officially adopted the name and decorated their locations with an Inuit-inspired theme to match. The name changed to 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect their new store hours—7:00am to 11:00pm—in order to capitalize on the post-World War II economic boom.

2. 7-ELEVEN'S NEW SCHEDULE WAS UNHEARD OF AT A TIME WHEN GROCERY STORES CLOSED MUCH EARLIER IN THE EVENING.

No one thought there would be demand for a store that was open 24/7—until one night in Austin in 1962. The local 7-Eleven had seen such a rush of students following a University of Texas football game that they were forced to stay open until dawn the next day. Sensing a trend, the store continued to stay open all night on the weekends, and soon more and more locations adopted the new schedule as well.

3. 7-ELEVEN IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST FRANCHISE COMPANIES. WITH MORE THAN 55,000 LOCATIONS.


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They beat out McDonald’s in 2007 and have since outgrown them by about 20,000 stores. Japan is the largest market with more than 20,000 stores under the name “Seven & I Holdings,” the parent company of 7-Eleven since 2005 [PDF]. America ranks among the top with 7896 locations, along with by Thailand and South Korea with more than 11000 and 7000 stores, respectively. And the company keeps growing, with a brand new store opening somewhere in the world every two hours of every day.

4. 7-ELEVEN RAN THE FIRST TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENT FOR A CONVENIENCE STORE IN 1949.

The ad touted their curbside grocery delivery service, and an animated rooster and owl reminded customers that the store was open early and closed late.

5. THE SLURPEE WAS INVENTED AT A DAIRY QUEEN.

In the late-1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned a rundown Dairy Queen. When his soda fountain went on the fritz, he improvised by putting some bottles in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the top, they were a little frozen and slushy. Folks loved them and started requesting "those pops that were in a little bit longer." Realizing he had a surprise hit on his hands, Knedlik built a specialized machine using the air conditioning unit from a car, and cranked out slushy soda by freezing a mixture of flavored syrup, water, and carbon dioxide to make it fizz. He called it an ICEE, but when the drink concept was licensed to 7-Eleven in 1965, the company’s marketing department renamed it the Slurpee after the sound made while sipping it through a straw.

6. EVERY YEAR SINCE 2002, 7-ELEVEN HAS GIVEN AWAY FREE SMALL SLURPEES TO CELEBRATE THE COMPANY'S BIRTHDAY ON JULY 11(7/11).

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On this one day, 7-Eleven gives away about 500,000 gallons of Slurpees ... in North America anyway. In Australia, where the ice cold drink is also very popular, Slurpees are given away on November 7 (written Down Under as 7/11) to the tune of about 270,000 gallons.

7. ALMOST ALL SLURPEE FLAVORS ARE CONSIDERED KOSHER PAREVE (FOOD THAT IS NEITHER MEAT NOR DAIRY).

There are a few, such as Diet Pepsi and the Jolly Rancher mixes, that are considered kosher dairy (due to the chemical tagatose in the artificial sweetener), while others, like the popular Piña Colada drink, are not certified at all. Some 7-Eleven stores get the machines themselves certified kosher as a selling point for their Jewish customers.

8. FOR 14 YEARS RUNNING, THE RULING SLURPEE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN MANITOBA, CANADA.

The province has an average of over 188,000 Slurpees sold in five regional stores every month. According to 7-Eleven, Calgary—and America’s #1 Slurpee market, Detroit—are closing in on the champs, though. Maybe next year, guys.

As for the biggest-selling single Slurpee location in the world, that title goes to the 7-Eleven in Kennewick, Washington, which locals have dubbed “The Slurpee Factory.” But 7-Eleven crowns more than just a Slurpee king. According to 7-Eleven, Maryland is the leader in hot dog sales, Long Islanders drink the most coffee, and Utah residents can’t go anywhere without a Big Gulp in their cupholders.

9. SINCE THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, 7-ELEVEN HAS RUN A PROMOTION CALLED "7-ELECTION."

Customers vote by purchasing special red or blue coffee cups printed with each candidate's name. The cups are scanned at check-out and automatically entered in this unscientific, but surprisingly accurate poll—in 2000 and 2004, the number of coffee cup votes and the number of actual popular votes for both candidates was only off by 1 or 2 percentage points. While 2008's 7-Elections results were still correct, they gave the election to Obama by a landslide—60 percent to 40 percent—when the margin was really only about 7 percent. The trend continued in 2012, as caffeine addicts went blue to the tune of 59 percent for Obama to 41 percent for Romney, while the actual vote wound up being 51 percent to 47 percent.

10. TO PROMOTE THE RELEASE OF THE SIMPSONS MOVIEIN 2007, 12 SELECT 7-ELEVENS IN NORTH AMERICA WERE CONVERTED INTO KWIK-E-MARTS.

That's the convenience store in Springfield owned by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. At a cost of about $10 million, the 7-Eleven stores had their exterior signs replaced to reflect the fictitious store name and many of the products inside were modeled after those seen on the show. For example, customers could buy Krusty-O’s cereal, a limited edition Radioactive Man comic book, six packs of Buzz Cola, and even Squishees, the Simpsons version of the Slurpee. Sadly, Homer’s favorite swill, Duff Beer, was not available as the film being promoted was rated PG-13. Instead, they had a Duff Energy Drink with a label very similar to the animated brew. While not all locations were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, special Simpsons merchandise was available at all 7-Eleven locations, including Homer’s own Woo-Hoo Blue Vanilla Slurpees with collectible straws.

11. 7-ELEVENS ARE DIFFERENT ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

In America, we see 7-Eleven as little more than a convenient place to grab a quick cup of coffee before work or a Big Gulp while we’re out running errands. But in other parts of the world, the shops are a lot more important to the local population. In Indonesia, for example, 7-Elevens are more like a hip, upscale coffeehouse where 65 percent of customers are under the age of 30. The stores offer free Wi-Fi, plenty of tables and chairs inside and out on the sidewalk, and often feature live musical performances. Young people gather there late into the night to socialize, work online, and eat local favorites like fried rice, tiny sandwiches filled with cheese or chocolate called pillow bread, and chicken katsu, a Japanese-style fried cutlet.

In Taiwan, 7-Elevens are more common than Starbucks in Seattle. In the capital city of Taipei, there are more than 4000 locations in a city of 23 million, with many city blocks capable of sustaining more than one location. Aside from purchasing local food and Slurpees, customers can pay credit card and utility bills, book travel arrangements, and buy small electronics like iPods. It’s also not unusual for people to have packages delivered to their closest 7-Eleven instead of their home, because it’s more convenient to pick it up late at night instead of trying to coordinate with a deliveryman. The government has even given into the popularity of the shops by allowing people to pay traffic tickets and property taxes there, and using them as a hub for special programs like health screenings.

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