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The American fast food chain will open its first store, a freestanding drive through, by the end of the year in regional NSW, naming the central coast and Newcastle as the most likely locations for the chain’s debut.
Carl’s Jr, America’s fifth largest burger chain, set its sights on the Australian market more than two years ago, launching an aggressive franchise call out. It unveiled ambitious plans for the Australian market last year to Inside Retail PREMIUM, saying it was the first time the chain had aggressively looked at the Australian market.
In 2013, Carl’s Jr was aiming for a network of around 300 stores within the next 10 years, and had earmarked Sydney and Melbourne as target locations.
Twelve months on and the ambitious target of around 300 stores is still on track, according to Michael Woida, senior VP of CKE Restaurants.
“We have really accelerated our entry activities over the last 12 months,” Woida told Inside Retail PREMIUM.
“We still have an overall target in Australia of about 300 stores and we believe the majority will probably fall between NSW and Queensland, but we’re also now looking at Victoria and Western Australia.”
CKE intends to open a store in Sydney within the next 18 months. The first store outside of NSW, tipped to be either Victoria or Queensland, will also take around 18 months, however, the rollout will depend on the take up of local franchisees.
“Because of the fact that we are engaging franchises simultaneously right now, we think that we can be outside of NSW in 18 months,” he said.
“We’ve got franchises now that may come on board in Queensland and Victoria at the same time that we’re working with BKG Group, so it could all happen very simultaneously,” he said.
“In the next 12 months we would expect to have more than three restaurants open and that’s a conservative number.”
For Australia, the primary store format will be the chain’s free standing drive through model, usually around 200sqm to 300sqm.
More longer term it will look to introduce its inline format, mainly used for high street and urban areas, followed by a foodcourt kiosk concept.
The Australian fitout will be based on its New Zealand counterpart. Carl’s Jr first opened in NZ in 2011 and has now built a network of 15 stores, with a 16th store to open in the coming weeks. The rollout has been in partnership with two franchisees.
“We think in the next 10 years or so we could have 60 restaurants in New Zealand, perhaps more, we’re really on track to get there really quick,” he said.
“Australian stores will carry a lot of the elements that we’re using in New Zealand, but we also plan to use a slightly enhanced model to New Zealand. Our facilities in Australia are going to be very contemporary and modern looking,” Woida said of the store’s look.
“In the US we tend to have a slightly different format. Our buildings that aren’t quite as contemporary so we’re looking to be a cutting edge facility in Australia.
“Internationally, we generally upscale our image a bit more depending on the market.
“We want to be distinctive, premium looking, yet still really occupy the quick service restaurant space.”
Carl’s Jr, the flagship chain of CKE Restaurants, has almost 3000 restaurants in the US, and 300 stores globally across 27 countries. Its Australian launch is part of a greater global strategy to hit 1000 stores worldwide in the next five years.
CKE also owns the Hardee’s chain in the US.
“We’re in Asia now and there’s about six countries that we’re also developing very rapidly in, such as Latin America and places in Europe like Russia. We have almost 40 stores there, in Russia, and we’re also in Turkey and Denmark.”
While it’s still unknown if Carl’s Jr will deploy the same risque advertising tactics in Australia as the US once it opens its doors, it is retaining its US menu offering.
Some menu items and services will be a first in the Australian market including partial table service, a cook to order menu system, all you can drink beverage bars, and meat on meat burgers.
“We don’t have any specific [menu items] for Australia. We’re going to launch with our primary offering and then we’re going to look to the local consumer to drive our innovation and see if there are any local products that we can offer.
“We’re excited to be entering the market with a premium offering that is really differentiated from the familiar players that Australian QSR burger lovers are used to. We’re really looking forward to making a big splash.”