Big Mac meet the Big Carl. In response to McDonald's successful Angus burger debut, CKE Restaurants is launching a flurry of attack ads, offering a money-back guarantee for some of its products and even debuting a product aimed squarely at the Big Mac.
CKE Restaurants' Carl's Jr. is home to "The Original Six Dollar Burger" while its sister chain Hardee's offers the "Original Thickburger." Both are made with Angus beef and sell for $3.99. Beginning next month, the chains will offer consumers their money back if they don't think the burgers are better than McDonald's recently launched "Angus Third Pounders." Mendelsohn Zien, Los Angeles, handles the advertising.
In the Western states, Carl's Jr. is debuting "The Big Carl" tomorrow. Ads begin tomorrow for the burger, which CKE claims has twice the meat and cheese of the Big Mac and sells for less at $2.49.
Comparison ads are nothing new for the fast-food category, said Jeff Davis, president of the restaurant market research company Sandelman & Associates. "It's clearly a very competitive time right now and it brings out a lot of competitive talk."
After years of testing, McDonald's launched three versions of its Angus Third Pounder last month: "The Deluxe," bacon and cheese and mushroom and Swiss. The chain reported a 3.5 percent second quarter U.S. sales spike last month. It credited the launch of McCafe premium coffees as well as strong demand for the Big Mac.
McDonald's representative Danya Proud said, "Our business continues to be strong. We're very flattered that so many people are paying so much attention to what McDonald's is doing. . . . This is without a doubt a premium burger at a non-premium price. We pride ourselves on the value factor."
Premium burgers have become a point of contention because consumers have traded down from sit-down and fast-casual restaurants, yet they still want quality, said Davis. "It's an interesting time right now because people are looking for value, but quality continues to be a seller. There is great perceived value in [these products]."
Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants said, in a statement, "We're glad being copied is considered the highest form of flattery, since we have been seeing a lot of it lately. Fortunately, for our guests, our burgers are still better tasting and lower priced than the other guys."
CKE Restaurants announced today that last month's same-store sales were off 3.6 percent. It has more than 3,100 locations globally. McDonald's has 14,000 in the U.S., which Proud noted offers "more of a convenience factor since we can bring the Angus Third Pounder to all of America."
CKE spent an estimated $53 million for the first half of the year, per Nielsen. McDonald's spent $447 million.
The Mendelsohn Zien commercials can be viewed at www.YouTube.com/CarlsJr.