In a burger battle royal, a rival to McDonald's Corp. came out swinging Wednesday, taking on the venerable Big Mac and talking smack about the Golden Arches' new Angus burger.
Carl's Jr. launched the Big Carl, a double burger with cheese and a Thousand Island-style sauce. The burger is being launched with an ad campaign aimed at belittling the Big Mac.
Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Inc., which earlier this decade pioneered the Angus burger concept, at least among fast-food chains, owns Carl's Jr., along with Hardee's.
Angus is considered superior to typical fast-food beef, and Angus burgers usually are bigger than the average chain hamburger.
Carl's Jr. is known for its "Six Dollar Burger," and Hardee's for its "Thickburger," both of which contain nearly half a pound of meat and sell for $3.99. Last month marked the national rollout of McDonald's Angus product, a one-third-pound burger that also sells for $3.99. The company began national advertising for the Angus this month.
CKE Chief Executive Andrew Puzder called being "copied" by Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's "the highest form of flattery." But flattery apparently deserves a competitive counterpunch. "If they are going to go after us, turnabout is fair play, so we'll go after them," Puzder said.
Hence the Big Carl, which has bigger meat patties than the Big Mac, is arriving in advertisements pointing out the Big Mac's relative paucity of meat and higher price point. The Big Carl sells for $2.49; the Big Mac goes for about $3.50.
Puzder said a "Big Hardee" was likely at some point. In another offensive, both Hardee's and Carl's Jr. plan to give customers their money back if they think McDonald's Angus burgers are superior to their own products.
"It really is an inferior burger," Puzder said of McDonald's Angus offering.
McDonald's take on all of this trash talk? "My first reaction is I'm pretty flattered they're talking about us," said Dan Coudreaut, McDonald's executive chef. And the company said its Angus had been well received by customers.
But what about the Big Carl?
"The Big Mac is the Big Mac," Coudreaut said, calling the burger "an iconic product." As for the bigness gap between Big Mac and Big Carl, "I don't know if bigger is always better," he said. "You have to find a balance."