US burger giant Carl’s Jr. announces plans to enter UK market

The brand, best known for its grilled burgers, is actively seeking companies to invest in franchises to open its first restaurants on UK soil.

Founded in 1941, Carl’s Jr. is one of the world’s most popular fast food chains with more than 1,000 restaurants in 28 markets around the world. The company is already present in Europe, with 79 restaurants in France, Denmark, Spain, Turkey and Russia and has just signed an agreement for 300 restaurants in Russia and is now targeting the United Kingdom as well as Germany for a new expansion.

“We are looking for a master franchisee in the UK to partner with,” says Tim Lowther, Carl’s Jr. Managing Director for Europe and Russia. “The model across Europe is that we are working on the main franchise and we see the UK as a huge opportunity to work with an ambitious partner. “

“We have over 80 years of experience in the United States, but in Europe we are relatively new. We will listen to the needs of each market and we will adapt accordingly.

Location, location, location

The company has yet to decide where its first restaurant will be and whether it will follow in the footsteps of hamburger imports into the United States. Five guysand Shake the hut, Which debuted with flagship sites in London, or take the approach favored by brands such as the Canadian player Tim Hortons – who made his Glasgow debut – and Wendy’sand Chik-fil-AAnd look beyond the capital for their first sites (the two brands chose Reading for their launch location).

“We’ll go where there is demand and where the brad resonates,” Lowther says. “Making a big splash in central London can be good for awareness raising, but we have to make sure it’s sustainable. We don’t want to do what a number of brands have done and walk into central London and open a really big flagship restaurant, spend a few millions to build it, and then close it 18 months later.

“People in the UK don’t know who
Carls Jr. is currently,
but they certainly will ”

“Now we are identifying locations and markets that we might not have looked at before the pandemic – there are broader opportunities that just weren’t there before the pandemic emerged. Central London is a place we would like to be, but we have to be sensitive to how we are growing up. “

The company has taken an out of town approach in some of its plays in Europe. Its first site in France was a drive in La Garde, located on the outskirts of Toulon, which Lowther says is “arguably in the middle of nowhere” but which is in the top 10% of the global company’s total sales. . It is only on site number three that it opens its doors in Paris.


The American Burger Invasion

Carl’s Jr is one of several American fast food giants that have recently announced their intention to enter the UK market. Burgers chain Wendy’s plans to open up to 400 restaurantsOn UK sites following the opening of restaurants in Reading and Stratford earlier this year. The company will now open restaurants in Croydon and Oxford before expanding further.

US fried popeyes chicken chainWill launch its first restaurant here – also in Stratford – as part of its plans to open approximately 350 locations across the UK over the next 10 years.

Lowther believes there is room in the UK market for Carl’s Jr to have a significant presence despite the casual burger business being relatively crowded.

“Opening of one or two restaurants
is not a successful launch for us “

“When you look at the UK market there are a lot of burger players, but when you look at the fast food industry there are only a few players in that space. We are an established brand that we believe resonates with our consumers. The actors of the QSR burger are still quite under-represented [in the UK].

Carl’s Jr is part of what Lowther calls the “QSR plus” industry and claims menu prices will be on par or slightly above existing brands including Burger King and McDonald’s.

The time has come

Carl’s Jr joins Wendy’s and Popeyes in trying to stand out in the UK market, as well as Chick-fil-A, who has since aborted his ambitions in the United Kingdomand closed its two restaurants following protests against its opposition to same-sex marriage. For QSR brands, the UK is seen as fertile ground.

“The UK is a natural progression for us, we now have all the bricks in place,” says Lowther. “It is not a springboard to settle in Europe, we are already there. We have the supply chain in place to continue to grow.

“The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us, but being in the fast food business has probably benefited us. We have been in the right place at the right time; the UK offers the perfect opportunity for further growth.

While Lowther is not sure how many locations Carl’s Jr could open here, the company has no plans to open a handful of restaurants.

“Opening one or two restaurants is not a successful launch for us. The market has room for a significant number of brands. This is what makes it worth it for a master fanchisee.

“Carl’s has big ambitions. We have doubled our international presence over the past six years to 1,000 restaurants internationally and plan to double it again over the next five years. So far, we are on the right track to do so.

“People in the UK don’t know who Carl’s Jr. is right now, but they sure will.”

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