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CKE Restaurants, fresh from its acquisition of the ailing Hardee's fast-food chain, is launching the first test of its strongly performing Carl's Jr. hamburger brand in Hardee's Food Systems restaurants.

As CKE looks to see how it might marry the two brand names, its Oklahoma City test involves transforming 47 Hardee's units into Carl's Jr. restaurants by Nov. 1.

Radio spots from Jordan Associates, Oklahoma City, break today to smooth the transition. Outdoor boards announcing the impending arrival of Carl's Jr. went up earlier this month.


A second Hardee's market is slated for conversion to Carl's Jr. by Jan. 1, said CKE. It declined to name the location, though a Hardee's franchisee said it is Peoria, Ill.

Meanwhile, the influence of West Coast-based Carl's Jr. is emerging in other ways within the Hardee's system, which has some 3,080 restaurants in 39 states. Hardee's is beefing up its emphasis on hamburgers, Carl's strength, with a new burger slated to be launched next month.

Also, TV support will focus on burgers at least until next May, a Hardee's spokeswoman said. A TV spot breaks today for Hardee's year-old Monster Burger, from Pearlstein Group, Los Angeles, the national creative agency for Hardee's estimated $55 million account.

In the Oklahoma City test, restaurants will offer lunch and dinner from Carl's Jr. and breakfast from Hardee's. The only reminder of Hardee's will be a window sign saying "serving Hardee's breakfast" and a logo on the menu board, said Suzi Brown, CKE public relations manager.

"Our focus group said this market was receptive to a new brand," Ms. Brown said.


She said it's too early to say how many Hardee's restaurants will be converted to the Carl's Jr. brand, or what variations the marriage of the brands will take elsewhere.

While Carl's Jr. has performed well on the West Coast, some observers believe Hardee's has potential to regain its luster in its core operating area in the Southeast.

CKE completed its $327 million acquisition of Hardee's from Imasco Holdings, Montreal, in July. Carl's Jr. has 677 units, plus 92 units that are paired with the Green Burrito Mexican food brand.

Observers view the Oklahoma test as a good move.

"Hardee's has a real strong breakfast business and Carl's has a stronger lunch," said Selman Akyol, a restaurant analyst with Pauli & Co., St. Louis.

When the conversion in that market is complete, the company will start airing an existing TV spot-not the high-profile Dennis Rodman commercial-and new radio spots from Mendelsohn/Zien, Los Angeles, which handles creative for the $29 million Carl's Jr. account.

The ads include Carl Jr.'s popular tagline, "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face."

This isn't the first time Carl Jr.'s humorous ads are being used for another chain. Rally's Hamburgers used them for a time soon after Carl Jr.'s parent CKE acquired a stake in that chain more than a year ago.

Evan Hughes, senior VP of Rally's, said the ads didn't provide the kind of promotional bent Rally's customers want, however.

Rally's, which hired Mendelsohn as its creative agency, has now put its $5

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