The February issue of Condé Nast Portfolio, a slick business magazine, has an in-depth profile of CKE, the fast-food conglomerate that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., whose owner, Carl Karcher, passed away last week.
“Fat Profits,” by Joe Keohane, explores CKE’s penchant for heavily marketing menu items that contain obscenely large amounts of fat and calories—like the one that started it all, Carl’s Jr.’s Six Dollar Burger—to its core audience of “‘young, hungry guys’ (a phrase chanted like a mantra at headquarters) who were sick of being told what they should and should not eat.”
CKE’s marketing is like the Rush Limbaugh of fast food, taunting nutritionists and the “food police” (not to mention feminists) with an underlying message that gets consumers to feel that by eating a Monster Thickburger, they’re striking a blow against the forces of political correctness.
The piece subtly weaves back and forth between queasiness at the popularity of CKE’s 1,400-calorie burgers and a grudging admiration for how the savvy company has cashed in on food-police backlash. “[T]he more society’s nannies say you shouldn’t [eat 2,700-calorie fast-food meals], the more you kind of want to,” notes Keohane.