I am a truly weak and pathetic creature who is easily influenced by advertising, so it follows that I had to try out the fruits of Hardee's new vision.

The Idea

The idea is simple. Hardee's, in an attempt to increase its market share in the increasingly tight economy, decided to take on a new vision. Instead of mimicing McDonald's creative (yet disturbing) idea to offer healthier food, one of America's biggest fast food giants decided that the consumer simply wants more, better-tasting food. Thus the Thickburger was born. The Thickburger is a 1/3, 1/2, or 2/3lb burger made from Angus beef. While the transition from the previous Wimpy little hamburgers to the new gigantic hamburgers is on a store-by-store basis, Hardee's advertising (both television and print) makes it quite clear that the franchise wants to be seen as a provider of high-quality fast food. Insider sources say that the cheaper food will be phased out eventually.

To make this perfectly clear, imagine a regular Hardee's cheeseburger. It's tiny (111 grams), is mostly drowned in condiments, and is on a dried-out bun. It's also 313 calories. Now, the Thickburger version of this classic is a huge, 1/3lb (pre-cooked weight) Angus beef burger (271g) with crispy lettuce, tomato, and red onion, all on a warm, fresh bun. This is 613 calories. Of course, the cheeseburger costs $0.99 and the Thickburger version will cost $2.99 (at least in my Midwest backwater town).

The Reality

Now, this seems like a good idea. You charge more for substantially more, better-tasting food. But does this actually hold up? From the sandwich I ate about an hour ago, I can say the taste/portion size definitely holds up. These burgers are huge, but they also deliver on taste. I was impressed with Hardee's Six Dollar Burger because of its sheer size, but it lacked taste. It just wasn't worth the $4 that the burger cost. The $3.50 bacon cheeseburger is actually quite good. It's nowhere nearly as greasy as the old-style burgers, and forget about the massive amounts of mustard and catsup they usually dump on them. The lettuce was crisp and cool, and the tomato was adequate. The red onions were warm and crispy. The burger itself tasted pretty good, too.

Alas, it isn't a restaurant-quality burger. It's significantly better than the former Hardee's offerings, and I personally like it more than any other fast food burger. However, these burgers are made to be cooked quickly, and you can taste it. To be fair, the same burger in a fine dining restaurant would cost at least $5, and probably closer to $6-7. For $3.50, I would consider it a fair value.

I suppose if there's anything to draw from all this information, it's this: Hardee's Thickburger idea is a fairly optimistic vision of the fast food world (i.e. higher prices for higher quality will make more money). Still, I think the concept works. The new burger is a substantial advance. If you acknowledge that you're going to get a fast food burger, you'll probably enjoy the newest (and perhaps only) item on the menu.

http://www.hardees.com/ has an interactive menu from which I lifted all the weight and calorie statistics.

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