Carl’s Jr. downsizes a signature burger for an LTO win

The chain packs its iconic Thickburger into a snack-size slider.
Carl's Jr

The trademarked Thickburger—a third-pound charbroiled patty on a bun with cheese, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato—is an icon and best-seller at Carl’s Jr. This spring, the chain built off its Thickburger’s “cult following” with its first sliders, says Owen Klein, VP of global product development and innovation for Carl’s Jr. parent CKE Restaurants. The Charbroiled Sliders pack the same ingredients into a mini burger, making it an easy add, from a recipe and training standpoint. That combo appealed to more than 57% of consumers who said they would order the Double Charbroiled Slider, according to Technomic’s MenuSurf. Klein admits that the slider launch was a move to capitalize on snacking, a trend that continues to be strong, with 80% of consumers saying they snack at least once a day, per Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report.

Not a simple SKU stand-in

Although the mini burgers use the same ingredients as their larger siblings, everything had to be downsized, says Klein. The chain worked with its suppliers to source a smaller burger patty, smaller cheese and a slightly different bun. “Our slider buns are chewy and slightly sweet, adding to the overall craveability of the product,” he says. A portable slider carton debuted along with the item. It has an open top to make it easy to “slide” the burger out.

Sliding into happy hour

In tandem with the release of the LTO, Carl’s Jr. created a happy hour around the sliders, promoting them at a special price—$1 for a single and $1.50 for a double—from 2-5 p.m. The happy hour promotion boosted traffic and also drew attention to the chain’s $5 All Star Meals. Sales spiked during prime lunch hours, with many customers purchasing a slider as an add-on to their check, says Klein, seeing it as a way to make a combo meal even more filling.

The price is right

Klein admits that the low price was a draw, and a way to cultivate repeat purchases. In fact, year-over-year comp sales had been lagging for Carl’s Jr. in the first quarter of 2018, according to Technomic’s Transaction Insights data. But transaction figures improved a bit in April when the LTO was running.

Millennial males are in

Men were more likely to purchase the item than women, choosing the Double Charbroiled Sliders at $1.50 over the single. And two-thirds of millennials said they would buy the sliders, a statistic that jives with Technomic data that says younger consumers snack three or more times a day. The sliders were positioned within what Klein calls Carl’s Jr.’s “crave culture,” a largely male customer base that appreciates value and hearty flavor.

Sources: MenuSurf, Transaction Insights, Technomic Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report

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