The Story of Carl Karcher: Founder of Carl’s Jr. Restaurant

One of the successful restaurateurs who started from scratch was born in Ohio, USA on January 16, 1917. His name was Carl Nicholas Karcher, the founder of Carl’s Jr., a chain of restaurants under CKE Restaurants, Inc.

Carl Karcher
Carl Karcher (Credit: wiki commons))

Carl was the son of a farmer who owned a 300-acre farm. Due to the great depression of the 1930s, he was forced to quit school at age 14 to help in the farm. When his uncle who lived in California offered him a job at his feed store, he immediately accepted it though the salary is meager at $18 a week. Later, he moved to a new job in a local bakery.

In 1941, Carl opened a hot dog stand in central Los Angeles using borrowed funds as his initial capital. With the help of his wife, he opened another then another until there were several hot dog carts around Los Angeles. After his returned from active military duties during World War II, he closed all his hot dog stands and opened the first Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue in 1945. It was a full-service restaurant in a clean and brightly-colored setting. When he set up a smaller version of the restaurant, he called it Carl’s Jr.

Carl was a deeply religious person. He arose early in the morning to attend mass at the St. Boniface Catholic Church before going to work at 7 am. He was known as a hardworking executive who did not mind staying at his restaurants for as many as 80 hours a week. Above all, he was committed to his family and to his political advocacies.

In 1975, there were 100 branches of Carl Jr. Restaurants. At present, there are almost 1,400 branches all over the world.

Carl died of complications from Parkinson’s-related pneumonia in 2008. He was 90. He left 12 children with his wife Margaret whom he married in 1939. One of his sons became a Catholic priest.

Carl Karcher was linked to several controversies such as the insider trading in 1988, racial slur in 2002 and the ‘hamburger porn’ advertisement in 2005.


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