Grandson of Founder Criticizes CKE With Poison Pen
Jason LeVecke attached this image, and many more, to his letter criticizing CKE Restaurants' ads and management.
The poison pen of Jason LeVecke is irking management at CKE Restaurants, the California-based franchisor of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants.
LeVecke is the grandson of the late Carl Karcher, founder of CKE, who was ousted from the brands after a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case forced him to sell 164 restaurants to an outside investor earlier this year, as detailed in FT in May.
LeVecke says that frees him to speak out about ads that lead to the “degradation of women,” as he puts it in one letter sent in the last two weeks to franchisees and corporate staff, and also to criticize the leadership of CEO Andy Puzder.
Posters displayed in Pakistan were his last straw, LeVecke told me in a phone interview, writing that CKE “objectifies women in some of the most dangerous parts of the world for women.” One poster showed a lipsticked mouth open wide enough to accept an Angus Thickburger, according to LeVecke, a not-so-subtle reference to oral sex in a country where women have been the victims of honor killings if their male relatives think they have transgressed.
Puzder called LeVecke’s claims “absurd” in a phone interview and said he and CKE had nothing to do with any promotions in Pakistan; the franchisee there displayed the posters of his own accord. He said much more, and my upcoming column in Franchise Times will describe both sides’ points of view in detail. “It breaks my heart that Carl’s grandson is doing this,” Puzder added.
Mike Murphy, CKE general counsel, said they’re considering how to get LeVecke to stop the letter campaign. “We were kind of hoping that he would just go away. If he doesn’t go away we’re going to have to do something.”
CKE Restaurants’ ads have long been controversial. Indeed, the hits keep coming when you Google Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and boycott. One writer who put it best had this to say: “Now, some people might say that those companies are just giving people what they want—that if there wasn’t a market for people who liked to be sold fast food by scantily clad actresses having oral sex with a Thickburger, those commercials wouldn’t exist. And those people might be right. Maybe the decent people are outnumbered. But I don’t think it’s about being either decent or depraved. I think it’s about calling out the decency in all of us,” writes a blogger on The Boeskool.
In my view, the ads are just another example of crass American culture—along with those ridiculous bustiers at Tilted Kilt and the “owls for breasts” outfits at Hooters—that I prefer to avoid.
But LeVecke’s point about Pakistan and other Muslim cultures raises the issue to another level—and I’ll be eager to hear what our readers think.