It was on July 17 in 1941 that Carl Karcher and his wife Margaret borrowed against their old Plymouth in addition to $15 out of Margaret’s purse to open up their first business – a hot dog stand in Los Angeles that also sold tamales. By 1945, the couple had opened their first restaurant, Carl’s Drive-In Barbeque and the rest is hamburger history.

With classics like the Diablo Burger and the Western Bacon Cheeseburger, and more recent offerings like the launch of the first-ever CBD-infused burger on 4/20, the Prime Rib Angus Beef Thickburger and the first national QSR to introduce Beyond Meat, the Carl’s Jr. franchise has grown into an international beast. They recently launched their first NFT, auctioning off a burger bite image.

Carl Karcher’s hot dog stand in 1941 (Courtesy Carl’s Jr.)

To celebrate 80 years, Carl’s Jr. is hosting a special day-long celebration at one of the original locations in Anaheim at 1200 N. Harbor Blvd. on Saturday, July 17. The one-day-only menu will include Cake Shakes (Chocolate Oreo Cake Shake, Strawberry Cheesecake Shake), Unicorn Shakes and special hot dogs including a Famous Star Hot Dog to pay homage to how the brand started. Participating locations will offer a buy one, get one for 80 cents plus tax when purchasing one of Carl’s Jr.’s classic burgers – Famous Star with Cheese, Western Bacon Cheeseburger, or Big Carl – by signing up to join the email list here and receiving a digital coupon.

The Karcher family is still an involved part of the Carl’s Jr. brand as franchise owners, including some of his 12 children and granddaughter Lauren Karcher, working with CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc., a privately held company based in Franklin, Tennessee, which runs and operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Currently there are more than 1,000 Carl’s Jr. locations across the U.S. operating in 14 Western states, and serving 28 countries worldwide.

Who remembers the El Diablo Thickburger? (Courtesy Carl’s Jr.)

“My immediate family grew up in Oregon where we moved when I was six months old to franchise in this territory,” Lauren Karcher tells L.A. Weekly in a telephone call. “But we spent summers with my grandparents and my grandpa would make us breakfast, and always make sure there were Oreos on the table afterward. On those road trips from Oregon to California, we’d have Carl’s Jr. for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But the focus just truly surrounded connecting and being together at every meal and table conversation. I think that was the secret to his success. He  cared about people. Even when they had so much success and so many locations, he’d call every general manager on their first day to congratulate them. He had so many personal touches that made people feel special and cared for. He’d always say, ‘We’re not in the burger business, we’re in the people business.’”

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