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Back to burgers – and ribs: Carl’s Jr. ditches bikini-clad ads, adds boneless rib burger

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are ditching the bikinis and getting back to the burgers.

The chains are famous for advertisements featuring models and celebrities like Paris Hilton, Kate Upton and Emily Ratajkowski munching on burgers while scantily clad.

A new commercial for the chains shows the imagined Carl Hardee Sr. taking back control of the operation from immature son Carl Hardee Jr. Carl Sr. rips down photos of swimsuit models and puts up framed pictures of hamburgers. The chains are now calling themselves “pioneers of the great American burger.”

The company’s racy advertising campaign had a defender in Andrew Puzder, who is stepping down as CEO of the chains’ parent company, Carpinteria, California-based CKE Restaurant Holdings. Puzder withdrew as President Donald Trump’s nominee for Labor Department secretary last month.

After welcoming back fictional founder “Carl Hardee Sr.,” the chain, owned by CKE Restaurants announced its next food innovation: the Baby Back Rib Burger. The new offering, which is the first-ever QSR burger to feature real, boneless, baby back ribs, serves as the ultimate expression of the brands’ recently reclaimed identity as “Pioneers of the Great American Burger,” and will join their roster of other premium quality menu innovations such as: 100 percent Black Angus Thickburgers, Made from Scratch Biscuits, Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders, Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shakes and all-natural, charbroiled chicken breast fillets.

Available at participating locations nationwide starting on April 26, the Baby Back Rib Burger features real, boneless, baby back ribs that are charbroiled and dipped in sweet and smoky Cattleman’s Original BBQ Sauce. The ribs are then stacked on one of the chains’ famous, charbroiled beef patties, topped with crispy onion strings and pickles, and served on a premium, brioche-style bun.

And there’s a connection to ABC’s Shark Tank program.

“Recently, we set out to reclaim our rightful status as ‘Pioneers of the Great American Burger,’ so we had to show the world that we’re back with a burger that truly earned a place on that mantle,” said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. “We’ve pioneered many iconic burgers over the years, but no other chain has ever before put real, boneless, baby back ribs on a charbroiled burger and, with some crispy onion strings, pickles and BBQ sauce on it, it’s a combination that tastes amazing together. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to get real, boneless, baby back ribs, but our friends at ‘Shark Tank’ helped us out by investing in a start-up company that did just that.”

The Baby Back Rib Burger uses ribs officially and exclusively supplied by Bubba’s-Q Boneless Ribs , an Ohio-based BBQ restaurant and online store owned and operated by former Detroit Lions’ football star Al “Bubba” Baker. The company drew national attention after appearing on a 2013 episode of ABC’s hit television program “Shark Tank,” when “Shark“ Daymond John made a deal with Bubba to invest in the brand.

“When I first started Bubba’s-Q, I never thought I’d become the official rib supplier for two of America’s most well-known fast food chains,” said Baker. “Back in the day, I was just happy to be bringing great ribs to the people of Avon, Ohio. Then, I was lucky enough to take our products nationwide with online orders and shipping thanks to Daymond. Now, my ribs are going to be part of the next ‘great American burger’ from Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s? The opportunity is incredible.”

Baker and his ribs will be featured on “Shark Tank” on Friday, April 14 (9 p.m. CTT) in the “Update” segment that highlights the success stories of some of the Emmy Award-winning show’s entrepreneurs. The partnership between Bubba’s-Q, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s will be a main focus of the segment, and will include Baker and John visiting the company’s test kitchen to meet with Mike Murphy, president of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and Haley to talk about the partnership and give an exclusive first look at the new Baby Back Rib Burger.

“When I saw Bubba walk out onto that presentation stage all those years ago on ‘Shark Tank,’ I took an immediate interest. Ribs are one of my absolute favorite foods, and when I saw his business model, it made investing in his brand a no brainer,” said John. “I get to wear two hats with Bubba, as I am his target audience and his business partner. Each gave me the opportunity to help find the best way for Bubba’s-Q to expand, and joining forces with the company behind the greatest burgers in America was an easy decision. The investment Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s made in Bubba’s brand is an investment in entrepreneurs throughout the country where the customer wins by getting one of the most delicious hamburgers I have ever tasted.”

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s will promote the Baby Back Rib Burger with a new ad campaign, titled, “Rib Joint,“ starring the company’s new spokes-character duo — faux-founder, “Carl Hardee Sr.” (Charles Esten) and his “son,” “Carl Hardee Jr.” (Drew Tarver) as they get a bright idea for the new burger with help from a couple of local BBQ experts. Developed by Los Angeles-, New York- and Amsterdam-based creative agency 72andSunny, the spot will begin airing on TV nationally on May 1, as well as on the chains’ YouTube channels.

The Baby Back Rib Burger is available as a single patty burger for $5.59, a double burger patty for $6.79 and as a 100 percent Black Angus beef, 1/3-lb. Thickburger for $6.79, all of which can be ordered as a combo meal with fries and a drink starting at $8.19. Prices may vary by location.

There are Carl’s Jr. locations in Arlington and the eastern side of the Metroplex.

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