The fast-food world has proof positive that size matters: a foot-long cheeseburger.
A cheeseburger sold as a foot-long sandwich, with three burgers and three cheese slices, is being tested at 50 Carl's Jr. restaurants in Southern California and 50 Hardee's units in Indiana. That's the same chain that introduced the world to the 1,400-calorie Monster Burger and the Monster Breakfast Sandwich, with 47 grams of fat.
The move comes at a time fast-food chains are focused on concocting more items intriguingly low in price but large in size. This summer, there's serious foot-long-on-the-cheap mania.
The Carl's foot-long fetches $4 without lettuce and tomatoes, $4.50 with.
Sonic just added a $2.99 foot-long hot dog this month. Subway, the king of the $5 sub, will roll out a line of spicy foot-longs in mid-August. Quiznos is eyeing a line of premium foot-longs early this fall — one made with prime rib — for $5.
"We live in a society that's fascinated with all things big," says Scott Hume, editor of BurgerBusiness.com, an industry trade site. "It's inherently American to push for something bigger and better than anyone else has."
The foot-long burger idea was hatched two months ago from a product development chef at Carl's, says Brad Haley, marketing chief. The chain is especially eager to create products that appeal to its core customers: young men ages 18 to 24. "Obviously, the foot-long sandwich has been very successful at Subway. But we decided to do it the Carl's way."
That means big — and controversial. The sandwich has 850 calories with 20 grams of saturated fat. It's served on a white sub roll, sliced in half and wrapped in butcher paper.
If it's a hit in testing, it could be sold at all Carl's and Hardee's — sister chains in different regions of the country — within three to six months, Haley says.
The move, Hume says, is clearly a response to the wild success that Subway has had with its $5 subs. "Subway is taking 'share of stomach' from the burger places, too," Hume says.
Responds Haley, "I'd rather have a charbroiled, foot-long cheeseburger than a cold, foot-long deli sandwich any day."
There are plenty of others in the foot-long hunt:
•Subs. Subway's new line of subs will be its spiciest, says Tony Pace, who oversees marketing for the brand's franchisees. "We consider the $5 foot-long a powerful brand for us," he says. It's also recently begun to offer Steak & Cheese Omelet foot-longs at breakfast.
Quiznos is expanding its $5 foot-long menu next week with two new subs, including a Turkey and Ham sub, says Greg MacDonald, president. He vows that by fall, with the prime rib sub, "We're going to take $5 subs to a whole new level."
•Hot dogs. Sonic's Foot-Long Quarter Pounder Coney is 11/2 inches longer than its previous longest hot dog, says Dominic Losacco, marketing vice president. And it's topped with hot chili and melted cheese.
Sonic also rolled out a s'more-like Campfire Blast dessert this summer that's made with ice cream blended with toasted graham crackers and covered with chocolate and marshmallows. But, Losacco insists, "There are no plans for foot-long sundae."
12-inch burger? Carl's Jr., Hardee's test market a foot-long - USATODAY.com