As many fast-food chains introduce healthier fare amid fears of being sued, Hardee’s is bucking the trend, serving up a megaburger with 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat.
St. Louis-based Hardee’s Food Systems Inc. Monday rolled out its Monster Thickburger — two one-third-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. The sandwich alone sells for $5.49 or $7.09 with a medium fries (520 calories) and soda (about 400 calories).
McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s International Inc. and other fast-food giants have broadened their offerings of salad and other lower-calorie fare amid concerns the industry could be held legally liable for America’s obesity epidemic. Hardee's offers no such concessions, although the chain is not completely oblivious to dietary trends, offering at least three "low-carb" items including a low-carb Thickburger.
In an interview on CNBC, Hardee's chief executive Andrew Puzder was unapologetic, saying the company's latest sandwich is "not a burger for tree-huggers."
"This is a burger for young hungry guys who want a really big, delicious, juicy, decadent burger," he said. "I hope our competitors keep promoting those healthy products, and we will keep promoting our big, juicy delicious burgers."
Health-safety activist Michael Jacobson denounced the new Hardee's concoction.
"They would argue they are just giving people what they want. I would say this is beyond the pale," said Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Probably no nutritionist ever imagined that a product like this would be marketed."
Jacobson pointed out that one Monster Thickburger contains twice the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat, and nearly a full day's worth of sodium. Even before the new Monster Thickburger, the chain offered five sandwiches with 1,000 calories or more, and eight overall that have more calories than what was once the big-burger standard — McDonald’s 600-calorie Big Mac.
"If Hardee's persists in marketing this junk, it should at least list calories right up on the menu board," Jacobson said.
While fast-food diets have been blamed for an epidemic of obesity and heart disease, last year a federal judge in New York dismissed two class-action suits blaming McDonald’s for making people fat.
“Maybe this is a smart strategy because there are still folks out there who care about the taste and size of their sandwich, and less about their weight,” said Jerry McVety, president of the restaurant consulting firm McVety & Associates in Farmington Hills, Mich.