Last Saturday, Gary and I ate breakfast at Hardee’s in Waynesville, Tennessee. I avoid fast food restaurants at all costs because I can’t seem to find much healthy food. Before this summer, it had been 4 years since I ate fast food. The last time I was at Hardee’s was over 13 years ago, when family time on our day off consisted of watching our kids romp in the playroom at the Hardee’s in Ludington.
The first thing I noticed was that Gary and I stuck out like a sore thumb. We weren’t wearing jeans, like 99% of the people in the restaurant. As we sat down to eat, Gary pointed to the bag containing our breakfast biscuits and said, “Knowing how much you like fast food, you’ve got to read this!” It was a message from the president of Hardee’s Restaurants. Here it is.
The Thickburger Story
Fellow Burger Lovers,
A few years ago when I became president of Hardee’s Restaurants, we were selling so many things that we had truly become a “Jack of all trades and a master of none.” Unfortunately, in today’s competitive fast-food world, that wasn’t cutting it. The chain needed to become known for doing something really well again; just as it did in its early years when people could “hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charco-broiled.”
So, I challenged my menu development folks to come up with a new line of burgers that would make people say, “Wow! I can’t believe I can get burgers that good at a fast-food place!” And they did. They came up with thick 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 pound burgers, every one charbroiled-to-order and made with 100% Angus beef. They made the buns heavier and a little sweeter, and then they buttered and grilled them like you’d find at great burger joints. They used sliced red onions, which no other chain was doing at the time, and they even used better pickles. And they called “Thickburgers.”
I truly love a great burger, and I can honestly say that Thickburgers are not only as good as any I have had at any restaurant, but they are even better than I can make at home. If you don’t agree with me that these are the best-tasting fast-food burgers you can get anywhere, just let me know, and I’ll happily refund your money.
Andy Puzder, President
Gary was ready to hurry on back to Hardee’s for lunch so he could try out a Thickburger, but I said, “I don’t think so!” Nevertheless, the story was compelling. In order to remain in the fast food business, Hardee’s had to reinvent itself by finding a unique niche.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are called to do the same thing in today’s competitive religious market. Most people today shop around when looking for a new church home. Denominational loyalty, family ties and geographical proximity take a backseat to finding a church that fulfills spiritual needs, provides exciting worship and offers meaningful opportunities for study, outreach and service.
It is becoming more and more important for churches to find a unique niche in their community simply to be noticed. And so I would encourage you to ask yourself: how does your church stand out in your community? What do you do better than any other church in town? When first-time visitors attend your church, what would cause them to come back? How do you spread the good news of all the wonderful things that are happening at your church? At the same time, are you careful to keep the main thing the main thing: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
If the Hardee’s in Waynesville, Tennessee, is any indication, Andy Puzder had the right idea with his Thickburgers. The place was packed! His idea was backed up by a great quality burger that set Hardee’s apart from other fast food restaurants. I highly doubt that I will ever try a Thickburger, but Andy Puzder has given me far more to chew on than 100% Angus beef. He has reminded me that Christians already have the greatest story in the world. We really are only selling one thing, Jesus Christ. But it’s only when we learn how to effectively share the good news with our communities that people will hurry on down to Main Street UMC, where our doors are always open, the love is thick, and Christ is always offered.
P.S. You will be in my prayers this Sunday as fall programming begins in our churches. And perhaps I’ll see you Sunday at 3 p.m. for the installation service. Childcare will be provided.