Hardee’s, a regional chain which is generally oriented towards rural, lower-income markets in the Southeast & Midwest, benefits from a core hand-crafted menu positioning around its: iconic made from scratch biscuits (breakfast drives almost half of sales); 100% Angus charbroiled burgers (roughly half of lunch & dinner sales); hand-breaded chicken sandwich & tender options (100% premium white meat breast filet that is marinated in 13 signature seasonings & dipped in buttermilk); Big Hot ‘N’ Cheese sandwich; Jumbo Chili Dogs; hand-scooped ice cream shakes; new Hand-Crafted Lemonade; and table service. The chain’s value equation is supported by: core breakfast biscuits which start at $2 (plain sausage) but mostly cost $3+ to $4+; TV ads which prominently promote value LTOs; and value deals promoted in-window, including: $2.99 Charbroiled Double Deals, breakfast 2 for $5 Mix & Match and $5.99 Star Deal Combos. The chain’s new senior leadership team brings a deep bench of experience along with a fresh perspective and an ongoing $500MM brand upgrade (across Hardee’s & sister brand Carl’s) includes new restaurant design elements as well as new in-store signage, uniforms & food packaging. Having said all this, it is notable that the chain’s ongoing sales pressure reflects: an orientation towards an older demo (during breakfast) which has not fully rebounded post-covid; increased breakfast competition; reluctance to compete with the larger, national players around value/discounting because of concerns about driving premium trade-down; a struggle to fortify a premium lunch/dinner positioning among its core lower-income demo in search of value; a lack of effective marketing that resonates with its core customers; and relatively slow digital progress. Further, its sales outlook is aggravated by the current economic stress on the brand’s core lower-income target market. All this translates into stressed unit economic profits and net unit declines. In conclusion, while Hardee’s strategy is well conceived to leverage its core competencies, the chain remains challenged by its value equation and geographic market/demo positioning during a period of significant stress on lower-income consumers.