Brittany McCracken remembers eating her first cheeseburger at the State Road Hardee’s. This week, she’ll be serving them.
It’s been nearly a decade since Thickburgers sizzled on the grill, but after three weeks of build out, four intensive days of training and hundreds of test meals, the South Side restaurant will reopen Wednesday morning
About half of the restaurant’s 55 employees took part in a “go live” test Monday. For most of the day-time crew, like McCracken, it was the culmination of a crash course in fast food service.
Landscapers were installing sod and gravel as the soda machine got a tune-up. A corporate trainer pulled her car up to the drive-through and ordered burgers to simulate the “real world” pressure they can expect after opening.
“Work your way through it,” was the advice from Dave Sundby, a Hardee’s franchise business consultant. “Stay calm and let it work itself out.”
The crew will get a break today as the restaurant gets some final polish. There are still a few loose ends — lights to be hung, a few more employees to hire.
But come 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Harmon said, “It’s time to rock and roll.”
Things have changed since the last Hardee’s closed its doors in January 2005. A new Festival Foods store that opened across the street in 2011 has increased traffic to the area. The Hardee’s is under new ownership — it will be the 101st franchise operated by Eau Claire-based Northland Restaurant Group, the nation’s second largest Hardees franchisee.
And with its signature Thickburger and fresh-baked buns, the fast food chain is growing again, said Jerry Harmon, senior director of operations for Northland.
“Hardees is just coming back,” he said. “It’s really coming back.”
Eventually there was a lull in the mayhem, and the workers gathered around Sundby, who told half of them to go out front and place an order.
“If you want a Monster burger, you order a Monster burger,” he told them. “This is your chance to try it.”
After placing her order — a quarter-pound “Little Thickburger” — McCracken sat with her fellow cashiers and waited to be served.
“I’m gonna need some ketchup,” Jazznique St. Junious joked as one of the managers delivered her burger.
McCracken, 20, currently works at Valley View Mall, where she said there’s a buzz about the reopening of Hardees.
“Ah, that’s good,” she said, taking a bite of the burger, delivered with no onion, no tomato, no mustard. “Just the way I like it.”