New Hardee's unit puts Roy back in saddle

April 01, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Hardee's Food Systems Inc., which is converting most of its Northeastern restaurants to the popular Roy Rogers format it once tried to send to Boot Hill, has split off 784 restaurants into a new Roy Rogers division based in Linthicum.

Ron Powell, who was executive vice president and general manager of Marriott Corp.'s Roy Rogers division from 1985 to 1987, will be the new division's president, Hardee's announced yesterday. He will work out of the new headquarters and report to Hardee's chief executive, Bob Autry, in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Maurice Bridges, Hardee's spokesman, said the move is being made to "let Roy's be Roy's."

Hardee's announced two weeks ago that it was reversing its disastrous decision to strip the Roy Rogers name and most of its menu from the restaurant chain, which it acquired in 1990 from Marriott, and turn it into Hardee's. The conversion sent customers stampeding to other fast-food chains, and some former Roy Rogers restaurants in the old chain's Baltimore-Washington stronghold lost about half of their business.

Yesterday's move is yet another step by Hardee's to make amends. Last summer Hardee's parent, Montreal-based Imasco Ltd., held the equivalent of a necktie party for the chain's former management and brought in Mr. Autry as chief.

Since then, Hardee's has been expressing its corporate contrition at virtually every opportunity. First it brought back items from the old Roy's menu, then the popular Fixin's Bars, then the Roy's name. In May, the company will start running television commercials starring the 80-year-old Roy Rogers himself.

Mr. Powell's appointment is likely to be popular with franchisees of the original Roy Rogers chain.

"Ron Powell was the leader in the very successful years of Roy Rogers," said Joe Masci, a Maryland franchisee. "He understands the concept, and he understands the marketing that needs to be done to promote it."

The Powell appointment also is likely to solidify relations between franchisees and Hardee's new CEO, Mr. Masci said.

Hardee's, the third-largest fast food chain in the United States behind McDonald's and Burger King, operates more than 4,000 Hardee's and Roy Rogers restaurants.

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