The first time I ate at a Carl's Jr. was within a week or so after it came to downtown Salt Lake City. I'm not sure when that was, but for the sake of this, it was certainly more than 15 years ago. I had a burger (not sure what kind), some fries and a drink. I left, my curiosity sated, my stomach not so sure. It was a burger, pretty sloppy, true to their ads and I don't recall much else.
However, I gradually came to grow repulsed at Carl's Jr., finding their ads just a tad beyond outrageous—yeah right, supermodels with super hard bodies adorned with vast and colorful food drippings comprise the typical Carl's Jr. customer. Yeah, uh huh. Well, I don't fit that bill. I'm as out of sync with Carl's Jr. as Carl's Jr. is with downtown Salt Lake City. Really, is there a more jarring corner in modern downtown as 200 South and State, adorned as it is with nightmares of ketchup and mustard oozing out the doors and onto our streets? I think not.
There's a new hotel going in just west of the corner, pretty much right next to Carl's Jr. Maybe guests staying there comprise the Carl's Jr. crowd, but I kinda doubt it. Off to one side, those visitors can find civility on the revitalized Regent Street, soon to be fulfilling its promise of urban sophistication. A few steps beyond and it's the rapidly changing Main Street with nightlife and dining galore.
Those visitors can drop by the new Eccles Theater; perhaps even spend a buck at City Creek. Or, they can exit their hotel on 200 South, take a gander at the Gallivan Center, and go left, smack into Carl's Jr. If you hear shrieks coming from that area late at night, don't worry, it's not the end of the world, just nearly so. Many will walk past Carl's Jr., eyes closed, it's assumed, to quell their dining pangs at Taqueria 27, Cedars of Lebanon or Este and quaffing a few at Bar-X, Beer Bar and Johnny's on Second. Or, I can be fully wrong, and they can grab a Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger and haul it back to their cozy boutique hotel room and hope like hell it doesn't drip on the new divan.
I didn't even know Carl's Jr. served a Western Bacon Cheeseburger until last week. Like most everyone else in the world, I only knew the name Carl's Jr. itself and associated that name with luscious, ketchup-stained women. I've often wondered how it is that God allows such carnality each and every time their ads are broadcast. I mean, this newspaper has been kicked out of distribution stops for far less when it comes to the skin game and the innuendoes associated with ooze all over a woman's body. At least City Weekly can double as a napkin.
But, last week The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Carl's Jr. had sued locally owned fast food chain Apollo Burger over the naming rights to the Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Apollo was notified several months ago about name infringement. Apollo changed the name of their own burger to the Texas Bacon Cheeseburger and went their merry way, but not soon enough for Carl's Jr., which claimed irreparable harm to their brand and cried that the millions they spend on advertising was for naught. They want Apollo to pay up.
Alas, it's not going well for Carl's Jr. Soon after the story broke, readers began slapping Carl's Jr. in the same fashion that Carl's Jr. slaps meat onto a grill. Ouch. Sizzle. Ouch. One after another, the comments raged on against Carl's Jr. in favor of Apollo. Hey, I have my own beef (no pun intended) with Carl's Jr., but even my angst hasn't risen to the point of what I'm seeing on those comment boards. If Carl's Jr. harbored any sense that they were a beloved part of our community, they're dashed now. Hell, even Yelp!—the amateur rating site where everything is "yummy"—only gives Carl's Jr. 2.5 stars. That's zero in burger years.
I doubt anyone ever said that they were going out for a Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Big Mac possible, but not a Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Arby's has the meats, but can you name a single sandwich? You go where you want by store brand name, not burger name. I understand why Carl's Jr. did what they did, though—a trademark only has value if you protect it, and you lose it if you don't.
We wrestled with that one ourselves this fall when the lovely tyrants at The Salt Lake Tribune and Utah Media Group laughingly announced they were holding a "fresh, new" recognition event called the SALT Awards, all the while dancing around our trademark protection of the Best of Utah brand. Never mind that they used the exact same font face presentation that we did last summer during the SALT conference of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, but "fresh" and "new" are hardly proper adjectives to use when copying a method that we've used annually 27 times.
Our empty pockets aren't deep enough, so we just pouted and went our way. Still, we bear the same sentiment for the Tribune that some readers of that paper apparently have for Carl's Jr.—the Tribune is just a bully, always has been, always will be. So, we root for Apollo. They are friends of this city—one cannot forget the $25,000 they lay down for the Sugar House fireworks each Fourth of July. If you want to keep seeing them, I'd suggest you head to Apollo and let them know you care.
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