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Carl’s Jr. joins fast-food expansion frenzy, plans to open first Florida location

West Coast-based chain to open later this year in Doral, becoming first location east of Mississippi River

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Carl’s Jr. is crossing the Mississippi River and moving to South Florida.

The California-based fast-food restaurant chain announced Tuesday through its parent company, Tennessee-based CKE Restaurants, that it will open its first location in Florida later this year.

In doing so, it will become the first Carl’s Jr. located east of the Mississippi River.

The easternmost Carl’s Jr. will be in Doral, about five miles west of Miami International Airport.

“The CKE brands are beloved by people all over the world and we look forward to introducing this iconic brand to Florida with the opening in Doral,” Ronald Santolaya, owner and managing director of Davie-based RSMG Holding, which owns the exclusive franchise rights to Carl’s Jr. in Florida, said in a news release. “This expansion will allow Carl’s Jr. to reach the South Florida community for the first time and offer refreshing, new dining experiences.”

The Carl’s Jr. in Doral is tentatively scheduled for a late 2023 grand opening.

Carl’s Jr. will have its first location east of the Mississippi River when it opens in Florida later this year.

It’s just the latest in a recent trend of long-established West Coast eateries to announce their moves into the Sunshine State, following similar expansion plans by Del Taco and Jack in the Box.

“South Florida is an important part of our growth strategy and we’re thrilled to welcome the South Florida community to experience our fan-favorite, authentically crafted menu items whenever the craving hits,” Chris Bode, chief operating officer of CKE Restaurants, said in a news release.

That growth strategy is likely to include a presence in Palm Beach County.

Santolaya was recently photographed with Palm Beach County Mayor Gregg Weiss “to discuss the future of Carl’s Jr. in the marketplace,” according to a caption below the picture on RSMG Holding’s website.

Niels Heimeriks, a spokesman for the mayor, said the meeting was arranged by Axel Miranda, who represents Santolaya. Heimeriks said the mayor recommended that the Carl’s Jr. delegation meet with the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County and land planners to discuss potential locations.

Hardee’s, which is also operated by CKE Restaurants, has been the de facto Carl’s Jr. of the East for decades. There are currently 96 Hardee’s locations throughout Florida, mostly in the central and northern portions of the state.

In 2021, CKE Restaurants said it planned to open 25 new Hardee’s locations in the West Palm Beach area, but the expansion seemed to have quietly stalled and multiple inquiries about its progress were never returned.

The southernmost Hardee’s is in Fort Myers.

It’s not immediately known if CKE Restaurants intends to retrofit any existing Hardee’s locations into its West Coast counterpart.