1982: Bye-bye Burger Chef, hello Hardee’s

Posted at 5:30 AM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-17 05:30:44-05

INDIANAPOLIS — It was billed as the largest acquisition in fast food history when the parent company of Hardee’s completed its purchase of the Indianapolis-based Burger Chef chain in 1982.

Shortly thereafter, Burger Chef restaurants across central Indiana began transforming into Hardee’s.

WRTV reporter Ken Nelson covered the transition of 75 Indy-area Burger Chef restaurants on November 15, 1982. Nelson’s report stated the new owner was looking to add up to 15 additional employees at each restaurant.

The chairman and CEO of Hardee’s, Jack Laughery, was upbeat about the company’s future.

“We’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,100 units in 38 states,” Laughery said. “We still have a lot of room for expansion and look forward to a very exciting future.”

The chairman even cut a $7,500 check for a new exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

The future of the Burger Chef name was not as lucky. Most locations eventually assumed the Hardee’s name. The last Burger Chef franchise closed in 1996.

Hardee’s briefly resurrected the Burger Chef name in 2007 when it brought back its Big Shef burger. Employees at the Hardee’s on West 86th Street even donned Burger Chef uniforms during the promotion.

2007: Burger Chef's Big Shef returns

Brothers Frank and Donald Thomas opened the first Burger Chef restaurant in 1957 near the intersection of 62nd and Keystone.