March 4, 2016

Nashville Business Journal
by Adam Sichko

It’ll be another year or so before veteran developer Pat Emery will open his latest glassy Cool Springs office building, the one where the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and other fast-food chains wants to locate its new headquarters.

But that company, CKE Restaurants Inc., isn’t waiting. The company and many of its top executives are already here, according to multiple real estate sources and county property records.

As we reported in December, CKE Restaurants is in negotiations with Spectrum | Emery Inc. to lease 50,000 square feet or more within the forthcoming Two Franklin Park, a $70 million building under construction at exit 67 of Interstate 65. In an office of that size, CKE Restaurants could fit more than 200 employees, given the amount of parking Emery is supplying for Two Franklin Park. State officials have said they anticipate awarding incentives to the company for moving here from its corporate offices in southern California and St. Louis.

The most notable CKE Restaurants brand is Hardee’s, which is known for its branded Thickburgers and its racy TV ads. CKE Restaurants also owns the chains Carl’s Jr., Red Burrito and Green Burrito.

CKE Restaurants would join the ranks of companies that have, over the last couple of decades, endorsed the Cool Springs commercial hub as the region’s premier corporate headquarters address (though Nashville’s “It City” boom lately has drawn the attention of more executives to the city core). The asking rent at Two Franklin Park is $35 per square foot, including parking costs — a record for Williamson County and a 15 percent jump from the rent that the building’s older sibling, One Franklin Park, commanded as it opened last year. The jump reflects the historically low supply of top-grade Class A office space in the county.

While lease negotiations (and construction of Two Franklin Park) remain ongoing, CKE Restaurants has opened a temporary office in a 4,000-square-foot space in the Four Corporate Centre building, according to sources. At least six of the nine executives comprising the company’s management team (as listed on its website) have purchased residential property in Davidson and Williamson counties, according to public property records.

The CEO of CKE Restaurants, Andrew Puzder, bought a $1.53 million home in downtown Franklin in April 2015. The most recent buyer is the company’s chief financial officer, according to a deed filed Feb. 26.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many CKE Restaurants employees now work in Cool Springs. That transitional office is located in 810 Crescent Centre Drive, in Franklin. It’s the very same office suite that Spectrum | Emery vacated one week ago.

Spectrum | Emery is preparing to move into One Franklin Park within a couple of weeks, said David Wells, the company’s vice president. Wells declined comment when asked about CKE Restaurants.

A spokeswoman for CKE Restaurants is acknowledging publicly for the first time that the company is committed to come to Middle Tennessee.

CKE is capping a push to franchise more of its 3,664 restaurants, which are located in 44 U.S. states and also 37 foreign countries or U.S. territories. Today, 92 percent of its restaurants are owned by franchisees, not the company.

“Being highly franchised has also reduced our office space needs and, thus, made consolidating offices a more viable option,” a spokeswoman for CKE wrote in an email to the NBJ. “As such, early next year we will be consolidating our Carpinteria (Calif.) and St. Louis corporate offices in Nashville, which is centrally located and is one of the markets where we have retained company-owned restaurants.”

The spokeswoman declined to comment further.

CKE Restaurants is also kicking off development agreements to expand its brands internationally. On March 4, the company announced the first of 150 planned Carl’s Jr. restaurants to open in Japan — one month after opening its first Carl’s Jr. in Australia and its second restaurant in Honduras.