Hardee's, the fast-food chain known for monster-size burgers with eye-popping calorie counts, is starting to sell a turkey burger that's a little more diet-conscious.
The move makes Hardee's the first major burger chain to permanently add a turkey burger to the menu.
Boddie-Noell Enterprises, the Hardee's franchisee for this region, introduced the burgers Monday in its hometown of Rocky Mount. In North Carolina, there are about 240 Hardee's, including about 25 in the Triangle.
Boddie-Noell will offer three varieties in all of its stores by Wednesday, chief marketing officer Jerry Allsbrook said.
In addition to the traditional version with lettuce, tomato and all the normal toppings, there will be a barbecue ranch version and one with mushroom and swiss. Prices range from $2.99 to $3.49. They'll be served on whole wheat buns.
Hardee's, which has come under fire for burgers with more than 1,000 calories, is seeking a different appetite with turkey burgers that are less than 500 calories each.
"There are young hungry guys who are still trying to eat healthy, and this gives them a great reason to come to Hardee's," Allsbrook said. "It should appeal to women as well."
But Hardee's main market is younger men, and it has targeted them the past few years with sometimes scandalous ads that have featured Paris Hilton and other female celebrities.
The new turkey burger ads continue that tradition. Some ads for the sandwich will feature Miss Turkey (from last year's Miss Universe pageant) in a bikini.
The ad campaign will begin late this month, and the commercials are undergoing final editing. Boddie-Noell is waiting to see the final versions before making a call on whether to run the ads in this market. The company has previously chosen not to run some of Hardee's more controversial advertising here.