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Business Beat: Carl’s Jr celebrates 5th year

Can you remember your first Carl’s Jr burger? It was almost five years ago that the Forsgren family opened the franchise restaurant in the Laufou Shopping Center, which is also a family enterprise.

Carl’s Jr wants you to come in and say Happy Anniversary for the next several weeks, and it is offering some great $5 deals: two classic burgers, or five tacos, or a Big Carl meal.

If you buy a combo meal you are entered into a drawing for a year’s worth of free eating at Carl’s Jr. Thirty people will win the free-eating-for-a-year promotion, and the first ten winners were chosen last week when CEO Barry Forsgren was present to kick off the anniversary celebrations.

Forsgren now lives in New Zealand where he operates four more Carl’s Jr restaurants and has plans to open four more restaurants in the next year. He told Samoa News that the Laufou restaurant, which was his first, is the biggest restaurant in his portfolio, and he is proud to note that local sales have increased every year, even when the local economy took a big hit from the closure of Samoa Packing in 2009.

The restaurant is crowded all day long, starting with the breakfast crowd (most of whom skip the breakfast menu and go straight for the regular items), then onto the lunch crowd, then to the after school crowd, and on to the family and evening crowd.

A crew of 50 employees, half full-time and half part-time, takes care of the customers. “Customer service is very important to us,” Forsgren said. “We work very hard to train our staff to treat the clients well, keep the restaurant clean, and make sure the food is properly prepared. It took us a year from the time we first opened to reach the standards we set, but it has been smooth sailing since then.”

The success of the efforts to operate a first-class restaurant resulted in the Laufou store being chosen as the Best International Franchise in the Carl’s Jr chain last year. The award was based on the twice-a-year inspections performed by the corporate team at Carl’s Jr.

Diana Gabbard has been the General Manager for the past five years, but she is moving on and being replaced by Sefulu Fanolua. “All of our hiring has been done locally,” Forsgren said proudly. “We have about 12 people working for the restaurant who were with us from the very beginning.”

When you eat at Carl’s Jr you will see “Comment Cards” at each table. “We get a lot of Comment Cards turned in, and it’s great to see that many of our customers use the cards to compliment our staff members. This helps us know who should get consideration for a promotion,” Forsgren said.

Looking to the future, Forsgren said they will be doing some refurbishing of the Laufou location, to bring it up to date and make it possible to accommodate larger groups of diners. He has no plans for a second American Samoa restaurant, but says opening up a restaurant in Apia might be a possibility.

At present, Carl’s Jr purchases all of its cucumbers from local farmers, and hopes to buy tomatoes and lettuce locally in the future.