Does Carl’s Jr. have what it takes to survive the grand-opening frenzy that every American fast food chain enjoys in Japan? We wait in line four hours to find out.

Perhaps influenced by the weak footing of McDonald’s last year, it seems a steady stream of US franchises such as Taco Bell and Shake Shack have been crossing the Pacific and setting up shop in Tokyo.

And now, on 4 March, it was to be major burger chain Carl’s Jr. coming the otaku mecca of Akihabara. Knowing how these events usually go, our reporter P.K. Sanjun decided to arrive three hours before opening to wait in line.

However, much to his surprise, there already was a sizable line of about 70 people…

It wasn’t until after that P.K. learned the first 50 customers would receive coupons for a year’s worth of burgers. It was a bummer indeed, but luckily a year’s worth of burgers is only good for a few weeks in the life of a RocketNews24 writer.

And so, P.K. waited in the chilly pollen-filled air of early March morning in Tokyo.

As his high spirits were beginning to wane, P.K. thought about giving up. Just then a sign from the heavens appeared. It was the Carl’s Jr. mascot, Happy Star or Staaaah-kun as he’s called in Japanese.

P.K. was already amused by Staaaah-kun‘s innate happiness alone but then suddenly the anthropomorphic ball of thermonuclear fusion handed our writer a free cup of coffee!

Nicely wired by his caffeinated gift, P.K. waited out the rest of the three hours smoothly until the restaurant opened. Of course, being 70th in line meant that he would have to wait an additional hour before actually reaching the counter…

When he finally arrived, P.K. didn’t want to squander the experience so he ordered each of the seven types of Carl’s Jr. Thickburgers that were being offered in Japan: Original, Mushroom, Guacamole, Hawaiian Teriyaki, Western Bacon, Lettuce Wrap, and Barbecue Chicken.

Each one was available in 1/2 pound or 1/3 pound sizes which might be confusing for many Japanese people who are more familiar with metric amounts. Nevertheless, P.K. went for the full half each time. It was an expensive venture too, with each burger costing 1,050 to 1,220 yen (US$9 to $11) for the sandwich alone. Combos were an additional 350 yen ($3).

▼ P.K. recommended the Mushroom Thickburger most of all the seven

The quantities were no joke, and well in keeping with the portions of their American counterparts both in the beef and topping departments. The taste also well preserved and reminded our reporter of when he had visited a Carl’s Jr. in the US himself.

Still, given the price and perhaps soured by the four-hour wait, P.K. couldn’t help but wonder if this was really all that better than just eating a Whopper at Burger King. In the end, that will be the pivotal question on which the future of Carl’s Jr. in Japan hangs.

Perhaps the prices where only high because of the touristy location of Akihabara, but Carl’s Jr. will have to negotiate some difficult balancing of quality, quantity, and price to grow as a business.

It’s something to contemplate while we’ll leave you with glamour shots of the items P.K. had that day.

▼ Original Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,050 yen ($9.23)

▼ Western Bacon Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,170 yen ($10.28)

▼ Hawaiian Teriyaki Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,160 yen ($10.19)

▼ Lettuce Wrap Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,070 yen ($9.40)

▼ Guacamole Bacon Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,220 yen ($10.72)

▼ Mushroom Thickburger 1/2 Pound – 1,190 yen ($10.46)

▼ Chicken Club Sandwich – 640 yen ($5.62)

▼ Cheese Fries (small) – 330 yen ($2.90)

▼ Fondant Chocolat – 350 yen ($3.08)

▼ Oh-la-la!

▼ And while it may not be a year’s worth of burgers, P.K. did walk away with a spiffy knit cap!

Carl’s Jr.
4-4-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Open seven days a week, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Original article by P.K. Sanjun
Photos © RocketNews24
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