Checkers and Rally's
|Founded||1986 (as Checker's)|
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
1985 (as Rally's)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
1999 (merger of Checkers and Rally's)
Number of locations
|About 900 (2019)|
|Products||Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, hot wings, french fries, shakes, soft drinks|
|Owner||Oak Hill Capital Partners|
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. is one of the largest chains of double drive-thru restaurants in the United States. The company operates Checkers and Rally's restaurants in 28 states, and the District of Columbia. They specialize in hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and milkshakes.
Originally separate companies serving different geographic areas (with Checkers serving the Southeast and Rally's serving the Midwest), Checkers and Rally's merged in August 1999. Generally-speaking, the Checkers name remains used in the Southeast as well as the Northeast while the Rally's name remains used in the Midwest as well as California; the two brands have overlap in several areas. The merged company is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Most locations specialize in carryout service with a drive-thru and walk-up windows available with no indoor seating, though some legacy Rally's locations in the Midwest that opened before Checkers purchased the chain retain dining rooms.
Checkers was founded in 1986 in Mobile, Alabama, by Jim Mattei, and went public in 1991. Rally's was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1985 by Jim Patterson. In 1991 and 1992, Rally's absorbed Maxie's of America, Snapps Drive-Thru, and Zipps Drive-Thru.
In 1996, Rally's was bought by CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. CKE sold Rally's to Checkers in 1999. Unlike the two CKE chains (which have are various points have flipped flopped between marketing Carl's Jr. & Hardee's as one chain or separate regional chains that both share Carl's Jr's Happy Star logo & imaging but have largely separate menus), Checkers promptly merged Rally's into its branding, and the two chains are now only different by name.
In June 2006, the company went private through a merger with Taxi Holdings Corp., an affiliate of Wellspring Capital Management, a private equity firm. In 2014, Wellspring sold Checkers to another private equity firm, Sentinel Capital Partners. On March 23, 2017, Checkers announced that it would be sold to Oak Hill Capital Partners for $525 million. The sale was completed a month later.
On May 23, 2018, Checkers announced a planned expansion into the Pittsburgh area, announcing plans for over two dozen locations throughout Western Pennsylvania. Despite the Rally's brand having brand recognition in the area due to its presence in neighboring Northeast Ohio as well as having previously been available in the area briefly in the late 1990s, the locations will be branded as Checkers. The company made its official return in the area in 2019 under the Rally's banner with the opening of a location in Penn Hills.
In February 2020, Checkers & Rally's named Frances Allen, former CEO of Boston Market, as their new CEO.
Advertising and promotions
In the late 1990s, there was a series of teaser commercials that featured a Burger King burger on a rotating interior microwave oven, with R&B tracks from the 1960s and 1970s playing in the background following a bleep cue to Rally's advertising. An early commercial offered a chance to win a car. It showed a yellow car since the yellow car version of punch buggy was a big fad during this time. A similar advertising strategy for this fad was implemented into a Taco Bell commercial with as many as 20 or 30 yellow taxicabs in one camera shot.
One of the first advertising campaigns by Checkers and Rally's featured the slogan "High Performance Human Fuel," and ran from 1999 to late 2000. The television advertisements for that campaign were animated in an Anime style, and featured a woman named Holly, in pursuit of fast food. The ads were created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, and illustrated by Peter Chung, who was also responsible for the animation of C.O.P.S and Ring Raiders.
In September 2007, ML Rogers, an advertising agency, won the advertising rights for Checkers Restaurants. They completely restructured the advertising campaign. Among one of the many changes is their new slogan, "little place. BIG TASTE." which can be seen in commercials airing since October 2007. In 2007, the chain used a character called Rap Cat, a stuffed animal cat who performs a rap song about the chain. The ad campaign became popular after it was posted on YouTube, becoming a viral video. The company gave away paper bags patterned like a basketball jersey to be worn by cats, with slots to cut out for the legs and tail, and asked customers to post videos of their cat wearing it to a Rap Cat website. This received criticism from animal rights activists, though Checkers stated that the packaging was "intended only as a creative extension of our television campaign."
In September 2014, they started to have a character called Mr. Bag, a talking bag who appears in the new commercials for Checkers and Rally's. Checkers Restaurants' in-house marketing team is led by Terri Snyder (Chief Marketing Officer).
In September 2016, rapper and restaurateur Rick Ross stated his plans for a partnership with Checkers and Rally's, including ownership of a few franchises. He opened his first franchise location in Miami in early 2017.
Security and privacy
On May 29, 2019, Checkers and Rally's disclosed a long-running data breach that affected an unknown number of customers at 103 of its Checkers and Rally's locations, with some being infected with a point-of-sale malware as early as 2015.
- Silverman, Ellie (January 10, 2019). "Checkers and Rally's looks to add dozens of stores in Philadelphia". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- Bowling, Caitlin (April 1, 2018). "Franchisee plans to expand Rally's Hamburgers brand in Kentucky". Insider Louisville. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "History of Rally's –FundingUniverse". www.fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Checkers, Rally's operator to be acquired by Sentinel Capital Partners - Corporate content from Nation's Restaurant News". Retrieved October 6, 2015.
- Jargon, Julie (March 23, 2017). "Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Agrees to Be Sold in $525 Million Deal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "Oak Hill, Sentinel seal $525M transaction". PitchBook. April 26, 2017. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
- Heyl, Eric (May 23, 2018). "Checkers & Rally's Extending Fast Food Footprint To Pittsburgh". Patch Media. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Pickels, mary (May 25, 2018). "Checkers & Rally's plans two dozen restaurants around Pittsburgh". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "New Campaign: Hi-Performance, Human Fuel". QSR (magazine). January 12, 2000. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Siebert, T.w. (January 17, 2000). "Checkers, Rally's Given 'Toon Up". Adweek. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "Checkers®/Rally's® Launches New Advertising Campaign". Franchising.com (Press release). October 18, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Urstadt, Bryan. "How Rap Cat Made It into This Headline". New York Magazine. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Varian, Bill (20 February 2007). "Bag the cat? Uh, promo might not be good idea". St Petersburg Times. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Cebrzynski, Gregg (5 March 2007). "Checkers' Rapcat raises issue of 'edginess' in online promos". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Jones, Biz. "RICK ROSS BURGERS UP, GOES FACE-TO-FACE W/ CHECKERS BAAWWWWSE: 'WE GON DO IT DIS BIG'". SOHH.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Credit Cards Detail Stolen from 103 Checkers and Rally's Restaurants". Hack Hex. 2019-05-31. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
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