Fast-Food CEO Known for Racy Ads Advises Trump on Creating Jobs

(Bloomberg) -- Andy Puzder, the fast-food magnate known for racy Super Bowl ads and 1,000-calorie burgers, has taken on a new role: telling Donald Trump how to create more jobs in America.

The chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, serves as one of Trump’s economic advisers -- with a particular focus on improving employment in the U.S.

Fast-Food CEO Known for Racy Ads Advises Trump on Creating Jobs

Andy Puzder

Photographer: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Dream Foundation

Puzder may seem like an unusual pick for a jobs adviser: He’s mostly created the fast-food variety, not the kind of high-paying positions that politicians like to crow about. The 66-year-old also has talked about adding automation at some restaurants, a move that would replace workers with self-service kiosks.

But the desire to rely more on automation stems from ill-advised policies, such as heavy taxation and Obamacare, Puzder said in an interview. Labor participation is too low, and there’s a need for employment at the low and high end, he said. Puzder says that protecting coal-industry jobs and reforming education by encouraging more charter schools could help.

“Low-skill jobs are important because that’s what gives you access to the high-level jobs,” he said. “If you focus on redistributing income, you’re not going to create growth.”

‘American Thickburger’

Like Trump, Puzder isn’t afraid to offend. TV commercials for Carl’s Jr. feature scantily clad models, and the chain has flouted America’s obesity epidemic by trotting out massive hamburgers. He’s also one for patriotic branding: The company named a half-pound burger topped with hot dogs and a layer of potato chips “the Most American Thickburger.”

Trump is a strong negotiator who would be persuasive with other leaders, Puzder said.

“He’s really different face to face,” Puzder said. “He listens. He doesn’t walk in like a politician would and give a little prepared speech and shake everyone’s hand.”

CKE, a closely held company based in Carpinteria, California, has about 3,700 restaurants. The chain filed for an initial public offering in 2012, but it later delayed the move, citing uncertainty about health-care and commodity expenses. The company also is relocating its headquarters to the lower-cost Nashville, Tennessee, area -- a move that’s expected to be completed next year.

Health-Care Costs

Puzder has been a critic of Barack Obama, saying the president’s health-care overhaul hurt his company’s growth and forced it to rely more on part-time workers. Some Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations also are shifting to touch-screen kiosks. Those stores need fewer employees behind the counter, Puzder said.

“Nobody wants to hire less people,” he said. “But if there is pressure on labor because of the government and people want labor-saving alternatives, I mean, what else are you going to do?”