The Hartee’s Saga, Part IV: The Shocking Conclusion – Bankstown, NSW

Continued from Part III

In mid-1975, Willesee, a current affairs program on Channel 7, received a tip-off from Bankstown Council garbagemen that a hamburger restaurant at Bankstown had, on a regular basis, some very odd items in its dumpsters out the back. When reporters from the program went down to the Bankstown Hartee’s to investigate, they found that the bins outside were full of dog food cans. Further investigation revealed that the dog food was in fact being sliced into patties and used on the burgers at this particular location:

The Hartee’s at Bankstown, now a BottleMart, sits opposite Bob Jane T-Mart, and beside a KFC.

The devastating report went to air, cripping the Hartee’s brand in the public eye. Despite there being no evidence that such a practice went on in other Hartee’s locations, Kelloggs quickly and quietly abandoned its fast food venture. No official comment was given other than a generic ‘the venture was no longer profitable’ statement.

The scene of the crime.

Almost overnight, all Hartee’s locations were closed and sold. Today, almost nothing remains of the Hartee’s legacy except the stores documented in this series. The Bankstown location subsequently became a Chinese restaurant and a variety of bottle shops. Other locations, such as Hartee’s Liverpool, Manly Vale and Kogarah, have since been demolished.

Hartee’s Kogarah, November 1973. Now part of the St. George Hospital car park. Image by Jack Hickson/State Library of NSW.

As previously mentioned, Kelloggs planned to open more than 100 locations around the country, but only 17 were ever opened. It wasn’t until Red Rooster, and even more successfully, Oporto, that an Australian-owned fast food brand managed to establish itself.

Had the scandal not occurred, Hartee’s may have emerged as the primary fast food outlet in Australia today instead of fading into obscurity, but thanks to the actions of some goofballs on minimum wage, it’s a world we’ll never know.

HEARTY UPDATE: There’s more. Always can do one more.

44 responses

  1. I do recall Hartee’s, although in Victoria they used the original Hardee’s name. I remember one of their Victorian locations was in Belmont, Geelong at the back of K mart and next to Pizza Hut. It came and quickly gone, was derelict for a couple of years, then McDonalds moved in and have been there ever since. Do any Melbournians know of any other Hardee’s restaurants in Melbourne/Geelong?

    1. In Melbourne metro I think 28 Lonsdale St (Princes Hwy) corner Plunkett Rd in Dandenong is an ex Hardees. Currently occupied by Europcar, building still exists. Across the road at 33 Lonsdale St is an ex Mcdonalds now occupied by Booran Suzuki. I’m pretty sure Hardees was also on the corner of Camberwell Road & Toorak Road in Hartwell (Burwood). In the 70s after the Hartwell Hardees closed, I remember it later being an independant hamburger place called Humphreys which had great burgers. Later on Big Rooster occupied the site for a few years. In more recent times it was an Italian restaurant. It was demolished sometime after 2010 but can be seen in earlier captures of streetview.

      1. You’re dead right I went their on a few occasions and they were great burgers when I lived in Doveton. It actually became Captain Snapper straight after being Hartees and the building remained a fast food out let for several years for different fast food chains. It was a drive through. Dandenong also had a Hot Dog fast food outlet with girls on skates and all but it didn’t last long. Robs had its girls on skates in Melbourne and it lasted for a few years.
        Don’t recall any problems with dog food cans but it sure closed its doors quick as as I went their one night and it was Hartees the next time I went it was Captain Snapper.

    2. There was a Hardee’s in Dandening on the Princes Highway nearly opposite the Sth Gippsland highway turn off. Our family must have been trendy as in the mid 70’s for my birthday party it was at that store with Dad paying for everyone. I also remember when they opened they had a mini Ferris wheel and clowns as entertainers. I loved their souther fried chicken…

    3. There was one at Southland Shopping Centre where the McDonalds now sits. We had our u/12 Football end of season dinner there after going to an indoor swimming pool. Mates and I went here regularly over the 73/74 school holidays. Burgers were great. It closed down in early 74, McDonalds bought it, bulldozed it and built their store. We went to McDonalds for my 13th birthday in Sep 74 and it was my first visit. I was expecting something like Hartees and was oh so disappointed.

    4. Camberwell Junction was the Head Office for Victoria. I was Manager first in Geelong and then transferred to Knox I think it was (near bus depot) Then one day when I arrived to open there was a huge chain on the door and told to contact the office. No explanations or anything and what to tell the staff.

      1. So was there ever any explanation?

    5. It was definitely Hartees in Vic. We ate regularly at Southland which was at the site of the current (since about 1974) McDonalds.

    6. There was a Hartees in Dandenong and in Hartwell
      The store in Dandenong on Princess Hwy
      Is now a car rental outlet for Europa ?
      Th location in Hartwell is on the. CRN of Burwood rd-Hwy and Burwood rd now an apartment block at the fork in the road

  2. | Reply

    My memory is of a Hardee’s in Alphington in Melbourne in the 70s. Red Rooster now occupies the site (on Heidelberg Road. I don’t know whether the Red Rooster building is the original Hardee’s structure.

  3. loved Hartees, best tasting hamburgers on open grill flame, i use to frequent the Liverpool store. Henny Penny and Homestead Chicken use to be around as well. The Heart sticker use to say: H.R. L N.C. which meant ‘Hartee’s restaurants loves nice customers.’ as one lady employee told me, i must have been 13 or 14 at the time.

  4. I don’t remember Hartees at all, neither the venues nor the ads. I remember other Liverpool landmarks of this era. If it was on the Hume Highway, it probably blended into all the other fast food outlets to my childish eyes. We never ate at them.

  5. DId the burgers taste like dog food and more importantly how did you know if they did?

  6. I recall a Hardee’s on the corner of Sydney Rd and Camp Rd in Campbellfield (Vic) in the ’70’s – I can still remember the jingle from the TV commercial, with a hillbilly-style accent on the “where the burgers are barbecuuuuu-ed – yee-hoo!”…

  7. Hartees burst onto the scene in Melbourne in 1973. I was in grade 6 and their ads on TV were a hoot. The burgers were fair dinkhum sensational. They even had beetroot in them. There was one at Southland Shopping Centre where the McDonalds is today.

    They closed in 1974 and we were mightily disappointed. The along came McDonalds, knocked down the Southland store and built their own. Then came my first visit to McDonalds. Expecting a Hartees experience I was horribly disappointed with these bland, awful excuses for a hamburger.

  8. Wow this is an interesting bit of history. Coming from the town where the parent company Hardee’s originated, it’s fascinating to see how far the franchise has traveled. The original Hardee’s burgers in America were of high quality, probably similar to the ones sold in Australia.

    The company experimented far more than most fast food chains, offering products ranging from roast beef sandwiches to mini calzones prior to going into bankruptcy and being bought out by a California fast food chain called Carl’s Jr. The only remnant of the former Hardee’s restaurant are the breakfast menu of fresh made American savoury biscuits.

  9. burger with beetroot | Reply

    remember them well as i lived in kogarah, funny they were a good real burger, when i moved to perth in 1972 the hungry jacks ads were hartees with voice over and different shots of stores, hungry jacks started in perth or as known in the USA as burger king, if memory serves me burger king was a registered name from SA. and as a side note never in perth was there amoco big in sydney in the early 70,s alas all the old stuff has gone the way of multi nationals now

  10. I think a note needs to be added with regards to Red Rooster being the next Australian owned brand to establish dominance.

    My recollection (from attending a scout jamboree in Perth in 79-80) was that Red Rooster was a WA brand. We’d never heard of it on the East Coast, with the primary BBQ’d chicken brand being Big Rooster. I think this chain was taken over by Red Rooster, with some stores falling unde Henny Penny ownership??

    Does anyone else have a recollection of the Big Rooster story?

    1. Big Rooster. I was working for a division of Coca Cola Amatil from 85 to 87 at the same time they owned Big Rooster. The long and the short of it was that there wasn’t enough room in the market for three big chicken chains. In 87 a gun sales exec by the name of Eugene Havarisco (known as Eugene give your wrist a go) was put in charge to get sales up.

      Eugene did work his arse off and frankly the chicken was quite good, certainly more of a rival to Red Rooster than KFC. But being the last player into the game seemed to work against it; on quality alone Red Rooster should have folded, not Big Rooster.

      You could chase up Darren James from 3aw, Eugene was regularly punting the product with free give aways on the Darren and Uncle Roy radio breakfast show.

  11. That Hartees ad (burger on wheels) was originally published in the front of a UBD street directory from the early ’70s. I found it when I wrote a similar article for our VW club magazine.

    The Riverwood Hartees was my local, and I can still remember the unique BBQ smell. It was family treat to go to Hartees, and the burgers came in large white paper bags. Riverwood Hartees became a Kentucky Fried Chicken, using the original Hartees building, carpark (and outdoor furniture!) until the early 1990s when it was demolished and the modern KFC built on the site.

    The Manly Vale Hartees was not demolished ! It is still there, at 258 Condamine St. It was built on the site of a former VW dealer, Freshwater Motors. Today the building is a shoe store, but looks just as it was. You can still see where the outdoor furniture was.

    Hartees also had a short-lived branch at the Sydney Showground, under the main showring grandstand (with the clock tower). It must have done great business during the Royal Easter Show but would have been pretty slow the rest of the time.

    1. Paul O'Connor | Reply

      Hey Phil, my local establishment too. I remember going there when they had something special going on and had their “cowboy” (?) character turn up with give aways etc. but we were too late to get anything 😦 but we talked one of the staff into giving us a drink each….. well guess we got something 🙂

  12. Gosh the Bankstown store was my local, I was around 12-13 at the time and we’d walk down there on a Saturday. I remember the Willessee report, the abrupt closure of the entire chain, and the Chinese restaurant that took over the building (Homestead Chicken was next door).

    This blog is the first internet acknowledgement that Hartees ever existed. For 40 years people thought I was making things up. There was no trace of the name anywhere and nobody remembered it.

    When we ate there the burgers were real meat (what type I don’t know), certainly not the Pal dog food that came later.

    If such a current affairs expose happened today Kellogg would engage consultants to help minimise the brand damage, but it’s clear that the huge losses they were making would have trebled after the scandal and it was a no brainer to shut down.

    And the speed at which they closed indicated that dog food patties were indeed on the menu, and the whole thing was not some set-up by a competitor.

    Ahh the memories 🙂

  13. I fondly remember eating at Hardees on Dandenong rd. Used to stop there for dinner on our way down to Rosebud every holiday. Suddenly it disappeared, now I know why! The jingle was so catchy, I still remember it clearly.

  14. Had hartee’s in mayfield newcastle was said to be the only profitable store in country & was talked about continuing after parent co decided to leave but not to be now Avis depot was Pizza Hut after hartee’s building demolished about 7 years ago had one @ Belmont became fish joint now drive in car wash !

    1. I remember the Mayfield Hartees. Every night my friends and I would go for a burger after we had finished studying for the night. Great burgers.

  15. Paul O'Connor | Reply

    whaaaaaaaaa? no one has mention the jingle yet??!!!! well here goes…….. “hurry on down to Hartees, where the burgers are barbe cued! yaaaa hoo!” :-). Also I heard that the reason they closed was because some big wig embezzled most of the money and took off to the U.S. another urban legend maybe

  16. BRIAN REES (OATLEY) | Reply

    Paul its been a loooong time but, if memory serves me right wasnt it , Hurry on down to Hartee,s baby ? a 70.s era, baby was the catch word if the era of the day

  17. Well, you certainly did your research! Hartees was probably the first hamburger chain I ever visited. It’s always been a mystery to me, why they disappeared. I remember somebody at high school suggested they closed all their stores because of hygiene issues. I remember in the Nineteen-Eighties or Nineteen-Nineties watching one of those daytime talk shows. They were talking about fast food, probably McDonalds or some foreign chain. Whey they went to the commercial break, the studio band played the Hartees theme!

    1. That Geoff Harvey, what a prankster.

  18. Perry McCauley | Reply

    Even though the main ingredient was chunky and carvable , under forensic analysis , l’m sure , they’d be less prostituted with carcinogens , compared to the current crop of killer burgers.

  19. Hartee’s is now back in Australia; however, they’re using their West Coast brand name of “Carl’s Jr.” instead. None in Sydney though – the nearest is at Bateau Bay on the Central Coast.

  20. The one and only birthday party I had as a kid was supposed to be at McDonalds at Sans Souci in August 1973, but when we arrived, people were literally spilling across Rocky Point Road because Ronald McDonald was making one of his early instore appearances. Not to leave a carload of 8 year-old boys disappointed, my Dad took us to Hartee’s at Kogarah instead. Photos from the day would suggest we weren’t too disappointed!

    1. “Ronald Hartee” just doesn’t sound the same, does it?

      1. I guess not – but maybe “Birthday Hartee” was a missed marketing opportunity?

  21. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this photo yet- promo material for the opening of Kogarah Hartees, including a menu:

  22. I wonder if they regretted giving away all that free stuff when they went belly-up a few years later. Such largesse!

  23. As I young child I was taken to the Hartees in Cheltenham Victoria and loved it!!! Later, in the 80’s I was repairing the exhaust fan on top of a Chinese restaurant in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs and there, lying flat on the roof was the giant Hartees sign!

  24. Loving your work, Michael!

  25. I remember the hot dogs with chilli sauce. It made sense when they were closed down as the chilli sauce was chunky like ‘pal’ dog food and i recall u farted for hours after eating them.

  26. RIP Mike Willesee.

  27. I remember Hardee’s at Riverwood and had many a burger from there. My girlfriend had a part time job there after school. So sad that one report could close them down

  28. There was a Hartees store that was in Hartwell(Camberwell) on the V corner of Toorak & Camberwell Rd’s , I think it bcame a diary queen,and then became an Italian restaurant , then a pizza restraurant and then the site has since been completely re-developed into hideous apartments

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