Big Boy Restaurants

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Big Boy Restaurants
Big Boy Restaurants International, LLC
TypeLimited liability company
IndustryCasual dining restaurant
Predecessor(s)Elias Brothers
Restaurants, Inc.;
The Marriott Corporation;
Robert C. Wian Enterprises;
Bob's Pantry
FoundedGlendale, California, United States, (1936)
Founder(s)Robert C. "Bob" Wian
HeadquartersWarren, Michigan, U.S.
Number of locations105 (USA)
Area servedMichigan (94), California (8), Ohio (2), Illinois (1), North Dakota (1) and Japan.
Key peopleRobert Liggett, Jr.,
(Chairman and President)
Keith E. Sirois, (CEO)
Jim Jenson, (Director)
Tony Michaels,
(CEO, 1999–2008)
  (Redirected from Big Boy (restaurant))
Jump to: navigation, search
Big Boy Restaurants
Big Boy Restaurants International, LLC
TypeLimited liability company
IndustryCasual dining restaurant
Predecessor(s)Elias Brothers
Restaurants, Inc.;
The Marriott Corporation;
Robert C. Wian Enterprises;
Bob's Pantry
FoundedGlendale, California, United States, (1936)
Founder(s)Robert C. "Bob" Wian
HeadquartersWarren, Michigan, U.S.
Number of locations105 (USA)
Area servedMichigan (94), California (8), Ohio (2), Illinois (1), North Dakota (1) and Japan.
Key peopleRobert Liggett, Jr.,
(Chairman and President)
Keith E. Sirois, (CEO)
Jim Jenson, (Director)
Tony Michaels,
(CEO, 1999–2008)

Big Boy Restaurants International, LLC. is a restaurant chain with its headquarters in Warren, Michigan, in Metro Detroit.[1] Big Boy also refers to Frisch's Big Boy Restaurants headquartered in Cincinnati.

Big Boy was started as Bob's Pantry in 1936 by Bob Wian in Glendale, California, USA.[2] The restaurant became known as "Bob's, Home of the Big Boy Hamburger" then as Bob's Big Boy. It became a local chain under that name and nationally under the Big Boy name, franchised by Robert C. Wian Enterprises. Marriott Corporation bought Big Boy in 1967. One of the larger franchise operators, Elias Brothers, purchased the chain from Marriott in 1987, moving the headquarters of the company to Warren, Michigan, and operating it until declaring bankruptcy in 2000. Following the bankruptcy, the chain was sold to investor Robert Liggett, Jr., who took over as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), renamed the company Big Boy Restaurants International (BBRI) and kept the headquarters in Warren. The company is the operator or franchisor for 106 Big Boy restaurants in the United States.[3] BBRI also licenses over a hundred Big Boy restaurants operating in Japan.

Immediately after Liggett's purchase, Liggett Restaurant Enterprises—operating as Big Boy Restaurants International—negotiated an agreement with the other large franchise operator, Frisch's Restaurants, transferring to Frisch's ownership of the Big Boy trademarks in Kentucky, Indiana, and most of Ohio and Tennessee, and transferring all other Frisch's territories to Liggett.[4] Thus Frisch's is no longer a franchisee but Big Boy Restaurants International and Frisch's are now co-registrants of the Big Boy name and trademark with Frisch's operating or franchising 120 Big Boy restaurants in the United States.[5]


A Big Boy statue common to many restaurants in the chain.

The chain is best known for its trademark chubby boy in red-and-white checkered overalls holding a Big Boy sandwich (double-decker cheeseburger). The inspiration for Big Boy's name, as well as the model for its mascot, was Richard Woodruff (1932–1986), of Glendale, California.[6] When he was six years old, Woodruff walked into the diner Bob's Pantry as Bob Wian was attempting to name his new hamburger. Wian said, "Hello, Big Boy" to Woodruff, and the name stuck. Warner Bros. animation artist Ben Washam sketched Richard's caricature, which became the character seen on the company trademark. The Big Boy character was revised in 1956 by an artist working for Ken Bird, a Big Boy paper products supplier and Manfred Bernhard, son of legendary graphic designer Lucian Bernhard.[7] This 1956 Big Boy figure was used for large painted fiberglass statues placed outside the restaurants and was featured in The Adventures of Big Boy comic book, produced as a promotional giveaway for children visiting the restaurants. Bernhard produced the comic book for forty years until 1997 and the comic book has since been produced by Craig Yoe’s Yoe! Studio. Another longtime promotion was the Big Boy Club, offering coupons and premiums to children, who joined by sending in an application from the comic book.

In 1951, Bob Wian's original franchisee Dave Frisch developed a slightly different Big Boy character. He was slimmer, wore a side cap and was portrayed in a skipping posture, with "Big Boy" written on the sleeve rather than the chest of his shirt. (The side cap allowed space for the franchise name.) Originally he wore striped overalls and had reddish or blond hair, but now usually has checkered overalls and dark brown hair. Known as the "East Coast Big Boy", he was registered to Frisch's and used for statues and comic books for Frisch's, and its subfranchisees Manners and Azar's. Before 1956, some franchisees, such as Shoney's, would use both versions, though never together. Since 1956, the Wian "West Coast Big Boy" design was used exclusively by all franchisees other than Frisch's, Manners and Azar's. In the late 1960s both characters were redrawn to look very similar, incorporating the checkered outfit and darker hair from the West Coast design and the skipping pose and direction of the East Coast design. In the 1980s, the West Coast design would lose the hamburger. Representing a deemphasis of the hamburger in North American Big Boy restaurants, it also accommodated the Japanese Big Boy restaurants, which do not serve hamburgers on a bun.

The signature Big Boy hamburger which is the original double decker hamburger started as a joke. In February 1937, members of the Glendale High School Orchestra, who were regular customers, visited Bob’s Pantry, one asking, “How about something different, something special?” Bob Wian improvised, creating the first (then unnamed) Big Boy, intending the thing “look ridiculous, like a leaning tower”. Demand for the unique burger took off and Wian sought a "snappy" name, which became Big Boy.[8] Some reports say Richard Woodruff was nicknamed "Fat Boy" and the Big Boy was first called the Fat Boy hamburger until discovering Fat Boy was a protected trademark.[9]

The Big Boy consists of two thin beef patties placed on a three layer bun with lettuce, a single slice of cheese, and either mayonnaise with red relish (as Wian made it), Big Boy special sauce (thousand island dressing) or (in some locations) tartar sauce on each slice of bun. (Regardless, the Big Boy condiment used was often simply referred to as "special sauce" on menus chainwide.) Wian used a sesame seed bun while Frisch's used a plain bun and included pickles. For its opening in 1949, Eat'n Park of Pittsburgh advertised its Big Boy hamburgers including a sliced (slice of) tomato.[10] The Big Boy hamburger originally called for a quarter pound (4 ozs.) of fresh ground beef, but later, franchisees were permitted to use frozen beef patties, and the minimum content reduced to a fifth of a pound (3.2 ozs.) of beef, perhaps in response to McDonald's Big Mac.

Big Boy restaurants also became known for two special dessert items: Strawberry Pie and Hot Fudge Cake.

Big Boy offers breakfast, burgers and sandwiches, salads, dinner combinations, and various desserts.

Regional franchises[edit]

In addition to the Bob's Big Boy name, the "Big Boy" concept, menu, and mascot were originally licensed to a wide number of regional franchise holders, listed below (with approximate licensed territories in parentheses). Because many of the early franchisees were already in the restaurant business when joining Big Boy, "Big Boy" was added to the franchisee name just as the Big Boy hamburger was added to the franchisee's menu. In this sense it is confusing when referring to a chain, as each named franchisee was itself a chain and Big Boy could be considered a chain of chains. People tend to know Big Boy not simply as Big Boy but as the franchise from where they lived such as Bob's Big Boy in California, Shoney's Big Boy in the south or Frisch's Big Boy in much of Ohio, among the many others.

Each regional franchisee typically operated a central commissary which prepared or processed foods and sauces to be shipped fresh to their restaurants. Other items were prepared at the restaurants daily, such as soups and breading of seafood and onion rings.

Through the 1950s and 1960s the emphasis changed from drive-in restaurant to coffee shop and family restaurant. New franchisees without existing restaurants signed on. A larger standard menu was developed. Most adopted a common graphic design of menus and promotional items, personalized to the franchisee. Stock plans of restaurant designs were provided by Los Angeles architects Armet and Davis. In the 1960s and 1970s Bob's, Shoney's and JB's opened Big Boy Jr. stores, designed as fast food operations which offered a limited menu.

Big Boy's origins as a drive in restaurant, required a much smaller investment to open and much lower costs to operate: a small building having no dining room or limited counter space. Thus persons of modest assets could become Big Boy operators. It was the profits from these operations which allowed not only additional drive ins, but operators to build the modern restaurants with large pleasant dining rooms. Many of the early successful franchisees would probably not have assets (converted to present value) sufficient to join Big Boy today.

By 1979 there were more than a thousand Big Boy restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, and about 20 franchisees. Shoney's, Elias Brothers and Frisch's—charter franchisees—controlled the vast majority.[11] These mega franchisees paid practically no fees, e.g., Frisch paid $1/year for its core four state territory. After Bob's, the four original franchisees (in order) were Frisch's, Eat'n Park, Shoney's (originally Parkette) and Elias Brothers, all clustered near the state of Ohio. All, including Bob's, remain in operation today, albeit Elias Brothers is simply known as Big Boy, and Eat'n Park and Shoney's dropped Big Boy affiliation in the 1970s and 1980s.

Big Boy developed named franchisees in several ways. Very quickly the Big Boy name and even the Big Boy character were being widely used without permission. Bob Wian, needing diverse exposure for national (U.S.) trademark protection, offered very generous franchise agreements to Frisch's, Eat'n Park and Parkette (Shoney's). In 1952, Wian instituted a formal franchise process and Elias Brothers became the first such "official" franchisee. Bob Wian also settled trademark infringements allowing the rogue operator to become a licensed franchisee, such as McDowell's Big Boy in North Dakota.[12] Subfranchisees often used their own name and operated independently: Frisch's licensed Manners and Azar's; Shoney's licensed Elby's, Becker's, Shap's, Lendy's and Yoda's. Elby’s licensed Franklin’s Big Boy in eastern Pennsylvania. Acquisitions and mergers also occurred. In the early 1970s Frisch's acquired Kip's Big Boy; JB's acquired Vip's, Kebo's, Leo's and Bud's which were rebranded JB's. After buying Big Boy, Elias Brothers bought Elby's and TJ's. Elby's was unique in leaving and rejoining the Big Boy system. When Marriott purchased Big Boy (Wian Enterprises) in 1967, this included Bob's Big Boy. The name “Bob’s” would be used by all Marriott owned Big Boys and became common in parts of the eastern U.S. and elsewhere, far away from Bob’s historic territory.

Frisch's now owns the "Big Boy" name in a defined four state region, and Azar's and Bob's are licensed by Frisch's Big Boy and Big Boy Restaurants International, respectively. Many of the other former franchise owners (Shoney's, particularly) have expanded into the former territories of other franchise holders. Prohibiting franchisees from publically using their own names is intended to strengthen the trademark but also prevent defections, such as happened with Shoney's Big Boy retaining identity as Shoney's.[13][14] The same occurred with Eat'n Park, Elby's, Lendy's, JB's, and Abdow's who kept their names after leaving Big Boy. Big Boy now permits operators to identify by location such as Tawas Bay Big Boy in East Tawas, Michigan.

Unlike most modern franchises, the historic Big Boy franchisees differed somewhat from one another in pricing and menus. When Elias Brothers purchased Big Boy in 1987, intentions were to standardize the name and menu, but Bob's, Frisch's and McDowell's (now known as Bismarck Big Boy) continue to offer distinctions from the standard Big Boy menu.[15]

Roster of named franchisees[edit]

Named Big Boy franchisees are listed below with territories, time span, founders and additional notes, as known:

There were various franchisees and subfranchisees who operated under another franchisee's name or simply as Big Boy.

A Big Boy Restaurant in Chōfu, Tokyo, Japan.

Mady's Big Boy of Windsor, Ontario was not a franchisee, though sometimes identified as one and using a similar looking mascot.[54] In 1965 Bob Wian sued Mady's for trademark infringement but failed because (his) Big Boy was judged not widely known in Canada. The case is considered important in Canadian and international trademark law.[55] In 1973 Elias Brothers bought Mady's and established an Elias Big Boy on Mady's original site.[56] John Bitove, Sr. owned the rights to Big Boy for the remainder of Canada, which he sold to Elias Brothers in 1979.[35]

Outside of North America, Big Boy Japan owns and operates 296 locations (as of September 2007) throughout Japan under four restaurant names: Big Boy (199 stores), Milky Way (50), Victoria Station (43), and Grill Dan (4).[57] The Japanese Big Boy Restaurants don't offer the Big Boy hamburger or most other American Big Boy menu items, offering a distinct menu instead.[58] They also offer beer and wine.[58]

Big Boy also operated (or planned to open) restaurants in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, the Philippines and Thailand.

In addition, Big Boy established @burger, a new concept casual dining restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is now closed.[59]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Comments." Big Boy. Retrieved on November 23, 2012. "4199 Marcy St. Warren, MI 48091"
  2. ^ Hansen, Christian (2002). The Big Boy Story: "King of Them All". Santa Barbara: Haagen Printing. p. 11. ISBN 978-0967194363. 
  3. ^ "Locations: Big Boy". Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ " Transfer Agreement between The Liggett Restaurant Group and Frisch's Restaurants, Inc.", January 12, 2001.
  5. ^ a b "Our Company: Frequently Asked Questions". Frisch's Big Boy. Retrieved January 30, 2014. "Q How many Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurants are there? A As of September 2013, Frisch’s operates 95 Big Boy restaurants, and franchises another 25 to other Big Boy operations." 
  6. ^ "Richard Woodruff Dies at 54; Model for 'Big Boy' Statues". The New York Times (New York). October 28, 1986. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ Hansen, Christian (2002). The Big Boy Story: "King of Them All". Santa Barbara: Haagen Printing. p. 12. ISBN 978-0967194363. 
  8. ^ Lawrence, Larry (December 16, 1958). "From Dishwasher to Owner of Chain of Restaurants Is the Story of Bob Wian". The Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet (The Journal Company). Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  9. ^ Carlino, Bill (February 1996). "Bob Wian". Nation's Restaurant News (Penton Media) 30 (6): 166. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Bring Your Family to Eat'n Park (advertisement)". The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh). June 4, 1949. p. 3. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  11. ^ Glassett, Janie. "[Big Boy Progress Image at] Janies's Big Boy Webpage: Big Boy Family Newsletter". Archived from the original on July 19, 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "'Big Boy' Trademark Suit Opens, Glendale Firm Asks Verdict". The Independent Star News (Pasadena). July 26, 1959. p. 11. 
  13. ^ a b "Elby's rejoins Big Boy chain". Observer Reporter (Washington, PA: Observer Publishing Company). August 3, 1988. p. C-6. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  14. ^ Frisch's Restaurant, Inc. v. Shoney's Inc., 759 F.2d 1261, 1265-6 (6th Cir. 1985) (“In the case at bar, the district court concluded that the "Big Boy" mark was neither an indicator of origin nor distinctive, but was "a relatively weak mark". ... By emphasizing "Shoney's Big Boy Restaurants", as it did in its advertising, Shoney's has identified itself as the source of the services.”).
  15. ^ "Around the Mountain State". Point Pleasant Register. August 4, 1988. p. 14. Retrieved June 27, 2013. "[A]ll restaurants in the chain will operate under the Big Boy name with standardized menus across the nation. Individual franchise names will be phased out gradually." 
  16. ^ "George Abdow, co-founder of Springfield-area Abdow's Big Boy restaurant chain, dies at 82". The Republican (Springfield, MA). May 29, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  17. ^ Massachusetts Secretary of State Corporate Search: Abdow's Big Boy of Riverdale, Inc. 
  18. ^ "Big Boy Bounced from New England". Kingman Daily Miner (Kingman, AZ). April 15, 1994. p. 1. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  19. ^ Seltzer, Debra Jane. "Big Boy (page 2)". Retrieved March 3, 2013. "In 1954, the first Azar's opened in Fort Wayne" 
  20. ^ Wyche, Paul (December 1, 2013). "Azars shifting family business from food to property". The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne: Fort Wayne Newspapers). Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c Schaffer, Frank (April 17, 1962). "Charleston Drive-In Zooms To Huge 10-State Business". Charleston Daily Mail. pp. 12, 17. Retrieved February 26, 2013. ""Then came the expansion outside West Virginia with franchised stores. Before 1956, Shoney's restaurants were operating in Richmond, Salem, Hampton, Norfolk and Newport News, Va., Rochester, N. Y., Philadelphia, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Wheeling [WV]." [In this list, the Rochester franchise is Becker's, the Wheeling franchise is Elby's and the Chattanooga franchise is Shap's.]" 
  22. ^ Baker, Jim (March 18, 2010). "Out of the Past: Johnson's Drive-In, Route 5 in Athol Springs, 1957" (PDF). The Sun (Hamburg (NY)). p. 12. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  23. ^ Rickner, Amanda (March 15, 2012). "JB’s Restaurant being demolished, property listed for $1.2 million". Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Bozeman MT: Pioneer News Group). Retrieved October 8, 2013. "The restaurant was constructed in the early 1970s, according to city building records. For a time, it was a Bud’s Big Boy restaurant before becoming JB’s." 
  24. ^ Rochester, Helen (August 9, 1978). "Lunch in Westmount: Modified Big Boy is no treat". The [Montreal] Gazette (Southam Press). Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Peters, co-founder of Eat'n Park, dead at 87", Nation's Restaurant News, August 28, 2000.
  26. ^ "Obituary: William D. Peters / President of Eat'n Park restaurants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 20, 2000. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  27. ^ Kapner, Suzanne, "After 46 years, Eat'n Park still revs sales, appetites", Nation's Restaurant News, Sept 18, 1995.
  28. ^ a b Frisch's Restaurant, Inc. v. Elby's Big Boy, 661 F.Supp. 971 (S.D. Ohio, E.D. 1987).
  29. ^ "Elby's Big Boy Strawberry Festival (Advertisement)". Observer Reporter (Washington, PA: Observer Publishing Company). April 26, 1994. p. B-2. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  30. ^ Hansen, Christian (2002). The Big Boy Story: "King of Them All". Santa Barbara: Haagen Printing. p. 111. ISBN 978-0967194363. 
  31. ^ "Big Boy Hamburger Now At Frejlach's". Arlington Heights Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). October 7, 1954. p. 12. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  32. ^ 1956 Oak Park Telephone Directory. 1956. p. 133. 
  33. ^ "Frisch’s Big Boy Celebrates Founder’s Day May 3". [Official] Frisch's Big Boy of Northwest Ohio. Retrieved July 29, 2013. "Toledo brothers Milton & David Bennett purchased the franchise rights to build and operate Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants in Northwest Ohio. Bennett Enterprises owns and operates 13 family-style restaurants with drive-thru service under the name Frisch’s Big Boy." 
  34. ^ a b Big Boy Restaurants. Big Boy Restaurants 1986 50th Anniversary Western-Central US Road Map (Map) (1986 ed.). Section back cover. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  35. ^ a b "Executive Summary: John Bitove, Sr.". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  36. ^ "EZ’S COFFEE SHOP (formerly KIP’S BIG BOY)at Northwest Highway & Hillcrest, North Dallas TO BE DEMOLISHED?", Preservation Dallas web site.
  37. ^ "Lendy's Web Page, part 4". Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. 
  38. ^ a b "Lendy's Web Page, part 2". Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. 
  39. ^ "Owner Realizes Early Ambitions". Spokane Daily Chronicle. May 1, 1970. p. 23. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Restaurants", The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History online.
  41. ^ Feran, Tom (September 2, 2005). "Manners Big Boy's secret is on the tip of my tongue". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland: Newhouse Newspapers). Archived from the original on April 21, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  42. ^ "New Hampshire Corporate Record: Keene Big Boy, Inc.". Retrieved February 12, 2013. 
  43. ^ Hansen, Christian (2002). The Big Boy Story: "King of Them All". Santa Barbara: Haagen Printing. p. 75. ISBN 978-0967194363. "On a plane trip to Keene, New Hampshire . . . to visit with [Big Boy] franchisee Manfred Bernhard, creator of the Big Boy Comic Book. . . . . Manfred greeted us at the plane in his car, loaded us in, and we drove in an opposite direction to his restaurant, Mr. "B's"." 
  44. ^ Glassett, Janie. "(Mr. B's Image at) Janies's Big Boy Webpage". Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  45. ^ Jolley, Harmon (July 16, 2002). "What Did That Building Used To Be? - Shap's". The Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  46. ^ "Print ads in The Contest of the Century", The Charleston Gazette and The Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, WV), 1952–55, retrieved June 27, 2012 
  47. ^ Zuckerman, David (May 7, 1984). "Shoney's secedes from Big Boy system". Nation's Restaurant News (Penton Media). Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  48. ^ "91 A.D.2d 860 (1982): Gazda v. Kolinski"
  49. ^ "Obituary: Lucian Frejlach". Oshkosh Northwestern (Gannett). February 9, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  50. ^ "New Restaurant Is Planned Here". Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque: Journal Publishing Co.). January 19, 1962. p. 2. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 
  51. ^ "JB's Big Boy Plans Fall Stock Offering". The Deseret News (Salt Lake City). September 1, 1972. p. 4T. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  52. ^ "VIP's officials announce sale of restaurants". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon). August 18, 1984. p. 9B. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  53. ^ Big Boy Restaurants of Florida
  54. ^ "[Advertisement] Mady's Big Boy Turns Back the Clock on Food Prices!". The Windsor Star. March 23, 1968. p. D3. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  55. ^ McDonald's Corporation v Joburgers Drive-Inn Restaurant (Pty) Ltd. and Another; McDonald's Corporation v Dax Prop CC and Another; McDonald's Corporation v Joburgers Drive-Inn Restaurant (Pty) Ltd. and Another [1996] ZASCA 82 (27 August 1996), Supreme Court of Appeal (South Africa)
  56. ^ Kent, Jack (December 26, 1973), "Business Highlights: Elias Big Boy to open here", The Windsor Star (Windsor, ON, Canada): 20 
  57. ^ Matsutani, Minoru (January 25, 2011). "Family restaurants falling from flavor". Japan Times (Tokyo: Toshiaki Ogasawara). Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  58. ^ a b "Big Boy Japan Menu Items". Big Boy Japan. Retrieved February 9, 2013. 
  59. ^ Big Boy's @burger restaurant closes on East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor
  60. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Big Boy Company Sites
Other Sites