MORE BIG BOY HISTORY THAN YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW
California chain Bob's Big Boy started as Bob's Pantry in 1936 when Big Boy founder Bob Wian bought a local Glendale restaurant. Wian developed a signature double-decker hamburger (the Big Boy) and a Big Boy statue with wavy hair that eventually became an icon to many restaurant goers. Wian turned to franchising sometime in or the 1940s, and unlike chains like McDonald's, Wian did not require strict uniformity among franchisees. Outside of California, Big Boy restaurants could go by their franchise owner's name, as some restaurants were called everything from Kip's Big Boy to Azar's Big Boy to Frisch's Big Boy. There were also franchises such as Tops Drive In that did not even use the Big Boy name, but did serve the Big Boy sandwich and used the image of Big Boy for advertising.
Eventually, the Marriott company bought the franchise business in 1967; and, in the late 1980s, many restaurants in Southern California were sold off and became Coco's or Carrows. Marriott sold Big Boy to the Elias brothers from Michigan in 1987, who then sold the bankrupt chain in 2000 to Robert Ligget. The chain, now based in Michigan and called Big Boy Restaurants International, has 160 restaurants, and according to CEO Tony Michaels, has developed a new store-design that will spearhead a re-introduction foray into Southern California.
In 1946 Dave Frisch of Cincinnatti, Ohio purchased Big Boy franchise rights from Bob Wian of Glendale, California, the originator of the Big Boy double decker sandwich and the Big Boy chain of restaurants. Dave did make one change to the sandwich - he used tartar sauce instead of thousand island dressing on the sandwich. This difference between the Frisch's Big Boy sandwich and all the other Big Boy sandwiches continues to this day. Frisch opened other Big Boys in northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana, then began selling franchises for Frisch's Big Boy, which his agreement with Mr Wian allowed. There are over 100 Frisch's Big Boy restaurants now covering much of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, and they no longer have any connection to Big Boy Restaurants International.
In 1951 Alex Schoenbaum purchased Big Boy franchise rights for the southeastern states, which meant that not only could he open his own Big Boy restaurants, he could sell franchises to others in the southeast, and so the Shoney's Big Boys expanded. In 1986 he dropped Big Boy, becoming instead just Shoney's Restaurants. He also began expanding outside the southeast. There are now over 300 Shoney's Restaurants, which have no connection with Big Boy.
In 1952, brothers Louis, Fred and John became franchisees and changed their diners to Elias Brothers Big Boy Restaurants -- featuring the double-decker hamburger, the Slim Jim, and the immortal chubby kid with a curl in his hair. They later (1987) purchased the base franchise rights from Marriott and during the period in which they owned these rights, bought out the Elby’s Big Boy restaurants in West Virginia, eastern Ohio, and western Pennslyvania.
There were several franchise owners who put their name on the Big Boy Restaurants they operated. Already mentioned are Kip’s, Azar’s, Frisch’s, Shoney’s, Elias Brothers, and Elby’s – others are Abdow’s, Franklin’s, JB’s, Lendy’s, Manner’s, Marc’s, and VIP’s. I very much doubt that this list is complete.