"What's Your Favorite Thing?"
|Type||Public (NYSE MKT: FRS)|
|Industry||Restaurant, Casual dining, Drive-thru|
1946 (serving Big Boys)
1948 (joined Big Boy)
|Headquarters||Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.|
|Number of locations||120|
|Key people||Craig F. Maier,
(CEO & President)
Daniel W. Geeding,
(Chairman of the Board)
Karen F. Maier,
(Vice President: Marketing)
Jack C. Maier,
(CEO & President, 1970–89)
Frisch's Big Boy is a regional Big Boy restaurant chain. For many years a Big Boy franchisee, today Frisch's is the exclusive owner of Big Boy in Indiana, Kentucky, and most of Ohio and Tennessee and has no affiliation with Big Boy Restaurants International. In September 2013, there were 120 restaurants in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Frisch's is the oldest, longest surviving Big Boy "franchise", excluding Bob's Big Boy in California, which was the original Big Boy and franchisor.
Frisch's previously owned numerous Golden Corral restaurants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia but after closing six underperforming stores in 2011, Frisch's sold the remainder in March 2012.
In 1905, Samuel Frisch opened the Frisch Cafe in Cincinnati, Ohio. Five years later he closed the café and moved to the Norwood suburb of Cincinnati soon opening another café there. Success brought a new building in 1915 for the restaurant then known as Frisch's Stag Lunch. He continued to operate the cafe until his death in 1923. Three of Samuel's sons, David, Reuben and Irving, continued operating their father's cafe after his death.
In 1932 Dave Frisch sold his interest in Stag Lunch and opened his own Frisch's Café. Although Frisch's Café was a success—a second location opened—the effects of the Great Depression led to bankruptcy and both units closed in 1938. Frisch was in business again when Fred Cornuelle, a local businessman provided monies for a new restaurant and in 1939 the Mainliner opened on Wooster Pike in Fairfax. Cincinnati's first year-round drive-in, it was named after a passenger airplane flying overhead into nearby Lunken Airport. By 1944 a second Frisch's restaurant opened, designed to resemble George Washington's home: Mount Vernon.
Becoming a Big Boy franchise
During or immediately after World War II, Dave Frisch visited one of Bob Wian's Big Boy restaurants in California. Although he was unable to meet Wian, Frisch was impressed with the double-decker Big Boy hamburger and recognized the efficiency of two thinner beef patties cooking faster than a single thicker patty.
Unknown to Dave Frisch, Bob Wian was disturbed by drive-in operators outside California using the Big Boy name and hamburger without permission. In order to maintain national trademark protection, Wian needed his Big Boy restaurants to operate in other regions of the United States. So when two men later met, Wian offered Frisch a sweetheart deal of $1 per year for a four state territory. The territory included the Cincinnati tri-state region of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and added Florida to increase Big Boy's national span. Frisch accepted and became the first Big Boy franchisee.
Being the first franchisee, an ad hoc arrangement allowed Dave Frisch unique freedoms. Where Bob Wian dressed his Big Boy hamburger with mayonnaise and his own homemade red relish, Frisch eventually changed this to his own homemade tartar sauce as the condiment and used dill pickles in his Big Boy. (Early Frisch's menus show he used tarter sauce on hamburgers and cheeseburgers, but mayonnaise on his Big Boys.) This made Frisch's stand out from most other Big Boy restaurants. (Frisch's licensee Manners Big Boy used a similar tartar sauce on its Big Boy hamburger.) Frisch's tartar sauce became the signature sauce served with other menu items, and was eventually sold in jars for take home use. However the use of tarter sauce on Frisch's Big Boy hamburgers wasn't simply a matter of taste. Frisch recognized the use of a single combined condiment was simpler and faster. Later the Big Boy system adopted the idea, using the combined form of red relish and mayonnaise, commonly known as thousand island dressing, on Big Boy hamburgers.
Dave Frisch also created his own Big Boy character: a thinner boy with reddish or blond hair, wearing striped rather than checkered overalls, presented in a running or skipping pose. Known as the East Coast Big Boy, this mark represented Frisch's and its licensees Manners and Azar's through 1969. Most Frisch's Big Boy restaurants still display statues from this design, albeit usually repainted with brown hair and checkered overalls.
Dave Frisch began selling Big Boy hamburgers in 1946 at Frisch's Mainliner Drive-In. After forging an agreement with Bob Wian, the first Frisch's Big Boy Drive-In restaurant, "Big Boy One," opened in 1948 on Central Parkway north of downtown Cincinnati.
In 1949, Frisch's opened its first restaurant in Kentucky, and, over the next decade, it expanded throughout southern Ohio and into Indiana. Early restaurants built during this time offered carhop services. With many opportunities, franchisees opened restaurants throughout the tri-state area, which helped Frisch's grow and expand (eventually reaching as far north as Columbus and Toledo, as far east as Athens and Lancaster, Ohio and as far south as Florida). In 1954 Frisch's licensed Manners Big Boy in the Cleveland, Ohio TV market and Azar's Big Boy in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. In 1955, Frisch's franchised northwest Ohio to Toledo brothers Milton and David Bennett, to operate under the Frisch's Big Boy name.
In 1966 and 1969 Frisch's licensed two Elby's Big Boys in the upper Ohio Valley. After the death of Dave Frisch, a third Ohio Elby's Big Boy prepared to open in 1971, but Frisch's unexpectedly demanded much higher fees for the unit. In response, Elby's cancelled all ties to Frisch's and operated independently of Big Boy in Ohio, including in direct competition to Frisch's in the Columbus market. Protracted litigation followed as Frisch's sued Elby's and eventually Shoney's for operating non-Big Boy restaurants in Frisch's Big Boy territory, while operating Big Boys in neighboring states. Overall, the lawsuits were unsuccessful and both Elby's and Shoney's dropped Big Boy affiliation completely.
In 1972, Frisch's purchased Kip's Big Boy which covered Texas, Oklahoma and areas of Kansas. In 1988, in exchange for allowing Elias Brothers to operate (former Elby's and Manner's) Big Boys in Ohio, Frisch's received Big Boy rights in parts of Tennessee and Georgia. Frisch's ended Kip's operations in 1991, and sold that territory as well as Georgia and Florida to Big Boy Restaurants International in 2001.
Frisch's released its famous tartar sauce to local grocery stores in 1960. However, times were changing. Frisch's faced competition from numerous restaurants, both national and local. McDonald's introduced the Filet-O-Fish in 1963 in an aggressive campaign against Frisch's. Some Frisch's restaurants did close in the 1970s and 1980s, but the company persevered in the remaining market and avoided extinction. Dave Frisch died in 1970, but he had already retired from the day-to-day activities of the business which had been taken up by his family.
Influence on other franchisees
Larry Hatch, founder of Eat'n Park Restaurants in Pittsburgh, observed the Frisch's operation in 1948 in Cincinnati. Hatch was so impressed that he quickly contacted Bob Wian and Eat'n Park opened in 1949 as the second Big Boy franchisee. Eat'n Park chose not to renew its Big Boy franchise agreement in 1975.
Alex Schoenbaum, founder of Shoney's (originally known as Parkette Drive-In) became close friends with Dave Frisch. Frisch prompted Schoenbaum to become the Big Boy franchisee for West Virginia and introduced him to Bob Wian. The original artwork for the Parkette used the Frisch "East Coast" Big Boy character, and print advertisements for Parkette would switch off, using both designs through 1954. Ironically, Shoney's eventually grew into Frisch's territorial boundaries causing Shoney's to drop Big Boy affiliation in 1985.
Both Eat'n Park and Shoney's, charter Big Boy franchisees, continue in operation today.
Frisch's created the "Brawny Lad" and "Swiss Miss" sandwiches which were added to the menus of most other Big Boy franchisees. The chopped sirloin sandwiches are distinctive for being served on rye buns.
In 1983, Frisch's began to reinvent itself by adding drive-thru service at many restaurants. It introduced the soup and salad bar, which had begun to be implemented by many fast-food eateries. With these introductions, Frisch's had to remodel older restaurants or demolish and rebuild them from the ground up to stay competitive. Drive in service was generally replaced by drive thrus, although carhops were retained at a few Cincinnati locations to cater to diners seeking the nostalgic dining experience. While other Big Boy franchises closed, were sold, filed for bankruptcy or dropped Big Boy affiliation, Frisch's Big Boy developed new concepts, including the introduction of a retro theme in newer restaurants. However, Frisch's closed their locations in Florida and all Kip's locations by the 1990s.
In 2000, Frisch's had the opportunity to purchase the national Big Boy chain, which was in bankruptcy, but declined the offer. As of September 2013, Frisch's operates 95 Big Boy restaurants and franchises another 25 to other Big Boy operations. Thirteen Frisch's Big Boy restaurants in the greater Toledo, Ohio area are owned and operated by Bennett Enterprises.
Frisch's was known for its "cherry" and "vanilla" Coke but switched to Pepsi products in December 2013. Frisch’s cited receiving a better deal from Pepsi while taste tests adding the same vanilla and cherry flavorings to fountain Pepsi were deemed acceptable. However the change stirred numerous protests at Frisch’s Facebook page from customers unhappy with the loss of Coke. Frisch’s noted that Toledo area franchised stores have served Pepsi for “a number of years”. Big Boy Restaurants International previously switched to from Coke to Pepsi in 2001, similarly citing a “great, interesting proposal” by Pepsi.
Frisch's Big Boy Hamburger
It is constructed as follows, from top to bottom:
- Toasted plain top bun
- 1/8 lb beef patty
- Shredded lettuce
- Frisch's Tartar Sauce
- Toasted plain center bun
- Slice of American cheese
- 1/8 lb beef patty
- Dill pickles
- Toasted plain bottom bun
Commercials and slogans
In earlier years, Frisch's adaptation of the Big Boy caricature was slimmer, had blond hair topped with a cook's cap, cartoon-like eyes, slightly cherubic facial features, and wore striped pants instead of the traditional checkered bib overall-type pants used by Bob's Big Boy. In the 1960s both characters were redrawn incorporating common elements. Both mascots now sport the checkered pants and brown hair. The new Frisch's Big Boy graphic was drawn with the pompadour and lost the cook's cap but otherwise the facial features remain the same as in the 1950s. This allowed Frisch's existing fiberglass statues to continue in use, with hair and overalls repainted. It is the typical statue displayed at Frisch's today, though several units use the Bob's Big Boy statue.
Throughout the 1970s, Frisch's used the popular "Frisch's Has So Much More", which was also adapted and used by other Big Boy franchises across the country including the Frisch owned Kip's Big Boy restaurant chain in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
In the mid-1980s, Marriott planned to retire the Big Boy character. As a publicity scheme, Marriott launched a "Should Big Boy Stay or Go?" campaign, asking customers at Frisch's and other Big Boy franchises to vote on whether or not the Big Boy should continue to be used for the trademark. Voters and loyal customers overwhelmingly voted that Big Boy should stay.
Slogan's used by Frisch's included, but were not limited to:
- "Frisch's Has So Much More" (1970s, also used by other Big Boy franchises, including Kip's in the southern U.S.)
- "Nobody Takes Care Of You Like Big Boy" (1980s)
- "What's Your Favorite Thing?"® (current)
A classic Frisch's jingle used on both Radio & TV in the 1960s went:
- "Stop and enjoy a big Big Boy,
- a double-deck hamburger treat,
- A national favorite, coast to coast,
- So stop and enjoy a big Big Boy."
- "Stop and enjoy a big Big Boy,
- "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."
- "History of Frisch's Restaurants, Inc.". International Directory of Company Histories 35. St. James Press. 2001. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
- An early undated Frisch's menu says "Big Boy Hamburger, 45¢, ...with Shredded Lettuce, Mayonnaise, Melted Cheese, Topped with Pickle". It also offers a "Regular Hamburger" and "Regular Cheeseburger", "with Lettuce and Tarter Sauce". The Big Boy's 45¢ price suggests the menu dates to circa 1951.
- "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."
- Frisch's Restaurant, Inc. v. Elby's Big Boy, 661 F.Supp. 971 (S.D. Ohio, E.D. 1987).
- "Frisch's loses appeal to stop Shoney's plans". Daily News (Bowling Green KY). April 28, 1985. pp. 10B. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "Obituary: William D. Peters / President of Eat'n Park restaurants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 20, 2000. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- Moore, Kara (2012), "All-American Tradition", WV Living Magazine (Spring 2012), retrieved July 29, 2012
- "Frisch's to Switch from Coca-Cola to Pepsi, Fans React Online". The River City News. Covington, KY. December 30, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- Cunningham, Libby (December 30, 2013). "Changing Coke for Pepsi: Frisch's makes the switch, hopes customers won't hold it against the eatery". WCPO (website). Cincinnati: Scripps TV Station Group. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "Big Boy Takes Pepsi Challenge, Drops Coke as Chain's Cola". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles: Tribune Company). July 31, 2001. Retrieved April 4, 2014.