||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2007)|
|Type||Public (NYSE MKT: FRS)|
|Industry||Restaurant, Casual dining, Drive-thru|
|Headquarters||Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.|
|Key people||Samuel Frisch, Founder
Dave Frisch, Founder (Big Boy)
Craig F. Maier, CEO & President
Jack C. Maier, CEO & President, 1970-1989
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 2010 there were 118 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 parent.
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. 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. It was not until 1939 that expansion occurred with the opening of the Mainliner 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.
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 obtain 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 red relish (later simplified to Thousand Island dressing by other Big Boy franchisees), Frisch chose his own homemade tartar sauce as the condiment. 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. 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.
In 1948, the first Frisch's Big Boy restaurant, "Big Boy One," opened on Central Parkway a short drive north of downtown Cincinnati. Although the look has changed, Frisch's still operates in that location today.
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). Frisch's also licensed Manners Big Boy in the Cleveland, Ohio TV market, Azar's Big Boy in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and for several years 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. Overall, the law suits 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. Frisch's ended Kip's operations in 1991, and sold that territory as well as 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.
In 1982, 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 tear them down and rebuild 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 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 2010, Frisch's operates 93 restaurants and franchises another 25 to other Big Boy operations. Thirteen Frisch's Big Boy restaurants in the Toledo, Ohio, area are owned and operated by Bennett Enterprises.
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
- Toasted plain bottom bun
Commercials and slogans
In earlier years, Frisch's adaptation of the Big Boy caricature had blond hair, cartoon-like eyes, slightly cherubic facial features, and wore striped pants instead of the traditional checkered bib overall-type pants used by other Big Boy franchises. Today the Frisch's mascot sports the checkered pants more often. Except for changing the hair from blond to brown, Big Boy's facial features remain the same as in the 1950s.
Throughout the 70s, Frisch's used the popular "Frisch's Has So Much More", which was also used by other Big Boy franchises across the country including Kip's Big Boy restaurants throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
In the mid-80s, Frisch's launched a "Should Big Boy Stay Or Go?" campaign, asking customers to vote on whether or not Big Boy should continue to be used for Frisch's 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."