The only remaining Sambo's Restaurant, in Santa Barbara, California (2005)
|Current owner(s)||Chad Stevens|
|Street address||216 West Cabrillo Boulevard|
Sambo's is a restaurant, formerly an American restaurant chain, started in 1957 by Sam Battistone, Sr. and Newell Bohnett. Though the name was taken from portions of the names of its founders, the chain soon found itself associated with The Story of Little Black Sambo. Battistone, Sr. and Bohnett capitalized on the coincidence by decorating the walls of the restaurants with scenes from the book, including a dark-skinned boy, tigers, and a pale, magical unicycle-riding man called "The Treefriend". By the early 1960s, the illustrations depicted a light-skinned boy wearing a jeweled Indian-style turban with the tigers. A kids club, Sambo's Tiger Tamers (later called the Tiger Club), promoted the chain's family image.
By 1979, Sambo's had 1,117 outlets in 47 American states. However, in the late 1970s, controversy over the chain's name drew protests and lawsuits in communities that viewed the term Sambo as pejorative towards African-Americans, particularly in the Northeastern states. Several of the restaurants were opened as or renamed to "The Jolly Tiger" in locations where the local community passed resolutions forbidding the use of the original name or refused to grant the chain permits.
There were other corporate level decisions being made at the time that also led to Sambo's corporate demise. There was pressure to take Sambo's into a more normal salaried manager compensation package. Their unique "Fraction of the Action" promotion - whereby managers were entitled to 20% of the profits from their stores, with employees allowed to bid for a percentage of the remaining profits - was an early company expansion plan and the growth of the company outpaced its control. In March 1981, in a further attempt to give the chain a new image the company again renamed some locations, this time to "No Place Like Sam's". By November 1981, the company filed for bankruptcy. Neither the name change nor bankruptcy protection reversed the downward trend, and in 1982 all but the original Sambo's at 216 West Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara, California, closed their doors. By February 1983, 618 of the locations were renamed Season's Friendly Eating. Several locations were sold to Denny's.
Sam Battistone, Jr. is also the original owner of the New Orleans Jazz in the NBA. He later moved the team to Utah and sold it. Battistone's grandson, restaurateur Chad Stevens, owns the only remaining Sambo's.
- New York Times: Market Place; Mistakes At Sambo's, 27 November 1981
- "A New Name". Time 118 (7): 67. August 17, 1981.
- Bernstein, Charles (1984). Sambo's: Only a Fraction of the Action : the Inside Story of a Restaurant Empire's Rise and Fall. Burbank, CA: National Literary Guild. ISBN 9780866662024.
- Jones, Thomas David (1998). Human Rights: Group Defamation, Freedom of Expression and the Law of Nations. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 107–117. ISBN 90-411-0265-5.
- "Company News: Sambo's to Alter Northeast Names". The New York Times. March 11, 1981. Retrieved January 3, 2008.
- "Chapter 11 Petition Is Filed by Sambo's". The New York Times. November 28, 1981.[page needed]
- http://www.sambosrestaurant.com/across.htm[dead link]
- "Six Area Restaurants to Get New Name". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. December 10, 1982. p. 6B. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
- "Denny's Expands in S. Florida". The Palm Beach Post. June 24, 1983. p. D1. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- "The Move to Utah". HornetsReport.com. Retrieved August 7, 2012.