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Big Boy
Type Restaurant
Founded 1936
Headquarters Warren, Michigan, U.S.
Key people Bob Wian, founder
Robert Liggett, Jr.
Keith E. Sirois, CEO
Industry casual dining restaurant

Big Boy is a restaurant chain started in 1936 by Bob Wian, in partnership with Arnold Peterson in Glendale, California, USA. Marriott Corporation bought the chain 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 and kept the headquarters in Warren. The company is the franchisor for more than 455 Big Boy restaurants in the United States and Canada.



The chain is best known for its trademark chubby boy in red- and white-checked 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 (1936–1986), of Glendale, California. When he was six years old, he 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 logo. This character would also eventually be featured in The Adventures of Big Boy comic book, produced as a promotional giveaway for children visiting the restaurant. Since 1997, the comic book has been produced by Craig Yoe's Yoe Studio. Another longtime promotion was the Big Boy Kids Club, offering coupons and premiums to members, who joined by sending in an application from the comic book.

Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, California

A Big Boy sandwich consists of two thin beef patties placed on a three layer sesame seed bun with lettuce, a single slice of cheese, and Thousand-Island salad dressing, or (in some locations) tartar sauce on each slice of bun. Unlike the similar McDonald's Big Mac, onions were not automatically put on the sandwich. They had to be ordered as an add-on. Secondly, because of the kitchen set-up, you could request that the beef patties be char-broiled. The chain also offers other sandwich combinations, such as the Brawny Lad (a hamburger patty topped with a slice of onion on a rye bun), along with salads, dinner combinations, and various desserts.

Regional franchises

A Big Boy Restaurant in Chōfu, Tokyo, Japan.

In addition to the Bob's Big Boy name, the "Big Boy" concept, menu, and mascot were originally franchised to a wide number of regional franchise holders, listed below (with approximate original territory in parentheses). Of these, only Frisch's still maintains franchise rights to the "Big Boy" name, and many of the other former franchise owners (Shoney's, for example) have expanded into areas that were once the territory of another franchise holder, and the current Big Boy Restaurants International has been expanding its Bob's Big Boy name into territories formerly held by franchisees.

Unlike most modern franchises, the various restaurants differed somewhat from one another in terms of pricing and menu offerings.

  • Abdow's (Massachusetts, Connecticut)
  • Azar's (Northern Indiana, Colorado)
  • Becker's (Rochester, NY area before TJ's)
  • Big Boy of Florida (Exclusive rights to the Central Florida territory was acquired by Irv Lichtenwald from 2006 through 2011 with the right to extend this franchise for 6 additional years)
  • Bob's (California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Northeastern Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, as well as Indiana and Pennsylvania turnpike and airport locations operated in several states by the Marriott Corp.)
  • Eat'n Park (metro Pittsburgh) dropped Big Boy in 1975.
  • Elby's (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio) owned the Big Boy rights to northern West Virginia, originally through Shoney's and quickly expanded Big Boy into bordering Ohio counties, subfranchised through Frisch's, and later expanded through Pennsylvania. A trademark battle with Frisch's over Ohio operations caused Elby's to drop Big Boy affiliation, to be followed by Shoney's et al.
  • Elias Brothers (Michigan, Northeastern Ohio, Ontario, Canada)
  • Frisch's (Ohio, Kentucky, S. Indiana, Florida until the early 1990s) the Cincinnati restaurant chain and first franchisee, began serving Big Boy hamburgers in 1946; Frisch's now operates 88 Big Boys & franchises 32 Big Boys to others. They also franchise Golden Corrals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
  • JB's (Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas)
  • JB's (Canada) (Ontario and Alberta in the 1970s)
  • Kebo's (Seattle & Tacoma, Washington area before JB's and Bob's)
  • Ken's (Maryland - suburban Washington DC, became Bob's late 1960s)
  • Kip's (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas)
  • Lendy's (Western Virginia)
  • Leo's {Spokane, Washington, Montana}
  • Mady's (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)
  • Manners (Northeastern Ohio)
  • Marc's (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois) were owned by the Marcus Corporation. Some were sold, others were converted to Marc's Cafe & Coffee Mill and later Annie's American Cafe. Most now operate as Perkins.
  • McDowell's (North Dakota)
  • Shoney's (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Maryland), founded by and named after Alex Schoenbaum, no longer displays the Big Boy Statue, because it dropped its relationship with Big Boy in 1984 in order to expand to other states where others owned the trademark. It was the second Big Boy franchisee and subfranchised to Elby's and Lendy's.
  • Ted's (Rhode Island)
  • TJ's (New York)
  • Tops (Illinois)
  • Tote's {St.Louis, Mo. area before Shoney's}
  • Vip's (New Mexico)
  • Yoda's(Western Virginia)

Also, Big Boy Japan owns and operates 216 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).


Further reading

  • Hansen, Christian (2002). The Big Boy Story: "King of Them All". Haagen Printing. ISBN 0-9671943-6-9.  

External links

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