Frisch's Big Boy

From Ohio History Central
Frisch's Menu Cover circa 1955.jpg
Frisch's Menu Cover circa 1955. Photograph courtesy of Frisch's Archives copyright Frisch's Restaurants, Inc. 2008, with Karen Maier's approval.

In 1923, upon his father's death, David Frisch began to operate his father's restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio. He continued to do so for the next nine years, before he sold the business to two of his brothers. That same year, Frisch decided to open a new restaurant in Oakley, Ohio, and six years later, he began a second restaurant in Norwood, Ohio, directly across the street from his father's old establishment. Unfortunately for Frisch, he went bankrupt that same year due to the expenses of operating two restaurants.

In 1939, Frisch, having learned from his earlier experiences, was back in the restaurant business, managing a restaurant in Fairfax, Ohio, known as the Mainliner. This establishment was the Cincinnati area's first drive-in eatery and eventually became the first Frisch's Big Boy restaurant. In 1944, Frisch, with financial backing from Fred Cornuelle, opened a second restaurant.

In 1947, Frisch formally established Big Boy restaurants. The previous year, he had met a man named Bob Wian while on a trip to Los Angeles, California. From Wian, Frisch learned about stacking two hamburger patties together. Thus, the Big-Boy hamburger was invented. Frisch's first Big Boy Restaurant was located in Cincinnati, but he eventually opened, per an agreement with Wian, eateries in Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida as well. This first restaurant, a drive-in, had room for eight customers inside and sixty cars outside. Frisch eventually franchised out 170 separate restaurants. Despite his success, he continued to bus tables during the lunch hour at one of his restaurants. Frisch believed that this allowed him to stay in touch with his customers. It also helped him realize which products his customers liked and disliked, allowing the restaurateur to make changes to the menu.

In 1970, David Frisch died, and Frisch's Big Boy's company president became Jack Maier, Frisch's son-in-law, who had his start with Frisch's Big Boy as a carhop in 1947. Under Maier's leadership, the restaurant chain introduced fruit and salad bars, as well as a breakfast buffet. Maier remained president until 1989, when his son, Craig Maier, assumed control of the company. In 2003, Frisch's Big Boy consisted of 120 restaurants. All of these establishments were located in Ohio, Indiana, or Kentucky.

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