The man behind the dream, Bob Wian — a young entrepreneur with a knack for whipping up delicious burgers — was about to redefine dining in America.
Bob’s innovation came in the form of the first-ever double-deck hamburger, a culinary masterpiece that still takes center stage on the menu today. This hefty creation, known as the “Big Boy,” was a hit, and it didn’t take long for Bob’s business to become a favorite local hotspot. The eatery’s relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere, complete with curbside service, made it a standout in the diner scene.
Franchises and drive-ins
The years rolled by, and the 1950s saw Bob’s Big Boy evolve into an iconic franchise as diners across the country came to crave the renowned double-decker burger.
The restaurants also became social hubs, particularly for the car-loving youth of the 50s and 60s. The concept of the “drive-in” restaurant was a perfect fit for the car culture of the era, adding to Bob’s popularity and fame.
Why do Big Boy restaurants have different names?
A distinctive feature of this model was the allowance for each franchisee to use their own name alongside the Big Boy brand, leading to regional variations like Frisch’s Big Boy in Ohio, Elias Brothers Big Boy in Michigan, and Shoney’s Big Boy in the South.
This practice not only fostered a sense of regional identity and personalized touch within the franchises, but also ensured the signature double-decker hamburger and the original Bob’s Big Boy spirit were found in every corner of the country.
Big Boy comics
The Big Boy character truly became a household name through the publication of the Big Boy comic books, which were launched in 1956. Distributed free at the restaurants, these comics served a dual purpose of entertaining young guests and solidifying brand recognition.
The comics featured the Big Boy character and his friends embarking on various adventures, often themed around friendship, honesty, and good citizenship. For many kids of the era, the comic books were an inseparable part of the Big Boy dining experience, and they became collectible items, fondly remembered by generations of Big Boy fans.
And there’s a surprising connection between the brand and the world of comic books beyond their own publication.
Before achieving international fame as the co-creator of iconic Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four, the legendary Stan Lee was one of the artists who worked on the Big Boy comic book series. His involvement, although obviously less well-known than his later work, played a part in his journey in the comic industry.
It’s a testament to the widespread influence of the Big Boy brand — showing that its impact extended beyond the realm of fast food and into popular culture in unexpected ways.
The nostalgia lives on…
Through the decades, the franchise chain has seen some changes. The brand expanded, contracted, changed hands, and navigated the ebb and flow of America’s ever-evolving dining culture. But despite all the challenges, the essence of Bob’s Big Boy — serving up good food in a fun, welcoming environment — remains the same.
Today, there’s a touch of nostalgia in every Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, a nod to the history and tradition that the brand represents. They continue to serve their signature Big Boy double-decker hamburger and other classic American dishes, honoring Bob Wian’s original vision. (Find out more about the modern-day company at bigboy.com.)
It’s been a remarkable journey from that small eatery in Glendale to the national franchise it still is today. Have a scroll down memory lane with these photos from decades gone by.
Tucson, Arizona Bob’s Big Boy coffee shop (1962)
Vintage Bob’s restaurant signs (1967)
Touched by his initiative, Wian put him to work doing odd jobs. One day, Wian jokingly referred to Woodruff as “Big Boy,” and the name stuck. The child’s nickname then inspired him to name a double-decker hamburger “The Big Boy.”
An animator for Warner Bros. who frequented the eatery sketched a caricature of Richard Woodruff on a napkin, creating the company’s first logo. Woodruff’s innocent appeal and the double-decker hamburger sketch were the catalysts that built Bob’s Big Boy’s unique brand identity.
Retro Bob’s Big Boy statue in front of a restaurant (1968)
Huge retro Bob’s Big Boy sign (1968)
1960s Bob’s Big Boy restaurant exterior (1969)
Bob’s Big Boy Jr restaurant in Santa Monica, California (1970)
1950s Bob’s Big Boy menu
Look at those prices! The double Big Boy burger was just 55 cents, and a Coke would set you back 15 cents. Printed along the bottom of the menu: “If you are in any way displeased with your food, your waitress will cheerfully exchange it for any other item.”
Old Bob’s Big Boy coffee shop interior (1971)
Vintage Bob mascot statue (1971)
Vintage 70s Bob’s Big Boy mall entrance (1973)
Vintage Bob’s Big Boy hamburger car (1974)
Bob’s Big Boy dinner house salad bar (1974)
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