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A Legacy of Innovation

The ninth of ten children, Dave Frisch followed in the footsteps of his father, Samuel Frisch, who in 1905 opened the Frisch Café in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1915, Samuel opened Frisch’s Stag Lunch in Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati. Dave withdrew from school as a teenager to work full-time in his father’s restaurant. He eventually returned to high school, but before he graduated, his father died, leaving Dave to run the restaurant with his brothers.

In the 1930s Dave went out on his own, and by 1939 he opened the Mainliner restaurant, Cincinnati’s first year-round drive-in named after the first tri-motor passenger airplane. Today, some 78 years later, a replica of the airplane still adorns the restaurant’s sign.

Then in 1946 at an industry convention in California, Dave met Bob Wian, who introduced him to a double-decker hamburger called the “Big Boy.” Dave secured permission to adopt the Big Boy concept, but personalized the Big Boy by dressing it with a specially formulated tartar sauce unique to Frisch’s. The Big Boy became an instant hit at Frisch’s first restaurant in Cincinnati – a “drive-in” with room for eight customers inside and sixty cars outside.

Dave Frisch Giving Back

A post-war generation flocked to the restaurant in cars as eager to gather as they were to eat. Dave Frisch planned for growth by expanding the company’s footprint and its commissary operations, which allowed Frisch’s to operate as an affordable dining option for generations of families.

Over the next three decades the Big Boy concept grew steadily throughout the Midwest and the South. Dave Frisch and his management team continued to innovate and lead the industry in areas of menu innovation, personnel development and advertising. By 1960, the company issued stock to fuel continued growth in ancillary service sectors such as hotels.

With his striped overalls and reddish-blond hair, the Big Boy character, also known as the East Coast Big Boy, remains a constant at Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. To this day, the friendly-faced statue continues to greet guests at the front entrance of Frisch’s with a huge smile while holding a delicious Big Boy double-decker hamburger.

Under Dave Frisch’s leadership the company grew to 200 units– all the while staying true to Dave’s vision of offering the best quality in a clean pleasant surrounding served by friendly, efficient personnel while making a profit for the company. Despite all his success, Dave continued to bus tables during the lunch hour at one of his restaurants to stay close to his customers. When he passed away in 1970, Dave Frisch left behind a beloved legacy and a company with $30 million in annual sales.

Today, Frisch’s is a modern brand with food and decor that appeals to multiple generations. It’s a special place that never ceases to delight new and returning customers— many who have fond memories of Frisch’s through the years, and many others who are making fond memories today.

Giving Back: The Dave Frisch Way

Throughout the years, Dave Frisch gave time and resources to various causes and infused the practice of giving back to his family and the Frisch’s organization. That spirit of giving back remains a core value for the organization today.

In 1963, Dave was honored as The City of Hope Humanitarian of the Year, a national accolade.

  • David Frisch Is Born

    David Frisch, the ninth of ten children is born to Samuel and Blanch Frisch.

  • Frisch Opens First Cafe

    Samuel Frisch opens Frisch’s Cafe in Cincinnati

  • Frisch’s Stag Lunch Opens

    Samuel Frisch opens Frisch’s Stag Lunch in Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati.

  • Dave Takes Over Restaurant

    Dave Frisch and two of his nine siblings, Reuben and Irving, take over restaurant operations following the death of their father.

  • Dave Opens the Mainliner

    Dave opens the Mainliner, Cincinnati’s first year round drive-in restaurant. The restaurant was named for the first tri-motor passenger plane that operated from nearby Lunken Airport. An image of the airplane was featured on its sign, and still is today.

  • Big Boy Double Decker is Created

    Dave samples the Big Boy double-decked hamburger, created by Bob Wian of Glendale, CA. In what proves to be a momentous decision. Dave makes the Big Boy sandwich using his homemade tartar sauce to replace Mr. Wian’s recipe that called for Thousand Island dressing. Dave’s signature sauce becomes a key…

  • Bob & Dave Sign Agreement

    Bob Wian and Dave Frisch sign a licensing agreement.

  • Jack C. Maier Joins Frisch’s

    Jack C. Maier joins the company as a part-time car-hop and marries Dave’s youngest daughter, Blanche, the following year.

  • The First Frisch’s Opens

    The first Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant opens on Central Parkway near downtown Cincinnati, with eight counter seats and 60 car spaces for curb service.

  • Frisch’s Opens in Kentucky

    Frisch’s opens a Big Boy in the Kentucky market.

  • Frisch’s Big Boy Statue Debuts

    The first Frisch’s Big Boy statue debuts. Called the Eastern Big Boy,Dave Frisch’s version featured Frisch’s Big Boy on his sleeve, striped overalls, a hat and a the figure in a galloping gait. The Frisch’s Big Boy remains a guest favorite at the entrance of Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants.

  • Frisch’s Opens in Indiana

    Frisch’s expands to the Indiana market opening a location in Lawrenceburg Indiana.

  • Frisch’s Launches an IPO

    Frisch’s successfully launches an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock.

  • Frisch’s Sells Tartar Sauce

    Frisch’s begins selling its signature Tartar Sauce in pint jars for the take home market.

  • Radio Sponsorship with the Cincinnati Reds

    Frisch’s begins radio sponsorship of the Cincinnati Reds starting the longest running radio sponsorship of the team.

  • New President Elected

    Jack C. Maier is elected President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, following the passing of David Frisch.

  • New Menu Items Added

    Two new items are added to the menu: the popular Swiss Miss hamburger and Frisch’s signature Hot Fudge Cake, which quickly becomes the most popular and best-selling, year-round dessert.

  • Sponsorship with Cincinnati Ballet

    Frisch’s begins sponsorship of Cincinnati Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker which becomes a December holiday tradition in Cincinnati.

  • Partnership with Cincinnati Zoo

    Frisch’s begins a 40 year partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo sponsoring the Educational Outreach Program. This program that reaches 1,000 classes or 30,000 students per year K-12.

  • Breakfast & Salad Bars Introduced

    The Soup, Salad ’n Fruit Bar and Breakfast Bar service are introduced in all Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants.

  • Hartwell Introduces Drive-Thru Service

    The Hartwell location in Cincinnati welcomes the introduction of drive-thru service that is rapidly expanded to all Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. This move signals an acceleration in the ending of the car-hop era.

  • New President Elected

    Craig F. Maier, eldest son of Jack and Blanche, is elected President and Chief Executive Officer, following more than a decade of service to Frisch’s. Additionally, the Company launches its popular “What’s Your Favorite Thing?” ® marketing tagline to advertising promotions.

  • Tarter Sauce Appears in Grocery Stores

    Frisch’s famous homemade Tartar Sauce appears on grocery store shelves in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio .

  • Exclusive Big Boy Ownership

    The Company acquires exclusive ownership of Big Boy trademark rights in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

  • Primetime Burgers Introduced

    Frisch’s introduces Primetime Burgers that are 1/3 lb. fresh, never frozen, 100% American beef.

  • Food Stands Open at Great American Ball Park

    Frisch’s opens two food stands at Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, serving Big Boy sandwiches and French fries from two food booths. A Big Boy statue wearing a 1970s Cincinnati Reds uniform is installed in the stadium. The statue bears the number 46 to represent the…

  • Frisch’s Acquired by NRD Capital

    In August 2015, the Company was acquired by National Restaurant Development (NRD), a private equity firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. The transaction to take the Company private brought to a close a Frisch’s 55 year history as a publicly owned company.

  • New CEO Selected

    Jason Vaughn, an experienced restaurant leader, is appointed CEO of Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurants Inc.

  • Seasonal Dessert Introduced

    Forty years after the Hot Fudge Cake debuted, Frisch’s introduces a seasonal variation, the Peppermint Hot Fudge Cake, with the help from the Cincinnati Ballet’s The nutcracker.

  • New Big Boy Introduced

    A new slimmer friendlier Eastern Big Boy debuts at Frisch’s Covington Kentucky location and quickly takes his place on cups and bags.

History Snapshot: Place to cruise

Frisch’s Big Boy: A Louisville Memoir By Rick Mattingly
Originally appeared in The Louisville Courier-Journal November 11, 1994. Reprinted with permission of the author.

. . . For older teens who could drive, Frisch’s was the place to cruise. They could how off their wheels and meet up with their friends, and there was always the promise (usually unfulfilled) of meeting someone new of the opposite sex. You could park under the wavy, corrugated awnings and actually order food. Each parking space had its own mounted menu and intercom, a waitress would deliver food right to your car. . .
. . . But however much Frisch’s may have been a place where teens could be teens, it was also a place where we could start to feel like the adults we were about to become. The waitresses treated us lie adults, calling us “sir” and “ma’am” and coming by mid meal to ask if everything was okay. We didn’t have to pay for the food until we had finished eating, and we learned to leave the tip before we left the table. We were each given a menu, a set of stainless steel utensils and a glass (not a plastic cup) of water. The food was served on real dishes and was hot from having just been cooked which is very different from food that has been kept warm under a light. . .