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.
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.
Frisch’s Stag Lunch Opens
Samuel Frisch opens Frisch’s Stag Lunch in Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati.
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.
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.
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.
Food Stands Open at Great American Ball Park
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. . .