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Big Boy's New Fast-Food Spin-Off Aims to Revive Iconic Brand

2023

The iconic Big Boy restaurant chain, deeply rooted in U.S. history, is adapting to changing dining preferences with the introduction of a fast-food spin-off named Bob's Big Boy. The nearly 90-year-old company, headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, has seen a significant reduction in its presence from almost 1,000 establishments nationwide to only 60, primarily in Michigan.

Bob's Big Boy is an experimental venture aimed at cost reduction, according to franchisee Ali Baydoun. The inaugural location is set to open at 32704 Grand River Ave. in Farmington, Michigan. The site, previously occupied by Burger King and Detroit Eatz, will retain a drive-thru and offer indoor seating for approximately 60 patrons.

Differing from traditional Big Boy locations, Bob's Big Boy will forego table service, breakfast, and salad buffets. Instead, customers will place orders at a counter. The menu will feature a scaled-down selection, including signature items like the Classic Big Boy double-decker burger, Slim Jim Sandwiches, fish and chips, shakes, and hot fudge cake.

Ali Baydoun, owner of a traditional Big Boy restaurant in Garden City, acknowledges the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his business, citing a substantial decrease in sales. The new format, requiring fewer workers, aims to enhance competitiveness in the challenging economic landscape.

The name "Bob's Big Boy" pays homage to the chain's first restaurant, Bob's Pantry, established in 1936 in Glendale, California. Over the years, the brand has undergone various iterations, including Bob's, Bob's Big Boy, and Bob's — Home of the Big Boy Hamburger. Corporate transitions, bankruptcy, and changes in ownership characterize the company's recent history.

Ali Baydoun, an immigrant from Lebanon, traces his connection to Big Boy back to his teenage years when he started working at a local establishment. His journey within the company led him to become a manager by age 17. Expressing gratitude for the "land of opportunity," Baydoun fulfilled a personal goal by acquiring a closed-down Big Boy in Garden City in 2018.

Despite recent challenges, Baydoun is optimistic about the fast-food concept's potential to revitalize the brand. The experimental model, if successful, could lead to widespread adoption, he suggests, emphasizing the brand's familiarity to those over 50 or 60 who grew up with Big Boy as a ubiquitous presence.

Amid reports of Big Boy facing financial difficulties and a potential bankruptcy risk, franchisees like Baydoun remain focused on the new venture's prospects. The fast-food format, with its potential for reduced labor costs and overhead, presents an opportunity for adaptation and growth in an evolving market. Baydoun envisions a future where successful models like Bob's Big Boy could proliferate, bringing a fresh perspective to an established brand.

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