Frisch’s Big Boy; Chain Profile, September 2009

This Midwestern chain attracts generations of new customers with its fresh design and streamlined foodservice equipment package.

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Frisch's Big Boy has a long history of adapting to societal changes, the economy and generational food preferences. The first Big Boy establishment owned by the Frisch family, who started in the restaurant business in 1905, was a drive-in with eight counter seats and curb service for 60 vehicles. In 1947, the year of the restaurant's debut, selling double-decker hamburgers at drive-in restaurants was a novel concept, as was serving tartar sauce on the burgers.

Today, Frisch's Restaurants Inc., operates 89 family-style restaurants named Frisch's Big Boy in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, and licenses another 26 restaurants to other Big Boy operators. Systemwide sales for the Big Boy division are $218 million for FY 2008.

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Frisch's ability to adapt begins to explain Frisch's Big Boy's nearly 60-year-old success story. "The newest stores are designed with bold colors and brighter environments to appeal to younger customers," says John Hunter, director of construction and facilities for Frisch's Big Boy. "The restaurants look like something is happening inside."

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The new, more sophisticated restaurants feature sleek lines, cherry-colored paneling and wood trim. Natural light is abundant throughout the spaceand company memorabilia covers much of the interior wall space..

Designing restaurants for longevity also contributes to Frisch's Big Boy's success. "We expect the life of a building to be 30 to 35 years," Hunter says. "Our construction department does not hand off a new building to the facility department to maintain. Construction, facilities, maintenance and energy are all under one umbrella, so the thinking is based on a long-term commitment.

"Remodeling takes place every five years with a standard 5-, 10-, 15-year plan," Hunter adds. "New carpet, paint, window shades and upholstery are changed to stay fresh. We don't wait 20 years to make changes."

In the kitchen, scheduled preventive maintenance for equipment is rigorously enforced. "The program includes everything from roof-top equipment to cooking equipment. We're fortunate to have our own in-house maintenance department," Hunter says. "Currently, 15 technicians perform preventive maintenance, repairs and equipment replacement. We supplement our maintenance team with a network of local service companies."

Efficiency is key. "We design the production process so there is an orderly flow of product from storage into prep, then to the cooking and serving areas, and finally to the customer," says Patrick H. Bailey, CFSP, vice president, F.G. Schaefer Co. Inc., who has worked with Frisch's for nearly 40 years. "For example, outdoor walk-ins are built in order for Frisch's Big Boy restaurants to realize cost savings. The insulated panels of these walk-in boxes form their own walls and waterproof roof structure," Bailey says. Delivery trucks pull up to hatch doors and product flows from the trucks into storage via a conveyor system.

In a prep kitchen, worktables, sinks, utensil racks, refrigerators, slicers, a lettuce cutter and food processor are utilized. A steamer heats the soup and chili made in a commissary located three blocks from Frisch's headquarters. A convection oven heats desserts, most of which also come from the commissary.

"In addition to soups and chili, the commissary staff make our breads and dinner rolls and we'll soon roll out junior Big Boy buns," says Karen F. Maier, vice president of marketing. "We buy the burger and specialty buns. The commissary also produces hamburger patties, pork sausage links, salad dressings and coleslaw." Desserts, a specialty of the commissary, include cheesecakes; pumpkin, apple and cherry pies; cake for the hot fudge cake that is finished at the stores; tart shells and large pie shells for the whole strawberry and cream pies sold to customers.

Adjacent to the prep area, the grill and fry line includes five griddles, some of which have clamshell units that cook from both top and bottom. A sensor controls the raising and lowering of the clamshell to regulate cooking time. "Frisch's has used various models of these for 15 years with great success," Bailey says. "They add significantly to the kitchen's efficiency and allow much better product consistency."

The line also includes three fryers, refrigerated grill stands with drawers, refrigerated prep tables with cold rails, warming drawers and a conveyor toaster for buns and a microwave.

"The configuration of the cookline is a mainstay to this operation," Bailey says. "On the left and right side of the griddles is a make table. One feeds the dining room and the other feeds the drive-in window and carryout area."

Another cooking line augments the primary one during peak periods. Walk-in refrigerators with reach-in doors allow cooks easy access with minimal movement. "Rolling racks and shelving units inside the walk-ins are filled with products," Bailey says. Items prepared for the breakfast bar, including eggs, home fries and bacon, are placed in warming cabinets and replenished as needed. "The cabinets are loaded on one side and unloaded on another," Bailey says.

Carryout is a significant part of the business. Customers place orders in the front of the restaurant at the cash register station, near a small beverage refrigerator, soft-drink and ice dispensing area.

Hunter and Frisch's staff continue to examine ways to conserve energy, balancing energy-saving costs with the need for function. Clamshell griddles aren't particularly energy-efficient, Hunter says, "but they're perfect for our need for quality and speed."

"Purchasing natural gas for 14 years, electric load management meters and monitoring every utility bill are musts," Hunter continues. "Temperature control panels with night setbacks, lighting and exhaust fan controls have been installed for years. Currently, we are testing hood exhaust volume based on cooking needs."

Other energy-efficient equipment includes fryers, dishwashers, air conditioning, Energy Star-rated refrigerators, LED and T-8 fluorescent light fixtures, low E glass, white single-ply roofing and insulation.

Frisch's Big Boy's approach to staying fresh, youthful and in touch with the times is a 60-year tradition. As the company grows it is striking a balance between modernization and tried-and-true strategies.

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