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big boy’s history

bobs pantry big boy original restaurant

the beginning of an icon

In 1936, Bob Wian sold his prized DeSoto Roadster to purchase a hamburger stand in Glendale, California. He named it Bob’s Pantry. Six months later, Bob sliced a bun into three slices, added two hamburger patties and, voilà, the very first double-decker burger was born!

Customers couldn’t get enough of Bob’s new creation. One fan, in particular, a chubby six-year-old boy named Richard Woodruff, loved the double-decker. His devotion inspired Bob to name the new burger Big Boy® after his nickname for Richard.

The Big Boy® burger craze that ensued prompted Bob to change the stand’s name to Bob's Big Boy® and to introduce the now-iconic Big Boy® mascot.

bob big boy burbank california

a landmark was born

This famous Bob's Big Boy® restaurant in Burbank, CA, was built in 1949 by local residents Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert, and is the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy® in America.

It was designed by renowned architect Wayne McAllister, incorporating the 1940's transitional design of streamline modern style while anticipating the free-form 50's coffee shop architecture.

The towering Bob's® sign is an integral part of the building design and its most prominent feature. The restaurant was honored, receiving the designation as a "Point of Historical Interest" by the state of California.

The first Elias Brothers Big Boy Restaurant

​our first franchises

Brothers John, Louis, and Fred Elias were the first to formally apply to Bob Wian for a Big Boy® franchise license. Their restaurant called the Dixie Drive-In in Hazel Park, MI became the first official Big Boy® franchise. It was re-named Elias Brothers Big Boy® in 1952.

By 1964, the Elias Brothers had opened 100 restaurants bearing the Elias Brothers Big Boy® name throughout Michigan and Ohio.

The Elias Brothers purchased the Big Boy® chain in 1987 and moved the headquarters to Warren, MI where they operated until 2000.

Adventures of the Big Boy comic book

big boy®​ hits the presses

The first edition of Adventures of the Big Boy (originally called The Adventures of Big Boy) comic book series was published in 1956. It was produced by Timely Comics, which later became Marvel and was written by the now-famous Stan Lee and drawn by Bill Everett, Sol Brodsky and Dan DeCarlo until 1961. Manny Stallman followed by Bob Bindig worked to continue the series until 1996, making it one of the longest-running comics in American history.

Adventures of the Big Boy comics contained wholesome stories featuring Big Boy®, his friend Dolly and his dog Nugget in addition to fun games and puzzles. 466 issues of the comic, many with over 1 million printed copies, were given away to children visiting Big Boy® restaurants for decades.

beatles booth at bob's big boy in california

come together

Beatlemania made its mark in Big Boy® history when the Beatles dined at Bob’s Big Boy® in Burbank, CA the summer of 1965. The band was in town performing at the landmark Shea Stadium and promoting their new album HELP on the Ed Sullivan Show.

To this day, a plaque commemorating the event marks a corner booth by the window facing Riverside Drive where the FAB 4 dined. Many regulars and tourists from around the world request "the Beatles booth" every day and you can too - but please don’t be surprised if there's a wait for your chance to sit in this historic spot!

beatles booth at bob's big boy in california

bob sells big boy®

In 1967, Bob Wian sold the Big Boy® chain to the Marriott Corporation for $7 million, adjusted for inflation, that would be roughly $55 million today.

After selling Big Boy®, Bob Wian served as both vice president and president of Marriott’s "Big Boy Restaurants of America" division for one year. Then, Bob Wian served as a Marriott board member for an additional year before retiring.

Marriot Corporation owned and operated Big Boy® until 1987 when it sold the franchise to Big Boy’s very first franchisees (1952) John, Louis and Fred Elias.

beatles booth at bob's big boy in california

big boy® heats up

Michael Mann filmed several scenes of his 1995 crime thriller Heat at Bob's Big Boy® in Burbank, CA.

The scenes include outside shots of the restaurant, fresh-out-of-prison Donald Breedan (Dennis Haysbert) getting hired as a cook and Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore) and Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) convincing Donald to be the driver in a bank heist destined to end in a shootout in Downtown Los Angeles.

Want to watch the famous scene? click here

big boy rocket austin powers movie 1997

big boy® takes off

Big Boy® makes a few memorable appearances in the 1997 comedy Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, a James Bond spoof, directed by Jay Roach starring Mike Myers.

In the first scene, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) cryogenically freezes himself and takes off in a giant statue of Big Boy® (just like the ones you’ve seen outside Big Boy® restaurants!) that’s been turned into a rocket.

Decades later Dr. Evil returns to Earth’s orbit and the Big Boy® Rocket blips on the radar prompted this hilarious exchange:

  • Commander: Good God. He's back!
  • Radar Monitor: In many ways, Bob's Big Boy® never left, sir. He's always offered the same high-quality meals at competitive prices.
  • Commander: Shut up!

Want to watch the famous scene? click here

big boy statue

cruising into the 21st

Robert Liggett, Jr. purchased the Big Boy® chain in 2000, renaming the company Big Boy Restaurants International. He served as Chairman from 2000 to 2018.

In 2018, Liggett sold the company to a group of Michigan investors dedicated to refreshing, restoring and growing the Big Boy® brand. The group renamed the company the Big Boy® Restaurant Group and are the current operator or franchisor for 74 Big Boy® restaurants in the United States.

big boy restaurant statue

the new big boy®

Big Boy® is celebrating its 84th anniversary! We are proud of our history and remain dedicated to serving delicious food, making memorable family dining experiences and giving back to our communities.

We are still home to the Big Boy®, the original double-decker that made us famous in 1936, and we’ve added quite a few other favorites along the way like the Slim Jim® and Classic Blockbuster Breakfast.

We’re now headquartered in Southfield, MI, and are moving forwarding with exciting new menu items, updated branding, better carryout and delivery options, and much more - we are thinking BIG! Because we want you to think Big Boy® (for breakfast, lunch or dinner)!


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