Wow! Take a Look at What the Covington Frisch's Looks Like Now!
Covington is the site of a grand experiment by an iconic locally-based brand.
Frisch's Big Boy unveiled the new look for its location on West Fifth Street, just north of Mainstrasse Village, and the place is barely recognizable to longtime patrons. After a little more than three weeks of being closed, the doors opened for a special preview on Tuesday and revealed bright and comfortable lighting, inviting new tables and chairs, a pristine atmosphere, and all the accoutrements of a restaurant strategically placing itself to compete for customers in a crowded market.
CEO Jason Vaughn, in an interview with The River City News, pointed to the newly installed sign behind the check-out counter that reads, Welcome to Covington. "We want everyone to think of this as 'my Frisch's'," he said. "We know that this, like many restaurants, plays a role in the Covington community."
The Covington site was selected for this modern makeover and strategy because of its sales volume and proximity to the company's restaurant support center in Cincinnati's Walnut Hills neighborhood, said Anne Meija, executive vice president of marketing at Frisch's Big Boy. Plus, it was in need of an upgrade. The Covington location is in a part of the city adjacent to Interstate 75 and the Brent Spence Bridge where no fewer than a dozen fast food operations sit under tall signs designed to lure drivers from the highway. Many of those restaurants fit the new design of their brands - Wendy's, Chipotle, Popeye's are new to the neighborhood while longtime residents Burger King and Taco Bell recently completed major upgrades.
Vaughn - whose experience includes executive roles at brands like Wendy's - says that he is often asked who Frisch's Big Boy's competitors are. "I say, everybody. Everybody's got a share of the stomach," he said. What places Frisch's Big Boy in a strategically beneficial position is the relationship its longtime customers have developed with it. "It's critically important, you have to be true to yourself and your brand heritage."
Meija explained that that is exactly what Frisch's had in mind when it opted to move the famed Big Boy statue from the corner of 5th & Philadelphia Streets to the front of the store. "We saw an opportunity to take an iconic brand and bring it into today's environment," she said. On social media, customers were often posting pictures of the Big Boy statue, but the company wasn't capitalizing on that. A more aggressive social media strategy will be deployed and representatives were promoting the restaurant's new SnapChat account, a popular outlet for teens. "We want to get in on the fun."
The message of fun is now literally inscribed on the location's wall and will be the first thing customers see when they enter: At Frisch's, good fun happens over good food served by friendly faces, the sign reads.
The fun, Meija said, is now visible in the newly updated look of the Big Boy character, his first makeover in 40 years, and some additions at the restaurant, like a kids coloring station, and a family-style dining table to complement the classic bar that Frisch's locations are known for. The menu is also getting more attention. "The 'good food' is the untold story of the Frisch's," Meija said. There is a new burger platform called Prime Time Burgers, complete with a bun created especially for Frisch's by another local brand, Klostermann's. The updated salad bar includes cues to guide diners towards all the ingredients to create a "chef's fresh salad".
"We're family dining. That's who we are," Meija said.
And because families have gathered at Frisch's Big Boy for generations, the new look is not a complete departure from the company's history. There is a heritage wall that showcases the various looks of the Big Boy characters, as well as images specific to Covington.
Local artist Tony Dotson has Frisch's Big Boy-inspired work that he had created independently now hanging on the walls. "Our customers will feel like this is their Frisch's," Meija said. And those customers will be the key to letting the executives know if their plan is working. "Our customers have been great. They are very loyal to us. They will let us know exactly what they think."
Late last summer, the Frisch's brand was sold to National Restaurant Development Partners (NRD) in a deal that was reportedly worth $175 million. While Vaughn was brought in after the sale, he thinks his knowledge of what Frisch's customers want will be reflected positively in their response to the new changes. "I think they're going to embrace it. Our heritage can't anchor us to move forward," he said. "It's not just about a building."
The people inside the restaurant - the employees, of which there are 30 new ones - also look different, by design. They will wear new uniforms, serve coffee in new mugs, and the familiar menu on new plates. "It's our time to update Big Boy," Vaughn said. "How will Millennials and kids identify with him? He might look and act a bit differently (in commercials)."
Customers will notice Big Boy no longer exclusively hoists the famous Big Boy sandwich, reflecting Frisch’s broader menu of sandwiches, dinners, breakfast, homemade soup and desserts — because Frisch’s is much more than just one item.