Bel Air Bob's Big Boy to become Shoney's

December 13, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

The Town of Bel Air will soon lose Bob's Big Boy Restaurant at Tollgate Mall but will gain a Shoney's in its place.

The takeover is part of a deal spearheaded by Warren Thompson, a 33-year-old former Marriott Corp. executive, who struck an agreement this year to buy 31 Big Boy Restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington region from Marriott and convert 27 of them to Shoney's.

Tammy Pillsbury, manager of the Big Boy Restaurant at Tollgate Mall, confirmed the change. She said that the restaurant is among those owned by Mr. Thompson's company, Thompson Hospitality L.P., and that she has been told of the change.

She noted, however, that she has not yet been told when the change will take place. That process has already started in some areas and is scheduled to be completed in the region within 18 months.

The deal will make the franchise holder, Reston, Va.-based Thompson Hospitality L.P., one of the country's largest minority-owned employers, with an estimated 3,000 workers and million in annual sales.

The $105 million settlement of a 3 1/2 -year race discrimination suit cleared the way for Nashville-based Shoney's to expand into the Northeast, said Len Roberts, Shoney's chief executive.

Under terms of the settlement, Shoney's did not admit any bias, but Mr. Roberts said the company has learned from the experience. "If the lawsuit helped us examine our problems, it was very helpful to our future growth," he said, noting that the company has implemented aggressive programs for recruitment and advancement of minority employees.

Mr. Roberts, a former Arby's chief executive, has led Shoney's for the past three years and is planning 60 percent growth over the next three years. Baltimore, he said, will play a big part in his plans.

The chain, with more than 1,900 Shoney's and other restaurants across the country, has had 134 consecutive quarters of year-to-year gains in operating earnings.

Sales for 1992 are expected to pass $1 billion.

Thompson Hospitality franchises are being targeted as Shoney's chief growth vehicle in the region, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Roberts said.

Other restaurant chains under the Shoney's umbrella are Captain D's Seafood, with more than 650 restaurants, and Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, with about 300 outlets.

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