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Big Boy Takes Pepsi Challenge, Drops Coke as Chain's Cola

July 31, 2001|From Associated Press

DETROIT — After 65 years with Coca-Cola, Big Boy Restaurants announced it's switching to Pepsi.

The restaurant chain known for its boy mascot with a round belly and black pompadour hairstyle said Monday that all of its 170 hamburger outlets would switch to Pepsi, immediately.

"It wasn't easy. Sixty-five years is a long time," said Tony Michaels, chief executive of Big Boy Restaurants. "But the package Pepsi put together allowed us to make the decision. Ultimately, they ended up winning the business because of a great, interesting proposal."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Though Big Boy is small in the world of American franchise restaurants, "Every drop counts" in the bitter battle between the world's soda mammoths, said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest magazine in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

"It's a good win for Pepsi, but not a devastating defeat for Coke," Sicher said. "Conversely, in the cola wars, every drop that one sells, the other doesn't. They battle everywhere for every case."

Coke is the "800-pound gorilla" of soda fountain sales, with about 60% of the market, Sicher said. In recent years, Pepsi has been aggressively fighting to get a bigger piece of the pie.

Coca-Cola Co. spokesman Scott Williamson said it is common for companies to switch between the soft drink giants.

The agreement guarantees Pepsi-Cola Co. and Lipton exclusivity for fountain beverages, frozen carbonated beverages and bottles-to-go for the next five years.

Warren, Mich.-based Big Boy Restaurants International is the exclusive worldwide franchiser of Big Boy Restaurants in the United States, Japan and Egypt.

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