Thanks for the info, I had not seen those articles. After posting last night, I went looking for more info and found an article talking about the Allie's plan, as well as another plan which outraged me even more. Apparently, a year or two before trying "Allie's," Marriott came close to buying out Denny's, with the intention of converting all Big Boy's into Denny's. To me, that would have been a nightmare come true. I have been to many Denny's in many states, and have never really enjoyed any meal there. To me, the continued success of Denny's while Big Boy has become a shadow of it's former self is baffling. The food is usually at least moderately better (to me) at Bob's, even these days, when some Bob's locations are rather inconsistent. And the whole style and "theme" of Big Boy is much more fun and original than Denny's, they haven't had anything "cool" going for them since the 60's or early 70's, when they had all those googie restaurants and interior decor. They Allie's plan was probably a rushed attempt to do *something* with Big Boy, since their initial scheme didn't work out. I wonder if Marriott would have still sold off their restaurant divisions if they had managed to complete the purchase of Denny's. If they had, there probably would be no Big Boy today, or a very few orphans running out the clock like Howard Johnson's. I'm glad the current ownership is trying to resurrect Big Boy for the 21st century. The same thing is happening for former corporate cousin Roy Rogers, though I wish their expansion was moving more quickly.
The Allie's-to-Big Boy conversion plans were announced in 1988. I thought that was when Marriott bought the chain, but I guess I was wrong. This is a brief mention in the LA Times from 3/28/1988:
The new name for the Big Boy units being remodeled in San Diego will be "Allie's Family Restaurant," or simply "Allie's." The name is in honor of Alice S. Marriott, mother of Marriott President and Chairman J. W. Marriott Jr. and his brother, Vice Chairman Richard E. Marriott.
If the experiment is successful, Marriott has said it may drop the chubby Big Boy and convert all 214 of its Bob's Big Boy diners. If the experiment is not successful, the Marriott boys may have some explaining to do.
Another article says the first to be converted was on Sports Arena Blvd which opened June 25. The other 15 SD restaurants were expected to be converted by the end of 1988. That would explain why you saw them an Allie's in Oceanside.
I wonder why Allie's failed so quickly, or maybe it didn't and Marriott was just too short-attention-span to commit to any concept long enough to see it through. I still wonder what was seen as so fatally flawed about the Big Boy concept that they wanted to kill it so bad. First a Denny's buyout attempt, then "Allie's." Then a shrug of defeat and the dropping of all restaurants. The '89 date explains why Bob's quality seemed to decline after that. I could tell something had changed about Big Boy in the early 90's, but I had no idea Marriott had sold them off already. Roy Rogers was more obvious because they almost all became Hardees in 89-90. DC area Bob's became Shoney's around 96-97, and despite their once being a BB franchisee, Shoney's was a very lame replacement and died out of the DC market by 2000-2001.
And a funny footnote from 12/26/1988:
Marriott seems to have trouble keeping track of its Bob's Big Boy coffee shops. A month ago, the company's spokesman declared that all the Big Boys in San Diego had been converted into Allie's Family Restaurants. But the spokesman has since discovered that two Big Boys remain in San Diego along with three others in nearby communities. The hamburger havens with the chubby boy statues remain, the spokesman said, because, "We just haven't gotten around to doing any (remodeling) plans. . . . We actually had more stores there than I knew we had."
In December 1989 Marriott announced plans to sell off its restaurant chains, including Bob's Big Boy, Allie's, Jolly Roger, Wag's, Bickford's and Howard Johnson's.
I never knew they owned Bickford's at one time. What's that make it now, SEVEN chains I loved maimed or killed by Marriott corporate? I'm staying in a Marriott hotel tomorrow for the first time in years, and not by choice (thanks, Priceline.) I think I'll steal whatever I can.