Peppy - Biffs - Various MI

Address: Various
City: Various
State: MI
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County: Various
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General Information:

This entry is not really up to my normal standard but I am trying to piece together the information here from multiple sources. Biff's is/was a name that is used in many states around the country. The California locations, some examples of which I have included, were probably the most iconic. The architecture and mid century Googie styling were amazing. Did that chain have anything to do with Biff's in Michigan? I have no idea. The logo and general look of the places were similar.

The story in Michigan involves a hamburger chain called Peppy which was operated by Fred W. Steiner. They had their own thing going on and he eventually acquired the Biffs locations in Michigan. They even had stock on the Michigan exchange that was traded. Biffs had 24 outlets when he took them over in 1969 and it is said they were franchised. That implies they may have been linked to the California and other Biffs around the country.

Steiner, who was only 29 when he took over the Biffs in Michigan from Oliver Roemer, had previously acquired Peppy in 1965. Prior to that he had been an insurance salesman. Once Steiner had control over Biffs and Peppy, he began selling more franchised outlets and opening new locations. By 1970 he had 32 locations going. McDonald's and other fast food chains were also expanding rapidly at that time.

If you watch the movie "The Founder" about Ray Kroc and the McDonald's Brothers, you see that Ray really started making big money when he was convinced to purchase the land the franchised stores sat on and then leasing it back to the franchisees. Evidently Steiner did a similar thing with Biffs as a 1970 article indicates.

By 1971 Steiner was feeling heat from larger, more well-financed chains and he began selling off some locations to companies like Burger Chef, which was then owned by General Foods. By then Steiner was down to only 2 Peppy locations. One was in Ferndale and the other in Warren but those were also for sale. The decline of the Peppy chain was well underway at that point.

The attempt to further expand Biffs was still ongoing in 1970 however. As an aside, I wanted to also mention Alan Sussman, who was quite a character in the Detroit area advertising business. He handled Biffs in the 1970's and was a key player in their marketing and advertising. He was a bit of a maverick as the article below details.

I saw some scattered mentions of Biffs in the newspaper archives in the early 1980's but nothing after except for retrospective articles. I will assume they went under in the 1980's. I understand there are some major gaps in this tale but I have been sitting on these articles and photos for months waiting to see some better information and I don't have it right now. I am sure I will be able to fill in the blanks on this story eventually.

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