The Daily Beast offers another view of Santa Barbara’s Sambos, which turned 57.
Not too long ago, right here in America, there was a restaurant called Sambo’s. That’s Sambo: as in, the racist slur for a loyal and contented black servant. Or Sambo: as in, The Story of Little Black Sambo—the controversial 1899 children’s book by Helen Bannerman about a dark-skinned South Indian boy that eventually came to be seen as emblematic of black “pickaninny” stereotypes.
And far from playing down the connection to Bannerman’s book, Sambo’s played it up. The restaurant’s original mascot was—you guessed it—a dark-skinned South Indian boy. Oh, and did I mention that there wasn’t just one Sambo’s? There were 1,117 of them, actually. In 47 states. And there’s one still left today. Read full article…
If you are not one of the 10,500 people following Santa Barbara View on Facebook, you should be! Click Continue Reading for a local Sambo’s story left in the comments…
Ok… Here’s the scoop. Sam Battistone started the company. It was wildly successful. When I was in college, I worked at a very busy Sambo’s in Cleveland . After about a year, we got a new manager, Steve Fox, who was HOT!
I sunk my tiger claws into him, and we are still happily married 37 years later!
When he first started at Sambo’s, the managers were part owners, getting 20% of the profits. This was called a “Fraction of the Action”. It was a great incentive, & drove the sales through the roof. Hubby made a LOT of money!
In 1977, the Battistones got greedy, & suddenly reduced the managers’ percent to something ridiculous, like 1-2%. Subsequently, there was a mass exodus, which entailed the company having to repay all these managers for the investment they made.
This large outpouring of cash, combined with the insurgence of unqualified, untrained new managers ( as in relocated dishwashers, in some cases) is what did the company in!!!!!
We took our payout and headed to Santa Barbara, where we opened FRANNIE FOX’S Restaurant @ 534 State, where Joe’s is now.
My sisters, my brother, and my Mom all worked for Sambo’s as secretary, waitress, cook, & guest check lady! We have nothing but great memories of our time with the company.
Because of the company’s action, we were blessed to return to Santa Barbara, where we had a son, & lived blissfully for 8 years!
No, Sambo’s is not Denny’s now, although some Denny’s are in old Sambo’s buildings.
We also have a cat named SAMBO…
BTW… Little Black Sambo was Indian, not Black.
So there you have it! – Terri Rini-Fox