Why Bob’s is Brazilian, But Bob is Not

All Brazilians know Bob’s burger joint but few may know that the owner, Robert “Bob” Falkenburg, was born in the USA and found success not in the food-court, but on the tennis court. Just before a 1948 win at Wimbledon, he married a carioca woman and by 1950, they had moved to Rio de Janeiro to live.

One year later, he opened Falkenburg Sorveteria and thereby introduced whipped ice cream to Brazil. In 1952, the ice-cream-centric shop became Bob’s, eventually making the former tennis champion a very wealthy man. At the time, it had a single location in Copacabana and served burgers, hot dogs and shakes, quickly becoming the favorite hang-out of diplomats and artists. Today, there are 600 locations in 4 countries (Chile, Portugal and Angola being the other three). Nationally, Bob’s has long come in second place, just behind McDonalds.

It is interesting to point out an unintentional parallel between Falkenburg’s first career and his second. When he retired from tennis after his big win, it was due to long-standing respiratory problems, yet one might conclude that such problems can be unnaturally induced as a result of eating too much fast-food. Ask any resident of Rio, though, and they will tell you the item they order the most is the Ovaltine (aka, Ovomaltine) milkshake, and not so much the actual food.

Aside from successes on and off the court, Bob can claim the title of three-time champion of Brazilian golf. In the mid-1970’s, he sold the burger chain and retired in Los Angeles, California, where he still resides at age eighty-five.

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil


6 thoughts on “Why Bob’s is Brazilian, But Bob is Not

  1. I finally tried the Ovamaltine shake 2 weeks ago and it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s basically like an Oreo shake in the US.

    Interesting also to note that fast-food in Brazil doesn’t yet have the stigma it has in the US. People in Brazil seem to see such an eating-out option as emcompassed within all other options…meaning Bob’s is on equal footing with a normal sit-down restaurant.

  2. Nobody knows that Bob’s was created in Rio. They get surprised when I tell them that there aren’t Bob’s in other countries.

    Brazilians know that fast-food is not healthy, but they are so easily available and c’mon, the food is so appealing..hehehe. Also, there aren’t as many non-fast food restaurants here as there are in the States.

  3. Indeed, I never realized it is a Brazilian corporation. Oh, Adam, the Ovomaltine milkshake is wonderful – maybe my only reason to ever visit a fast-food joint.

  4. Adam,

    I always loved Bob’s, the Ovaltine Milkshake is out of this world good and I also love that they use “Escarole” in their Burgers instead of the bland “Iceberg” lettuce, Escarole is much more tastier and makes a big difference on their Burgers.


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