Moving on from the High Street we stop off at the roadside for another classic British institution (albeit inspired by an American concept) the Little Chef. First opened near Reading in Berkshire in 1958 as travellers had started to frequent the new and expanding road networks of the United Kingdom. English caravan designer, artist and philanthropist Mr. Samuel Alper OBE (1924– 2002) inspired by the small roadside diners he had frequented in America realised his vision of a family friendly place to stop and eat that provided a break from the usual roadside eating establishment inhabited by truckers and bikers and by 1968 there were 25 Little Chef restraints located beside the UK's roads 44 by 1970 and 100 outlets by 1972! By the time they added Jubilee Pancakes to the menu in 1977 there were 174 Little Chefs up and down the country! Even through to the 1990's it seemed as though Little Chef was holding its own by introducing the Olympic breakfast in 1994 and a spin-off brand called "Little Chef Express" in 1995 to rival fast food outlets it even managed to swallow up its main rival Happy Eater in 1997! At its peak in 2000 there were 450 restaurants trading but all good things... In 2006, it emerged that Little Chef was undergoing serious financial problems and had lost nearly half of its branches in five years. Little Chef was taken into administration, and the company was rescued in 2007 by RCapital, a UK private equity group, which paid less than £10 million however 38 of the 235 branches were not included in the sale and were closed immediately the decline of Little Chef was blamed on the increased numbers of pub restaurants and service stations having Marks & Spencer Simply Food sections and coffee chains such as Costa and Starbucks and of course the Clown, The King and Colonel have also been blamed (confusing when you consider how the company that owned Little Chef, Granada opened several Burger Kings next to their Little Chef sites! This made Little Chef the largest Burger King franchise in the UK!) In 2012, Little Chef announced that it planned to close 67 of its failing restaurants and year by year another restaurant would close and now at the time of writing this, with only 70 restaurants remaining it has been revealed that Little Chef is facing yet another takeover that could see it completely disappear from our roads forever! Euro Garages already in partnerships with Starbucks, Subway, Greggs and Burger King are in “advanced talks” to buy the brand and its restaurants this has left many Little Chef employees fearing for the restaurant's future!
Wimpy, 160 Streatham High RoadConveniently adjacent to Streatham ODEON is one of the oldest Wimpys in Britain, having been open for 42 years! Nice and clean and everything you expect of a Wimpy Bar. On the first leg of my mission I had the Mega Burger comprising of a 100% beef burger, cheese, onions and ketchup finished with the the trademark bender frankfurter sausage with a side order of chips. Followed by desert the classic Brown Derby, a doughnut served with ice cream, chocolate and nuts. Very nice it was too, being an establishment that has been open and in the same hands for 42 years the staff were friendly and professional. I highly recommender a visit.
Streatham, London, SW16 1BJ
Streatham, London, SW16 1BJ
|The Mega Burger (complete with trademark bender sausage) with a side order of chips. The other Wimpy classic |
the Brown Derby, a doughnut served with ice cream, chocolate and nuts.
Little Chef Northop Hall, A55Little Chef in Northop Hall located on the A55 their website informs us, “We are on the border of England and Wales which makes it easy to access lots of popular attractions with Chester Zoo and the Blue Planet aquarium less then 20 minutes away there's plenty to keep the kids entertained” (can't argue with that), “around 1 hour away from Holyhead restaurant a perfect stop off on your way from Ireland” again quite true, as the other 3 Little Chefs you once would have passed on your way to Holyhead (Penmaenmawr, Menai Bridge and Gaerwen) have long since closed. We both had the 'Early Starter' Breakfast comprising of a rasher of back bacon, British pork sausage, a griddle-fried free range egg, two hash browns and Heinz baked beans served with toast opting for the additional extra griddled tomato, mushrooms (Mrs Jones also had the black pudding slice) To once again quote their website, “Our staff here at Northop Hall are friendly and helpful. We pride ourselves on being a happy team” no argument here, very friendly staff, nothing was too much trouble. Bonus points for the free T-shirts and lollipops!
|'Early Starter' Breakfast and free lollipop!|