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! Little Chef was doing great, it only had one real roadside competitor, Happy Eater (which had been founded in 1973 by Michael Pickard) But the competition ended in 1985 when Happy Eater owners the Imperial Group conglomerate sold its brand and 75 restaurants to Little Chef owners Trusthouse Forte (later just Forte) and so both brands ran side by side into the 1990's.
Little Chef introduced the Olympic breakfast in 1994 and a spin-off brand called "Little Chef Express" in 1995 to rival fast food outlets which had started to become more commonplace before the chains were bought up in an aggressive takeover by Granada in 1996. 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. 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!
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.
|'Early Starter' Breakfast and free lollipop!|