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OK diner attacks roadside market

Two former directors of Forte’s roadside restaurants division have stepped up plans to make their new brand, OK Diner, a serious player in the roadside market.

Today’s scheduled launch of an outlet in West Bromwich follows the success of six pilot units opened earlier this year in the North-west and West Midlands. Restaurants in Stockport, Coventry and Liverpool are due to open in the next few weeks, and some 30 openings are planned for 1996.

OKDiner, the brainchild of John Roebuck and Tony Horsfall, is a steel-framed 1950s American diner serving food at an average spend per head of £3.80. Seating capacity is 65 and opening is normally between 7am and 10pm.

Although OK Diner is their concept, Messrs Roebuck and Horsfall are developing the chain as a wholly owned subsidiary of City Centre Restaurants, best known for Garfunkel’s and Deep Pan Pizza Co. The pair have a minority stake in the business.

The diners are built in three main parts in a Manchester factory and assembled on-site without conventional building foundations. This enables them to be moved if a site turns out to be unprofitable, or if road changes are planned.

Mr Roebuck declined to be drawn on the cost of developing an OK Diner, but said it was “considerably less” than the £350,000 previously quoted by City Centre.

“We are able to manufacture fully fitted out units in eight weeks, at about a third of the cost of traditional construction methods for roadside restaurants,” he told Caterer.

  • John Roebuck’s First House group of companies has been confirmed as the operator of the Holiday Inn Garden Court being built at Manchester Airport by Ringway Developments. The 164-bedroom property is expected to open next April with a room rate of £45 per night.

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