Little Chef is one of the most iconic brands in the UK. Equally loved and loathed, Little Chef has been serving motorists food since Britain’s first motorway opened in 1958.
Little Chef is now the UK’s largest operator of roadside restaurants. It started as an 11-seat snack bar in Reading and has grown into a 193-strong estate feeding some 20 million customers a year. You can view their locations on Knowcal.
After spending the 26 years from 1970 as part of the Forte empire, Little Chef passed through the hands of five different owners over the next seven years that included Granada and Compass.
These moves saw it develop many co-locations with such stablemates as Welcome Break and Moto and the Travelodge budget hotel chain.
By the time private equity group Permira snapped up Little Chef and Travelodge in 2003, Little Chef was viewed as a tired, neglected and over-priced operation in need of a revamp before its subsequent sale to the Peoples Restaurant Group in 2005.
However, the group was facing financial meltdown by the end of 2006 thanks to severe price cuts that did not translate into extra business, a failure to revamp the sites, and the slow roll-out of its new Coffee Tempo! brand.
Little Chef fell into administration in early January 2007 and was rescued by venture capital company RCapital, which bought 196 of the remaining 234 restaurants.
While Permira rationalised the group’s confusing wide stable of franchised brands, Little Chef’s 50 retained Burger King restaurants makes it the UK’s largest Burger King franchisee.
The Little Chef at Burford
A Little Chef interior
Latest news on Little Chef
Little Chef to make announcement on its future >>
Little Chef in weekend crisis talks >>
Little Chef faces bankruptcy >>
Little Chef needs cash and a business rethink >>
Little Chef in talks with US investors to avert bankcruptcy >>
Features on Little Chef
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Little Chef’s own coffee brand
Little Chef timeline
- 1958: Trust House Group (THG) opens the first Little Chef in Reading
- 1970: THG merges with Forte Holdings to become Trusthouse Forte
- 1996: Granada acquires Little Chef and Travelodge as part of its hostile takeover of Forte.
- July 2000: Granada merges with Compass and demerges the following year to leave Little Chef and Travelodge with the contract caterer.
- February 2003: Venture capital firm Permira buys the 368-strong Little Chef chain along with 220 Travelodges for £712m.
- October 2005: The Peoples Restaurant Group buys Little Chef, which now has 233 venues, for £52m.
- January 2007: Little Chef goes into administration and agrees to sell 196 of its 234 restaurants for between £5m and £10m to venture capital group RCapital.
Links to blog posts on Little Chef
Little Chef on the web