Wimpy International Ltd


01628 891 655


http://www.wimpyburgers.co.uk (Opens in New Window)


Wimpy is Britain’s oldest surviving fast-food chain and dates back to the mid-fifites. The privately-owned company has developed its burger-based offer through franchising, never owning more than seven or eight outlets itself. It operates in three formats – the original table-service restaurants, the Express counter-service units and the smaller Kiosks.

The group has sub-franchised Petrogas to develop the brand in Ireland and has recently introduced a new franchised chicken-based counter-service in RoadChef motorway service areas called Wimpy Chicken.



  • 1954: The first Wimpy restaurant opens under the ownership of J Lyons
  • 1977: United Biscuits buys Wimpy and divides it into two styles of operation – table-service and takeaway
  • 1989: Wimpy is bought by Grand Metropolitan, which the year before had acquired Burger King when it bought the Pillsbury Company. By 1990 it has converted nearly 100 Wimpy counter-service units into Burger Kings.
  • 1990: A £20m management buy-out of the Wimpy business in March is led by Max Woolfenden, who becomes chief executive. The deal includes an agreement to operate only table-service outlets for three years to avoid competition with Grand Met’s counter-service Burger Kings.
  • 1994: The group launches its first Wimpy Express counter-service store at the RoadChef on the A1 near Durham a year after the agreement with GrandMet expires.
  • 1999: Wimpy launches its first two fast-food chicken restaurants, Dr Beaks, at RoadChefs in Bristol and Reading.
  • 2000: Wimpy sub-franchises the Petrogas Group to develop the brand across Ireland, opening its first Wimpy Kiosk in Dublin. It also announces a £3m revamp that includes a new look, an expanded range of coffees and teas and the opportunity to serve alcohol.
  • 2002: Former managing director John Davison leads a second management buy-out of the company for £15m from venture capitalists Bridgepoint Capital, 3i and Lloyds TSB Development The deal is backed by HBoS
  • 2003: The Dr Beaks counter-service outlets, which sit alongside Wimpy Express units in motorway service areas, are rebranded Wimpy Chicken.

Chief Executive:

John Davison

Key People:

Managing director: John Davison
Non-executive chairman: Max Woolfenden
Operations director: Roger Ahearn
Operations director: Iain Cameron
Finance director: Neil Messider


Wimpy was named after a cartoon character, namely the burger-loving J Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye strip.

It is Britain’s fifth largest restaurant group and, as the UK’s oldest living fast-food chain, can claim a number of firsts. It was the first quick-service burger chain to use vegetable oil and the first to offer a beanburger (in 1985), a brown bun, and a Quorn burger (in 1997).

In 1998 it won both the Franchisor of the Year and the Franchisee of the Year awards.

To date, its move into the chicken market has been confined to franchises at RoadChef MSAs but the company is considering opening out the brand to general franchisees.

Operating Data:

Number of restaurants: 280, of which 278 are run by franchisees

Number of Wimpy restaurants: 180, of which two are company-owned.

Number of Wimpy Express and Kiosk units: 100

Number of Wimpy Chicken outlets: 13
Number of employees: 40

Number of franchisees: approximately 200

Wimpy Restaurants are table-service outlets in high streets and shopping precincts. They are typically 1,500-2,000 sq ft in size. Investment for a new-build 1,500 sq ft restaurant with 60 seats starts from £140,000

Wimpy Express counter-service units are found in food courts; shopping, leisure, bowling centres; and motorway service areas. They start from 500 sq ft in size and from £45,000 in initial investment.

Wimpy Kiosks are found in the same same sites as Wimpy Express but do not co-exist with them. The Kiosks replace the Express units where space is at a premium, offering a reduced menu. They start from 130 sq ft in size and from £45,000 in initial investment.

Wimpy Chicken units stand alongside Wimpy Express units at RoadChef MSAs.


2 The Listons
Liston Road