Little Chef operator TLLC Group this week moved to quash rumours that the roadside restaurants were facing the end of the road.
The company admitted it was selling off 120 of its 273 Little Chefs in a deal worth £45m-£50m, but defended the famous brand. "There is a widely held belief in the value of the Little Chef brand, which has created the largest network of roadside restaurants in the UK," a spokesman said.
TLLC, which also operates the Travelodge hotel group, is individually selling off 38 further sites to independent or group operators. Some of these sites have already been closed.
Media speculation that the Little Chef brand was to disappear gained momentum over the weekend, with rumours that potential buyers were unlikely to retain the brand name and that TLLC planned to rename its remaining 115 sites.
But TLLC denied this and said it hoped it could make an agreement with the new owners to operate the Little Chef brand and franchise back the rights to use the name itself.
Property agents Davis Coffer Lyons, who are handling the main sale, said interest in the "iconic" group was already strong and included UK and international food and beverage operators, venture capitalists and specialist roadside operators and management groups. "Little Chef ranks within the top three restaurant groups throughout the UK, in terms of brand recognition, and is a rare example of brand longevity in this sector," chairman David Coffer said.
TLLC announced last year that it planned to focus its financial and management resources on its core Travelodge business.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 3 March 2005