Friday, 4 August 2017

Little Chef

Saw a number of derelict Little Chefs during the journey to and from our Suffolk holiday destination. Hardly surprising - the last one we visited was so grim that Mrs H left her most negative TripAdvisor comment ever.

For a while they were sometimes convenient coffee stops but those days are long gone. Slow service and a dated Formica ambience are not the way to compete with the likes of Starbucks and Costa. According to Wikipedia 

 On 1 February 2017 the Little Chef chain was purchased by Euro Garages Ltd. where the chain's future became unclear.
In February 2017 Euro Garages began a programme to close down all Little Chefs, replacing them with other brands available to them such as Starbucks. This is scheduled to be complete before the end of the year.

Stopping off for a coffee on long road journeys is not usually an enriching experience, but the demise of Little Chef could be a welcome improvement.


Michael said...

I'm afraid that the brand suffered from all the sorts of charlatans you can find in the 'hospitality' business.

Glum staff, crap food, filthy car parks and a tired business model.

Perfect for hustlers in property and little else.

Had you taken a diversion, popped through the Dartford Tunnel, gone on for an hour, you could have had a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit with Mrs O'Blene and me, certainly stayed for several tinctures, booked into our local fabulous hotel, and had a real break with a great dinner!

We could have all met up for lunch the next day, organised a few other chums, booked the whole restaurant for the lunchtime and the evening, got babysitters in for some of the younger chums, asked a local band to do some Mingus and stuff, made merry for ages, then all gone to sleep with smiles on our faces!

We'd have then seen you off with a huge pile of runner beans, and several pounds of ripening tomatoes, arranged a brass band to play 'Lohengrin', and asked the bell-ringers if they'd borrow a few from the other villages to do a half-peal of Grandsire!

...but you were forced to go to a Little Chef, because I know the one you went to, and it is indeed dire...

Poor you!

Thud said...

I for one will not miss them.

Anonymous said...

I suppose Little Chefs were popular back in pre motorway days. Now apart from holidays one would not normally just poodle down A roads. But maybe they could have a resurgence as leccy car recharge stopovers. That or housing estates. We take sandwiches and a flask, motorway coffee shops are good for one thing only and thankfully that is still free.

Sackerson said...

I did quite like the Happy Eater logo of a man sticking his finger down his throat:

Demetrius said...

There was a time half a century and more ago when chugging down a major road or motorway in our Standard 10 the sign of a Little Chef was welcome. When one of the first opened, I think, near Leicester, there were people who went out for an evening meal at the one on the M1.

A K Haart said...

Scrobs - a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit with Mrs O'Blene and you sounds like a colossal improvement. One fine day...

Thud - neither will I. How they made such a mess of the business I don't know.

Roger - we would take sandwiches and a flask, but our parents did that and it makes us feel dated. Don't know why that matters because we are dated now.

Sackers - crikey, is that what we were supposed to do? Should have known.

Demetrius - in my wife's younger days it was quite the thing to drive to a nearby M1 service area for a coffee.

James Higham said...

Thought they'd disappeared long ago.

A K Haart said...

James - they are on the way out. If you want one you will have to snap it up quickly.

Macheath said...

Like Sackerson, I've always rather liked the idea of the Happy Eater logo - how did that one get past marketing?

There's a similar amusement to be found in the French motorway catering outfit Courtepaille - 'short straw'. I've always assumed that the phrase has rather different connotations in French, perhaps suggesting luck, but it seems not; I recently came across a reference in a childrens song to shipwrecked sailors drawing straws to see which one will be eaten.

To be honest, it's not the most auspicious association for a restaurant...

"On tira z'à la courte paille,
Pour savoir qui, qui, qui serait mangé"

A K Haart said...

Macheath - welcome back. I'm sure Monty Python did a sketch about shipwrecked sailors deciding who should be eaten first. It's a pity Courtepaille didn't buy Little Chef.

Graeme said...

I think Happy Eaters and Little Chefs still bumble along on those A-roads that wind interminably through the Kent countryside, where you can get stuck for hours behind a convoy of huge trucks doing 40 mph. About the only way of breaking the monotony is to pop into a Little Chef for something brown. Didn't they get Heston Blumenthal to revamp the menu once - maybe that hastened their demise? In idle reverie after a trip down to Pevensey or adjacent parts, I sometimes think of that old Kipling poem:

If you wake at midnight and hear a horse's feet
Don't go drawing back the blinds and looking in the street
Them that asks no questions is never told a lie
So watch the wall, my darling, while the HGVs go by

A K Haart said...

Graeme - the Little Chefs we see are closed. The last one we visited had a couple of scruffy Romanians camping on the grass verge which didn't inspire confidence. Maybe they were the staff.