13 February 2012

Little Chef, the UK's Diner

Little Chef was started in 1958 by Sam Alper, sculptor and printmaking enthusiast, viticulturalist, and, like Airstream's Wally Byam, designer and booster of caravans. The first Little Chef was in Reading, Berkshire, modelled on diners seen by Alper in the USA. The chain ultimately grew to over 430 outlets. It passed through numerous hands, and by the mid-1970s was synonymous with dire food and terrible service; one stopped only if there really was no choice.

Chef Heston Blumenthal proved to be the company's saviour, introducing in 2009 both a new menu and a refit, starting with the outlet in Popham, Hampshire. The brand's mascot, Fat Charlie, was slimmed down, as was the chain, to about 115 outlets. That outside Shrewsbury is one of a dozen so far refurbished in line with Blumenthal's designs. Not quite an American diner, but a good UK simulacrum.

No comments: