Wimpy (restaurant)

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This article is about the UK hamburger chain. For the unrelated Canadian chain, see Wimpys Diner. For other uses, see Wimpy.
Wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Restaurants
Founded Coventry Street, London (UK) (1954)
Founder Eddie Gold (US), J. Lyons and Co (UK)
Products Fast Food
(hamburgers • chicken • french fries)
Parent Famous Brands Limited
Slogan There's a Wimpy moment in every day. Enjoy every moment.
Website UK website, South African Website

Wimpy is the brand name of a chain of fast food restaurants.


A Wimpy restaurant in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
A Wimpy restaurant in Ryde, Isle of Wight with the previous logo.

Originally called Wimpy Grills, the Wimpy brand was created in 1934 by Eddie Gold. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. According to a 1978 Chicago Tribune article, Gold's company Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago had a maximum of 25 locations in the United States at its height but only seven locations remained at the time of his death in 1977.[1]

In 1954, Gold sold a licence to J. Lyons and Co to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom.[2][3] Subsequently, in 1957, Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago formed a joint company with J. Lyons and Co called Wimpy's International to operate Wimpy Grills in the rest of the world.[4] The joint company eventually grew to 1,500 locations and Gold later sold his share to Lyons prior to his death.[1]

Lyons licensed the brand for use in the United Kingdom and, in 1954, the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London.[5] Originally the bar was a special fast-food section within the more traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals. By 1970 the business had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries.[5]

In 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits. According to the Chicago Tribune, when Gold died in 1978, the chain vanished within the United States because no one had purchased the rights and trademark to the Wimpy name from Gold's estate.[1] By the late 1980s, Wimpy was beginning to lose ground to McDonald’s, who had opened their first UK restaurant in 1974, and so the new management of Wimpy began to streamline the business by converting some of the traditional table service restaurants to counter service. In 1989, the business was sold to Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo). Grand Metropolitan had acquired Burger King the previous year and they began to convert the “counter service” restaurants to Burger King restaurants. In 1990, the remaining 220 “table service” restaurants were purchased by a management buy-out backed by 3i. A second management buy-out occurred in 2002.

Although Wimpy outlets have decreased in numbers in the UK, they are still found in many cities, and at seafront/seasonal locations, such as Clacton-on-Sea, Clarence Pier in Southsea, Porthcawl Beach, Brean Leisure Park in Somerset and in two locations in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

Wimpy is the only major fast food chain that offers Quorn burgers on the menu.

On 27 February 2007, Famous Brands, which owns the Wimpy franchise in South Africa, announced that it had acquired Wimpy UK. Having acquired the brand, Famous Brands has re-branded Wimpy in the UK, to bring it in line with Wimpy South Africa. The "new" logo is actually one used by Wimpy UK from the 1960s until the 1980s.

Wimpy has been re-branding and refreshing all its restaurants; the operation commenced on 22 October 2007, with the launch of the new format at the Benfleet, Essex, branch. The opening day of the relaunch featured Geoffrey Hayes of the Rainbow television series, dressed as Mr Wimpy. Wimpy features new décor, seating and signage and a return to the original Wimpy colours of red and white. Supporting the new look is an improved menu and a significant marketing campaign.[6]

Outside the United Kingdom[edit]

Egypt and Morocco[edit]

At one time Wimpy had many outlets in Egypt and Morocco. It was the first international burger restaurant chain in Egypt and Morocco's second; however, by 1998 both were closed.

In Egypt there was a network which covered almost all districts in Cairo and Alexandria. The Mohandisseen outlet was owned and managed directly by the agent in Egypt.

Wimpy expanded in Egypt through signing several franchise contracts with Egyptian investors. These franchises included: 'Merryland' in Heliopolis, 'Pyramids', 'Shooting Club', 'Hoda Shaarawi', 'Talaat Harb', 'Nasser City', 'Manshyet El Bakry' and many others.

The Merryland branch in Heliopolis was founded by Raafat Sadek Zahran and his sons Bahaa El Din, Samir and Ahmed Raafat Zahran.[citation needed]

The branches of Huda Shaarawi in the downtown area and the Shooting Club branch in Giza were founded by Mostafa El-Shorbagi.

Wimpy does not exist now in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Wimpy opened its first chain in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1970s. By the late 1980s, it had become the most popular fast food chain of the nation[citation needed]. With the opening of the first McDonald's in 1994, Wimpy started to struggle, and by 2006 the last branch had closed.


Wimpy was the first fast-food restaurant to open in Finland in the 1970s. It had three locations in Helsinki, all of them now closed.


In the 1970s, Wimpy also established about three dozen restaurants in different German cities named "Wimpy-Snack". The one in Hamburg was located on The Reeperbahn in the St.Pauli district.[citation needed] All of them are now closed.


Wimpy was one of the first fast-food restaurant chains to open in India's post-liberalised economy. With a run of initial success, Wimpy was often touted as the first icon of 'Westernization' in India. A few of the restaurants which are still in business are located in Punjab.


Wimpy has been in Ireland on two occasions, in the 1960s and more recently in the early 2000s.

In the 2000s, petrol station chain operator Petrogas took on the master franchise for Ireland,[7] and operated a large number of sites, but they have since ceased to operate them.[8] Most have been replaced by "Grill'n'Fill" own-branded areas, selling virtually identical products, or Burger King, for which Petrogas now has a franchise.


Wimpy was the first overseas fast-food chain to open in Japan; the first branch opened in 1970 in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. In 1992, Wimpy formed a business partnership with Russell's Restaurant Inc. to open a new Russell's chain of hamburger restaurants, but the company withdrew from Japan in 1998.


Wimpy opened in Al-duiya in Kuwait in the 1970s. It is now only in Al-Nuzha, Kuwait and Sulaibiya Jahra, Kuwait.

New Zealand[edit]

Wimpy had branches in New Zealand including Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Paraparaumu, Wanganui, and Taupo. These were all rebranded in about 2002. One store remained in Rotorua trading as Wimpy, although it was not part of the franchise chain.

South Africa[edit]

Wimpy opened in South Africa in Durban in 1967. The business was sold to Bakers SA Ltd in the late 1970s and later to Famous Brands Limited.


Jacques Borel opened the first hamburger restaurant in 1961 in Paris. It was a Wimpy franchised restaurant. It closed in 1969.[9]

Other countries[edit]

In 1976, Wimpy opened their first restaurant in Colombia in Bogotá. Branches trading as Wimpy in Germany preceded the U.S. based chains. Other countries with Wimpy restaurants include Guatemala, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Kuwait, Egypt, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Lebanon, India, Iran, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, the Netherlands, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Japan.

Wimpy was the first international hamburger restaurant in Turkey, in the mid-1980s. However, it lost ground to McDonalds and Pizza Hut restaurants opened in Taksim Square, Istanbul, and had to shut down its only restaurant in this location.

In Canada, there is an unrelated hamburger chain, Wimpy's diner with locations in Ontario but under separate management.

Mr. Wimpy[edit]

Mr. Wimpy computer game

During the 1980s, advertising for the Wimpy chain featured a cartoon character called Mr. Wimpy. He was almost entirely hidden under a large hat, and only a nose and a smile were visible. His physical appearance was a visual pun, as his costume was the red dress uniform of the Beefeaters at the Tower Of London, playing on the beef-oriented nature of the chain's menu. In certain branches, a member of staff would dress up in a Mr. Wimpy costume for pre-arranged children's parties. Although the Wimpy chain's name was originally inspired by the Wimpy cartoon character in Popeye, the chain's own Mr. Wimpy bore no resemblance to Popeye's Wimpy.

Mr. Wimpy also appeared in an official computer game by Ocean Software, released in 1984 on the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and other formats.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lazarus, Geoge (July 28, 1978). "Wimpy's for sale; is there 2d Ray Kroc?". Chicago Tribune. p. D9.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  2. ^ "Edward V. Gold, `Wimpy' Entrepreneur". Washington Post. October 17, 1977. p. C6. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  3. ^ "Edward V. Gold, 70, the Founder Of the Wimpy's Restaurant Chain". New York Times. October 16, 1977. p. 42. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  4. ^ "Restaurant Chain Formed". New York Times. April 5, 1957. p. 50. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  5. ^ a b "Wimpy Moments". Retrieved 1 July 2010. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Wimpy New Format". Wimpy.uk.com. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 25 January 2011. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Wimpy International Ltd". Caterer Search. Retrieved 29 January 2008. 
  8. ^ http://asp-gb.secure-zone.net/v2/index.jsp?id=666/1326/2833&lng=en[dead link]
  9. ^ "Il y a 50 ans, le premier restaurant de hamburgers en France" [It is 50 years old, the first hamburger restaurant in France]. La Dépêche (in French). 29 May 2011. 

External links[edit]