Wimpy (restaurant)

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This article is about a UK hamburger chain. For other uses, see Wimpy.
Wimpy
Type Wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Restaurants
Founded Coventry Street, London (UK) (1954)
Founders Eddie Gold (US), J. Lyons and Co (UK)
Products Fast Food
(hamburgers • chicken • french fries)
Parent Famous Brands Limited
Website UK website, South African Website

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

History[edit]

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 the 1934 by Eddie Gold. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Gold was the first American to launch a hamburger chain overseas,[1] running 12 restaurants by the early 1950s in the United Kingdom. The concept of fast food came to the attention of the directors of J. Lyons and Co. 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.[2] 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.[2]

In 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits. When Gold died in 1978, the chain vanished in the United States, keeping with a provision in his will that all of the 1,500 American restaurants close.[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.[3]

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.

There is only one branch still functioning in Cairo, which is the Nasser City branch.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Wimpy opened its first chain in Saudi Arabia in the mid '70s. By the late '80s it became the most popular fast food chain in 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.

Finland[edit]

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.

Germany[edit]

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.[4] All of them are now closed.

India[edit]

Wimpy was one of the first fast-food restaurants 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 remaining restaurants still in business are in the Punjab, India.

Ireland[edit]

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,[5] and operated a large number of sites, but they have since ceased to operate them.[6] 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.

Japan[edit]

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.

Kuwait[edit]

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

New Zealand[edit]

Wimpy had branches in New Zealand including Auckland, Hamilton, Paraparaumu and Taupo but have now closed. One store remained in Rotorua but this was put up for sale in 2008 and has since closed.

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.

France[edit]

Jacques Borel opened the first hamburger restaurant in 1961 in Paris. It was a Wimpy franchised restaurant. It closed in 1969.[7]

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, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Lebanon (Beirut), India, Iran, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Netherlands, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Japan.

Wimpy was the first international hamburger restaurant in Turkey, in the mid-80s. 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 a hamburger chain, Wimpy's diner with locations in Ontario but under separate management.

In popular culture[edit]

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.

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

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.

The Dudley Moore character in the cult film Bedazzled (1967) works at a Wimpy Bar.

The Jethro Tull song "Up to Me" from the album Aqualung (1971) makes reference to a Wimpy Bar.

The X-Ray Spex song "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo" from the album Germfree Adolescents (1978) also refers to a Wimpy Bar in the lyrics.

References[edit]

External links[edit]