Cranks was a chain of English wholefood vegetarian restaurants, of which only one now remains at Totnes, Devon. It was founded and owned by David and Kay Canter and Daphne Swann, and its flagship restaurant was at Marshall Street in the West End of London.
The first Cranks opened in Carnaby Street, London, in 1961. There were very few vegetarian restaurants in the United Kingdom at the time, and wholefoods were hard to get. To that extent, Cranks was a ground-breaking enterprise. It has been seen as a major factor in the spread of vegetarianism in recent decades.
In the 1950s, David Canter had become persuaded that good health depended on unrefined wholefoods and a vegetarian diet. While he was converting premises in Carnaby Street for the Craft Potters' Association (of which he was a co-founder), a vacant bakery came on to the market nearby and Canter decided to take it. At that time Carnaby Street was, in Canter's words "not swinging, but a street of small shops and cafés."
The Cranks menu at first consisted mainly of salads. David Canter wrote that, "In contrast to the traditional tired lettuce that makes the appetite wilt too, these salads could change the eater's whole view of vegetables. The vivid combinations of ingredients and colours, crisp from cutting and dressing, were teamed with equally fresh wholemeal rolls, savouries and puddings." The restaurant became successful quickly, indicating unmet demand for its original menus.
The style of decor was also new, although owing something to 1950s coffee bars. There were solid natural-coloured oak tables, hand thrown stoneware pottery, heather-brown quarry tiles, woven basket lampshades and hand-woven seat covers.
Cranks moved to larger premises in Marshall Street in 1967. In the next decade they opened branches at Dartmouth, Totnes, Guildford, Dartington, Heals furniture store in Tottenham Court Road, and the Peter Robinson department store in Oxford Street. A sole franchise, the Cranks Grønne Buffet, was opened in Copenhagen.
David Canter died in 1981. In 1987 Kay Canter and Daphne Swann sold Cranks to Guinness. Opening more branches under a new business plan, the business encountered financial difficulties, attributed by some to a dated image. It was then bought and sold several times, and in the 1990s was rebranded, bringing it in line with contemporary sandwich bars. In 1998 it was bought by Capricorn International, who invested £1.5m in the London branches, but continuing losses forced them to close the restaurants. The brand was then sold to Nando's Grocery Ltd. Kay Canter died in April 2007 at age 85.
- David Canter, Kay Canter, Daphne Swann, The Cranks Recipe Book, Panther, 1982
- Kay Canter and Daphne Swann, Entertaining With Cranks, Grafton Books, 1987
- David Canter, Cranks' Recipe Book, Orion, 1993
- David Canter, Kay Canter, Daphne Swann, Traditional Vegetarian Cooking, Recipes from Europe's Famous Crank's Restaurant, Healing Art Press, 1991
- Cranks, Eat good, feel good!
- Obituary of Kay Canter
- David Canter, Kay Canter, Daphne Swann, The Cranks Recipe Book, Panther, 1982,
- Colin Blackstock, "Veggie chain to close after 40 years", The Guardian, 18 December 2001
- Cranks may spring up again outside London - 3 January 2002 - CatererSearch
- Welcome to Nando’s. The official worldwide home of Nando’s famous peri-peri chicken. www.nandos.com
- "Death of a 'Crank'"