Happy Eater

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Happy Eater
Roadside restaurant chain
Founded 1973
Founder Michael Pickard
Defunct 1997
Happy Eater restaurant (circa 1985) including children's play equipment.

Happy Eater was a chain of family-orientated roadside restaurants that operated throughout England and Wales until 1997. The company was established in 1973 by Michael Pickard as a rival to Little Chef, which was the only national chain of roadside restaurants at the time.[1] The restaurants offered similar fare to Little Chef, such as English breakfasts[2] and fish and chips. The major difference between Happy Eater and Little Chef was that it provided outdoor playground equipment. Outlets were mostly located in South East England, the Midlands and along the A1 corridor.

Following Granada's takover of THF in 1995, all Happy Eaters were converted into Little Chefs and the brand was phased out by the end of 1997.

The chain received widespread media attention in the early 1990s as a restaurant favoured by the Prime Minister John Major.[3]


Close up of a Happy Eater weather vane

In 1973 a former managing director of the hotel group Trust House Forte, Michael Pickard, founded a family-orientated roadside restaurant, aimed at competing with the established pre-eminent chain in the industry, Little Chef. By 1980 Pickard had built up a chain of 21 restaurants when he sold Happy Eater to the Imperial Group conglomerate. Imperial expanded the chain to 75 restaurants, before selling the chain in 1986 to Trust House Forte, who owned the Little Chef chain. THF continued to expand the Happy Eater chain alongside Little Chef.

THF was taken over in 1995 by Granada.[1] Granada began to convert all Happy Eater outlets into Little Chefs, with the Happy Eater brand ceasing to exist in 1997.

See also[edit]


An abandoned Happy Eater, with outdoor playground equipment visible. (Both building and elephant have since been refurbished and reopened as an Indian restaurant.)[4][5]