Happy Eater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Happy Eater
Roadside restaurant chain
FounderMichael Pickard

Happy Eater was a chain of family-oriented 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 takeover 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
Happy Eater restaurant (circa 1985) including children's play equipment.
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]

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.

The Happy Eater chain employed female table serving staff. Male staff were reserved for management, cooking, dishwashing and other support roles. Until, in 1985, a male employee named Ron Weekes, working at the Broadbridge Heath, West Sussex restaurant, requested an opportunity to work front of house, waiting tables. This opportunity was granted by the duty manager, thus Weekes became the first male waiter across the national chain.[citation needed]

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]


  1. ^ a b Smith, Andrew F. (2008). Hamburger: A Global History. Reaktion Books. p. 55. ISBN 9781861896315.
  2. ^ Aitkenhead, Decca (31 December 1995). "Is a great English fry-up safe on the motorway?". The Independent.
  3. ^ Condron, Stephanie (28 February 2005). "Has the Little Chef finally had its chips?". Daily Mail.
  4. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps.
  5. ^ "Contact- Toran Indian Cuisine". Retrieved 8 January 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Happy Eater at Wikimedia Commons