|Roadside restaurant chain|
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. The restaurants offered similar fare to Little Chef, such as English breakfasts 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.
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.
- Fast Food (1987 video game): originally developed for the chain
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Media related to Happy Eater at Wikimedia Commons