Wimpy (restaurant)

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This article is about the UK hamburger chain. For the unrelated Canadian chain, see Wimpys Diner. For other uses, see Wimpy.
Wimpy
Wholly owned subsidiary
Industry Restaurants
Founded Coventry Street, London (UK) (1954)
Founder Eddie Gold (US), J. Lyons and Co (UK)
Products Fast Food
(hamburgers • chicken • french fries)
Parent Famous Brands Limited
Slogan There's a Wimpy moment in every day. Enjoy every moment.
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.

Origins in the United States[edit]

Originally called Wimpy Grills, the Wimpy brand was created in 1934 by Edward Gold when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana.[1][2] The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Although the Wimpy name is most closely identified with the city of Chicago, Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until 2 years later in 1936 and after opening units in five other Midwestern cities.[3] By 1947, the Chicago Tribune reported that the chain had 26 units and expected to sell 8 million hamburgers annually in the Chicago area.[4]

According to a 1978 Chicago Tribune article, Gold's company Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago had a maximum of 25 locations in the United States at its height but only seven locations remained at the time of his death in 1977.[5] According to the Chicago Tribune, when Gold died in 1978, the chain vanished within the United States because no one had purchased the rights and trademark to the Wimpy name from Gold's estate.[5]

Wimpy's International[edit]

In 1954, Gold sold a licence to J. Lyons and Co to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom.[6][7] Subsequently, in 1957, Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago formed a joint company with J. Lyons and Co called Wimpy's International to operate Wimpy Grills in the rest of the world.[8] The joint company eventually grew to 1,500 locations and Gold later sold his share to Lyons prior to his death.[5] After obtaining full control of the international licensing outside of the United States, Lyons and its successors handled global franchising through their UK-based subsidiary Wimpy International Ltd. until Wimpy UK became a subsidiary of South Africa-based Famous Brands in 2007.

United Kingdom[edit]

Lyons obtained a license to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom from Edward Gold's Chicago-based Wimpy Grills, Inc.[6][7] and, in 1954, the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London.[9][10] 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.

In 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a "Wimpy's Hamburger Parlor" on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.[10] Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic-age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in prepackaged single serving packets. In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and Whippsy milkshakes, the British franchise initially had served ham or sardine rolls called Torpedoes and cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.[10]

By 1970 the business had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries.[9]

In 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits.[11] 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.

When United Biscuit decided to divest its restaurant division in 1989, it sold the business to Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo). At the time of the sale, there were 381 locations in the UK. Grand Metropolitan had acquired Burger King the previous year and they began to convert the "counter service" restaurants to Burger King restaurants since Burger King had a greater global brand recognition.[12]

In 1990, the remaining 216 "table service" restaurants were purchased by a management buy-out backed by 3i.[13] These were locations that were considered less desirable by Grand Metropolitan. At the time of the buyout, there were also 140 franchised locations outside of the UK.

A second management buy-out occurred in 2002 that was backed by the Bank of Scotland.[14] At the time of the 2002 sale, there were approximately 300 locations in the UK and Ireland.

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. By the beginning of the 21st century, most Wimpy were found in less desirable low rent locations that primarily cater to pensioners and others on a fixed income and not in their former high street locations of their earlier days.[15] Another big change from earlier times was that most locations were now franchises and not company owned operations.

Since 1997, Wimpy is the only major fast food chain that offers Quorn burgers on the menu.[16]

On 27 February 2007, Famous Brands, which owns the Wimpy franchise in South Africa, announced that it had acquired Wimpy UK.[17][18] 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. In 2009, Famous Brands began to upgrade their 170 locations in the UK to resemble US-style diners.[19] By April 2014, only 93 restaurants remain in the UK, down from over 500 during its height in the 1970s.[17]

Outside the United Kingdom[edit]

South Africa[edit]

Wimpy International opened their first South African location in Durban in 1967.[20] The South African restaurants was sold to Bakers SA Ltd in the late 1970s, which later sold the South African chain to Pleasure Foods, then known as Juicy Lucy SA, in 1987.[21] Famous Brands Limited, then known as the Steers Holdings Limited, acquired Wimpy when it bought Pleasure Foods in 2003.[22]

By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa, making it the largest franchise in the Wimpy franchise system.[23]

France[edit]

In May 1961, French businessman Jacques Borel opened his first Wimpy restaurant in Paris after obtaining an exclusive franchise to operate Wimpy restaurants in France.[24][25] His restaurant was the first hamburger restaurant in France and had predated the opening of the first McDonalds restaurant by a decade. By the end of that year, he was able to open three more locations within Paris. By 1966, he began to expand outside of Paris, starting with Lille.[26] Within a short time, Borel had 20 locations, 15 in Paris and 5 in the rest of the country.[24] Although successful, Borel was forced to close the chain in 1969 due to a disagreement he had with Lyons, the British parent company.[27]

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. 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.

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

Mr. Wimpy merchandise was also available as part of meal promotions. Customers bought certain meals or a combination of meals to qualify, then chose their product. Merchandise included soft toys and puppets (in various sizes), stationary, jigsaws and books.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kennedy Ignores Flap Over Book: Edward V. Gold". Eugene Register-Guard. October 16, 1977. p. 6c. 
  2. ^ Hoekstra, Dave (July 25, 2004). "Pseudosliders". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 11. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ "Restaurant Chain Enters Chicago with First Unit". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 17, 1935. p. 20. Edward Gold, president of Wimpy Grills, Inc., operating restaurant units in five cities in the middle west, has leased for ten years the unimproved land at 117 East Chicago avenue... has started construction of the first of a chain of Chicago eating places.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  4. ^ "Restaurant Chain Leases Loop Site for New Building". Chicago Tribune. 20 April 1947. p. 3-B. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Lazarus, Geoge (28 July 1978). "Wimpy's for sale; is there 2d Ray Kroc?". Chicago Tribune. p. D9.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  6. ^ a b "Edward V. Gold, `Wimpy' Entrepreneur". Washington Post. 17 October 1977. p. C6. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  7. ^ a b "Edward V. Gold, 70, the Founder Of the Wimpy's Restaurant Chain". New York Times. 16 October 1977. p. 42. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  8. ^ "Restaurant Chain Formed". New York Times. 5 April 1957. p. 50. (subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  9. ^ a b "Wimpy Moments". Retrieved 1 July 2010. [dead link]
  10. ^ a b c Buchwald, Art (June 5, 1955). "Europe's Culture Falls to Hot Dog". Washington Post. p. E3. (subscription required (help)). We received a bulletin announcing Lyons Corner House, Ltd., the backbone of Great Britain's gastronimic empire, had opened a "Wimpy's Hamburger Parlor," right plumb in the center of Coventry st.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  11. ^ "Lyons Sell Last Of Wimpy". The Glasgow Herald. July 9, 1977. p. 11. 
  12. ^ "Burger King swallows Wimpy". The Herald (Glasgow). August 8, 1989. 
  13. ^ "Grand Met To Sell Part Of British Wimpy Chain". Chicago Tribune. February 7, 1990. 
  14. ^ Mills, Lauren (26 May 2002). "Wimpy on buyout menu for £20m". Daily Telegraph. 
  15. ^ MacInnes, Paul (January 31, 2002). "Lunch is for Wimpys: There's no longer one on every high street but the original British burger chain is still serving Big Benders - and making a comeback.". The Guardian. 
  16. ^ "Focus: 'WIMPY' - The sign that says we're greasy, we're British and we're lovin' it". The Independent. 15 May 2005. 
  17. ^ a b Clark, Ashley (29 April 2014). "The Slow Death of Wimpy, a British Institution". Vice (magazine). 
  18. ^ West, Edward (28 February 2007). "South Africa: Famous Brands Bites Off 75 Percent of Wimpy UK". AllAfrica.com. 
  19. ^ Golding, Amy (24 November 2009). "Wimpy to restyle its burger bars as American-style diners". Marketing Magazine. (subscription required (help)). 
  20. ^ Tassiopoulos, Dimitri (2008). New Tourism Ventures: An Entrepreneurial and Managerial Approach. Juta and Company Ltd. pp. 92–93. ISBN 9780702177262. 
  21. ^ Maas, Carié (2013). From Corner Café to JSE Giant: The Famous Brands Story. Tafelberg. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9780624056799. 
  22. ^ "Steers buys Pleasure Foods". Fin24. 19 August 2003. 
  23. ^ Vallie, Annaleigh (12 October 2011). "Wimpy helps Famous Brands reach 2000 milestone". Business Day (South Africa). 
  24. ^ a b "Il y a 50 ans, le premier restaurant de hamburgers en France" [It is 50 years old, the first hamburger restaurant in France]. La Dépêche (in French). 29 May 2011. 
  25. ^ "Anniversaire Le premier restaurant de hamburger à Paris, c’était il y a cinquante ans: "Wimpy", fast-food éphémère" [The first anniversary of hamburger restaurant in Paris, it was fifty years ago: "Wimpy", fast food ephemeral]. L'Est Républicain (in French). 30 May 2011. 
  26. ^ "France: The Snack v. La Grande Cuisine". Time. 6 May 1966. (subscription required (help)). With a contract from the British-owned Wimpy chain, he opened his first four hamburger havens in Paris in 1961 and proceeded to lose money for two years. But gradually the idea of "a complete meal on a round bun" caught on. Now Borel serves 60,000 meals a day in Paris, and sales will run to $15 million or $16 million this year. Next week Borel will open his first Wimpy outside Paris in Lille, and then he moves on to the gastronomic bastion of Lyon. By the end of the year there will also be Wimpys in Nice, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille, as well as five more in Paris. 
  27. ^ "Wimpy en France, en avance sur son temps?" [Wimpy in France, ahead of its time?]. ou-dejeuner (in French). 2 June 2011. 

External links[edit]