Little Chef owner RCapital has announced that it is calling time on restaurants that have failed to improve their performance over the last four years. The turnaround firm rescued Little Chef back in 2007 when it fell into administration following a decade of decline.
‘When we acquired Little Chef four years ago we inherited a number of sites with leases that were uncompetitive,’ explains RCapital chairman Graham Sims. ‘Despite very hard work from some very committed colleagues we have been unable to lift the performances of these sites to a level where they are viable.’
But all is not lost. A company statement reveals that, once the failing stores are cut out of the business, Little Chef will continue to ‘trade strongly’. There is even expansion on the cards. Several new sites will be opened over the next five years, creating a raft of new job opportunities, says the company.
This will be cold comfort to the 500 and 600 workers that are about to lose their jobs, however. After the down-sizing, Little Chef will be down to just 1,500 full and part-time staff. ‘We will do everything in our power to help every individual find alternative employment within the Little Chef organisation,’ says Sims.
Little Chef has had lots of ups and downs in recent years. After being slammed for poor food and poor customer service throughout the noughties, in 2008 Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal was drafted in to revamp several branches as part of a Channel 4 show. The experiment was successful, with the Popham branch appearing in that year’s Good Food Guide.
Little Chef’s management has confirmed its desire to continue ‘Hestonising’ the other eateries in its portfolio to try and boost customer numbers. His trademark ox cheeks and spit-roast chicken will soon grace every Little Chef menu in the land. The strategy has been nicknamed the ‘New Concept’ and £30m has been ear-marked to fund the makeover and launch several drive-thru restaurants.
And there is one other bright spot on the horizon for Little Chef. With London 2012 fast approaching, a little clever marketing could see Little Chef pull in a roaring trade with its world-famous Olympic breakfast…