Kuwait company snaps up Little Chef
Restaurant chain Little Chef has been saved from disappearing from Britain's roadsides after being snapped up by a Kuwaiti company for £15 million.
The firm's Fat Charlie mascot has been a familiar sight for UK motorists for more than 50 years but its future looked uncertain when it was put up for sale earlier this year and fast food and coffee chains eyed up its sites.
But new owner Kout Food Group, which already operates a number of restaurant franchises in the Middle East, is expected to retain the Little Chef name. It is buying 81 of its 83 sites.
It has paid somewhat less than the £20 million first mooted when the chain was put up for sale by turnaround firm RCapital - which is retaining two of the restaurants.
RCapital had acquired Little Chef for a nominal fee in 2007 after it collapsed into administration before an overhaul including a menu revamp by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal. It said it had brought the business back into profitability.
Bidders for Little Chef were thought to include McDonald's, KFC and Costa. It was believed they wanted to pick up the restaurant's sites but ditch the name.
However, RCapital's chief executive Jamie Constable said the new owners would "take the brand to the next stage". They will hope to capitalise on a breakfast and travel dining market estimated at £3 billion in the UK.
Fadwa Al Homaizi, chairman of Kout Food Group Restaurants UK, said: "KGFR-UK has exciting plans to revitalise the Little Chef brand. Little Chef will benefit from a process of brand renewal in keeping with current trends, supported by traditional British values."
Kout already operates franchises in Kuwait for Burger King, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell as well as a number of Middle Eastern brands. In the UK it owns Maison Blanc restaurants as well as more than 40 Burger King and KFC units.
Little Chef employs 1100 staff at 83 sites and serves more than six million customers a year. It had 234 outlets with 4,000 staff at the time of its 2007 collapse. Famous for its large "Olympic" breakfasts, it began life as an 11-seat restaurant in Reading, Berkshire in 1958.