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Happy Eater

Happy Eater
Happy Eater
Associated names:Welcome Break, AJ's
Introduced:1973
Removed:1996
Predecessors:none
Successors:Little Chef
An abandoned Happy Eater

Happy Eater was a family-friendly restaurant which rivalled Little Chef and was well-known for its facilities for children. They were set up in 1972 by Michael Pickard, who decided to leave Trust Houses group when they merged with Forte in 1970. Michael Pickard was later joined by former Trust Houses colleague Allen Jones, who set up Welcome Break restaurants in the 1970s and these restaurants were rebranded as Happy Eater, with the Welcome Break name retained for future ventures by the company.

In 1980, Happy Eater and its 21 restaurants were taken over by the Imperial Group. Trusthouse Forte bought Happy Eater in 1986, at which point directors Allen Jones and Jane Pickard went on to form AJ's, which was very similar to Happy Eater. Trusthouse Forte were bought by Granada in 1995. Granada converted all the Happy Eaters to Little Chef on the basis that they make more money. However, this meant that Little Chef were now rivalling themselves, which led to a mass-closure of restaurants. Ironically, this and other issues caused Little Chef to fall in to administration in 2007.

Sir Rocco Forte allegedly had a gentleman's agreement with the Whitbread Group that they would buy Happy Eater if Forte ever faced a hostile takeover, but this didn't happen.

Happy Eater was rumoured to be making a comeback under R Capital ownership in 2010 with a site at Gordano, but this has never happened either.

Former Locations

Happy Eater operated at the following locations:

  • Andover (A303) (north & southbound)
  • Attleborough (A11) (northbound-only)
  • Apex Corner (A1)
  • Baldock (A1) (southbound-only)
  • Barham (A2)
  • Basildon (A127)
  • Belbroughton (A491)
  • Bere Regis (A31)
  • Betchworth (A25)
  • Bicester (A41) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Birstall (A62)
  • Burford (A40)
  • Burgh Heath (Pickard Motor Hotel) (A217)
  • Burnley (M65 J10) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Burton (A38) (north & southbound) - one of the earliest to close
  • Camel Cross (A303)
  • Cannock (A5)
  • Capel St Mary (A12)
  • Charing (A20)
  • Chester (A41)
  • Chipping Norton (A44)
  • Codford (A36)
  • Colsterworth (A1) (north & southbound)
  • Colwyn Bay (A55)
  • Croxton (A45 now A428)
  • Daventry (A45)
  • Detling (A249) (north and southbound)
  • Doncaster (A1) (northbound-only)
  • East Dereham (A47)
  • Elkesley (A1) - one of the earliest to close
  • Feering (A12) (eastbound-only)
  • Felbridge Star Corner (A22)
  • Freckenham (A11)
  • Hailsham (A22)
  • Handcross (A23)
  • Hellingly (A22/A267)
  • Henstridge (A30)
  • Hindhead (Pickard Motor Hotel) (A3)
  • Hogs Back (A31)
  • Holbech (A17)
  • Holmwood (A24) - former Welcome Break
  • Hooley (A23)
  • Horsham (A24)
  • Ilminster (A303)
  • Kennford North (A38) (northbound-only) - former Welcome Break
  • Kennford South (A38) (southbound-only)
  • Kingston Bypass (A3) (north and southbound)
  • Lamberhurst (A21) - former Welcome Break
  • Leicester Forest East (M1) (north and southbound)
  • Manchester (A34/A5814)
  • Markham Moor (A1) (southbound-only)
  • Martlesham (A12)
  • Matlock (Darley Dale) (A6)
  • Membury (M4) (north and south) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Newark (A1/A17/A46)
  • Newmarket (A14) (west & east)
  • Northop Hall (A55)
  • Nottingham (A52)
  • Oakmere (A556) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Ollerton (A614)
  • Peterborough (A1) (southbound-only)
  • Picket Post (A31)
  • Rainton (A1) (north & south) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Rake (A3)
  • Ripley (A247)
  • Ross Spur (M50/A449) (northbound-only)
  • Royston (A505)
  • Saltash (A38)
  • Sawtry (A1) (north & south)
  • Saxmundham (A12)
  • Selby Fork (A1) (southbound-only)
  • Skipbridge (A59) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • South Cave (A63) (west & east) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Sparkford (A303)
  • St Leonards (A31)
  • Swindon (A419)
  • Tempsford (A1) (northbound-only)
  • Thirsk (A168) (eastbound-only) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Todhills (A74) (northbound-only) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Tottenham Court Road, London
  • Ware (A10)
  • Westcott (A41)
  • Western Avenue (A40)
  • Weston-on-the-Green (A34) (northbound-only)
  • Whitchurch (A49)
  • Whitemare Pool (A1 now A194)
  • Whitstable (A299)
  • Widnes (A562) - one of the first to become a Little Chef
  • Wisbech (A47)
  • Wisley (A3) (north & south)
  • Worthing (A27)
  • York (A64) (westbound-only) - one of the first to become a Little Chef

With thanks to Alan Simpson for the information used on this page.