Motorway Services Online

Retrieved from "http://motorwayservicesonline.co.uk/Happy_Eater"

Happy Eater

Happy Eater
Happy Eater
Associated names:Welcome Break, AJ's
Introduced:1973
Removed:1996
Predecessors:none
Successors:Little Chef
Happy Eater restaurant.
The Apex Corner Happy Eater.
Happy Eater signpost.
A drawing of a Happy Eater signpost.
Abandoned restaurant building.
An abandoned Happy Eater.

Happy Eater was a restaurant which rivalled Little Chef and was well-known for its facilities for children, as well as its distinctive yellow branding and animal-shaped outdoor play areas.

Forte considered Happy Eater to be their most upmarket roadside brand they owned, with the comparatively low-rent Little Chef being the least.

In 1991, the brand came to be associated with Prime Minister John Major, who was seen dining at one while on his way to a speech and reportedly visited regularly.

Company History

It was set up in 1972 by Michael Pickard, who decided to leave the Trust Houses group when they merged with Forte in 1970.

Michael Pickard was later joined by former Trust Houses colleague Allen Jones, who had set up Welcome Break restaurants in the 1970s, and these restaurants were re-branded as Happy Eater, with the Welcome Break name retained for a future venture.

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.

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 competing with 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. Whitbread were interested in buying Forte but it fell through.

Former Locations

Happy Eater operated at the following locations:

  • Andover (A303) (west & eastbound)
  • 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