Wimpy commercial from 1981

Wimpy is the brand name of a chain of fast-food hamburger restaurants based in the United Kingdom. The restaurants were originally called Wimpy Bars and many people still refer to them by this name, despite the fact that the name “Wimpy Bar” was dropped in favour of “Wimpy” many years ago. The current owners of the Wimpy brand operate in several countries under the name of Wimpy International.

History

The Wimpy brand was created in the 1950s. The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by Elzie Crisler Segar. Eddie Gold was running 12 restaurants by the early 1950s, when the concept of fast food came to the attention of the directors of J. Lyons and Co. Lyons licensed the brand for use in the United Kingdom and in 1954 the first “Wimpy Bar” Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. 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. By the early 1970s the business had expanded to over a thousand restaurants in 23 countries.

In 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits. 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 the “counter service” operation style of McDonald’s. In 1989, the business was sold to Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo). Grand Metropolitan had acquired Burger King the previous year and they began to convert the “counter service” restaurants to Burger King restaurants. In 1990, the remaining 220 “table service” restaurants were purchased by a management buy-out backed by 3i.  A second management buy-out occurred in 2002.

Although Wimpy has decreased in numbers in the United Kingdom, it is still found in some towns and cities, at RoadChef motorway services and at the Dundee Megabowl bowling alley.   The branches at the Roadchef and Megabowl locations typically have a counter service as opposed to a table service format.

On 27 February 2007, Famous Brands, who owns the Wimpy franchise in South Africa, announced that it had acquired Wimpy UK. 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.

Wimpy are currently re-branding and refreshing all its restaurants, which commenced on 22nd October 2007 with the launch of the new format at the Benfleet, Essex branch. Wimpy features new décor, seating and signage and a return to the original Wimpy colours of red and white. Supporting the new look is an improved menu and a significant marketing campaign.

Info gleaned from Wikipedia

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