For younger readers, it’s hard to imagine, but back in the day - from the sixties all the way up until the early nineties - there was another big player in the world of fast food: Wimpy.
Small-sounding name, big-tasting food and people of a certain age will go misty-eyed at the mention of the restaurant; a Wimpy birthday was a rite of passage for many of us in the pre-internet olden days.
At their peak, they had over 500 restaurants operating up and down the UK, before it declined, being unable to compete with American upstarts McDonald’s and Burger King. Indeed, many of them were eventually converted into Burger Kings, who were owned by the same parent company. Currently, there are only around 80 Wimpys left.
However, that may all be about to change with an impending announcement for “expansion and investment”.
A spokesman confirmed to the Daily Star: “We do have some exciting new plans in terms of continued expansion and an investment programme” with another adding, “We do have many exciting plans under development behind the scenes. But these won’t be for public consumption for until February – May 2018.”
However, industry experts say that they’d be surprised if the move were to prove successful. Peter Martin, vice president of out-of-home food and drink consultancy firm CGA, said: “If they were to do it, I’d be surprised. I think it’s a very difficult market for them to come back into. It’s always very difficult bringing back old brands – nostalgia only works with old people!”
He continued: “It will be interesting what their plans are. Pricing is key in this market, you really need scale to look after your margins. That is an area that is outed by the likes of McDonald’s, Greggs and Wetherspoons and they do very well because they are big companies run incredibly efficiently. [Wimpy will need to work on] what their offer would be, because things have moved on dramatically. For example: healthiness and quality. You take someone like Greggs, they are putting healthy options on and McDonald’s with its ground roast coffee, the quality of their offer has grown because people are more interested in quality now. So if you’re bringing Wimpy back you’ve got to do something a bit special.”
Wimpy is currently owned by Famous Brands, a company based in South Africa, and its first restaurant was opened at Lyons Corner House in London back in 1954.
It will be very interesting to see what route they eventually take but, to be fair, their current menu looks pretty good already. Could we be getting real cutlery and plates with our high street fast food burgers in a big way again? We’ll find out soon enough next year.