Little Chef - History - 2000–2007

2000–2007

In 2000 Granada merged with the Compass Group to form Granada Compass, but the two demerged in 2001 leaving Little Chef as part of Compass. At about this time some Little Chefs began serving Harry Ramsden's meals, a cross-branding exercise by Compass who also owned Harry Ramsden's, though this ended in June 2004.

The private equity business Permira bought Travelodge and Little Chef from Compass Group in December 2002 for £712 million, forming a special purpose vehicle called TLLC Group Holdings. Those Little Chefs at Moto motorway service areas – formerly the Granada motorway service areas, and owned by Compass until 2006 – were owned by Moto and operated as franchised outlets.

In August 2004, Little Chef announced it planned to change its logo, to a slimmer version of 'Fat Charlie', the chain's current mascot. Little Chef's chief executive Tim Scoble said that this was " the start of a re-image programme for Little Chef" and that the chain "has become a little bit dated", but now wishes to "take it forward into the 21st century". He also noted later on that "We get accusations that he's overweight and a lot of people have also written in to say it was a small child carrying hot food, which they said was dangerous". However, the idea was dropped after 15,000 customers complained.

Little Chef had five restaurants in the Republic of Ireland, but they were sold to Egan Hospitality with two rebranded as Metzo in 2005 and the rest as Eddie Rockets.

In 2005 the company was sold to catering entrepreneurs Lawrence Wosskow and Simon Heath for £58 million. TLLC kept hold of Travelodge, and The People's Restaurant Group Ltd was founded by the new owners of Little Chef, however they continued trading under the same name. In March 2006, the People's Restaurant Group sold 65 of its sites under a leaseback deal for £59 million to Israeli property group Arazim.

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