|Location||Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway|
|County||Dumfries and Galloway|
The Gretna branch was a former Little Chef on the A74, then A74(M) road just north of Gretna, Scotland.
Opened between 1972 and 1976, the site first appeared on maps from 1972 onwards. However, it is unclear whether or not it was built by Forte or by another company who Forte acquired it from quickly after its development.
From the off, Gretna was able to serve both sides of the A74 dual carriageway thanks to a proper grade separated junction. This meant that, to save time and money, the main facilities could be built on only one side of the road (apart from an extra southbound filling station). Forte developed the site as a scaled-down version of a motorway service area and alongside its main restaurant brand it offered the Little Chef from the point the services opened. However, that wasn't the only major feature of Gretna. It had accommodation and was the first site in the UK to have this branded as Little Chef Lodge, again from the point of opening.
The site must have proved popular and played host to a lot of Forte's brands over the years. Certainly by 1982 the Little Chef and Little Chef lodge has a Granary Restaurant and Travellers Shop alongside them.
Around 1985/6 the Little Chef Lodge was redeveloped in Forte's more modern Travelodge-style building, but retained the Little Chef lodge branding until 1988/9.
Major change came in the early 90s when the A74 was upgraded to motorway. As part of this a new grade separated motorway junction was built with realigned slip roads, forcing the closure of the southbound filling station, Forte took this opportunity to redevelop the whole main site as well, demolishing and rebuilding the main service area building in its new modern Welcome Break format (matching the new site further north at Abington). As well as Granary restaurant, shop, toilets, Julie's Pantry and small amusement area, the new site also housed a Little Chef. Although rebuilt and now housed in the new amenity building, the Little Chef still retained its same number.
Further change came around 1997/8. Prior to this in 1995, Forte had been taken over by rival Granada. Granada already operated roadside services on motorways and A-roads and relished the chance to get their hands on Forte and its Travelodge, Little Chef, Welcome Break and Happy Eater brands. However, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission ruled that Granada's motorway presence was now too large and foced Granada to sell off the newly acquired Welcome Break motorway sites. Granada did this, retaining all other brands and Welcome Break;s A-road sites, now rebranded as Granada. However, the sale of Welcome Break meant that Travelodge and Little Chef facilities in Welcome Break motorway service areas would have to be rebranded, as these brands now belonged to Granada and so Welcome Break's new owners replaced Travelodge with Welcome Lodge and Little Chef with Red Hen, both new in-house brands. Gretna therefore gained both. However, by the mid-2000s, deals had been done with Days Inn and KFC respectively and Welcome Lodge and Red Hen disappeared in favour of these two brands.
Today, Welcome Break at Gretna continues as a popular motorway service area with all the usual brands and over time a greater shift has taken place towards grab and go brands. No traces of the Little Chef remain.