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The Northampton branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on the westbound side of the A45 near Northampton, Northamptonshire.

Address and Onsite Information[]

ADDRESS: A45 Westbound, Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN4 0LY

ONSITE FACILITIES: BP, Buddies USA, Hand Car Wash

History[]

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Forte's expansion of the Little Chef chain was a huge success. With numerous restaurants opening each year in this period, this inspired other roadside operators to expand other restaurant chains in order to be successful just like Forte. A company who were clearly inspired by Forte's success with Little Chef were Granada who saw the opportunity to enlarge their restaurant chain, AJ's. Although the expansion of AJ's wasn't as significant as Little Chef, the chain still managed to bag some good locations to operate at, one of which was Northampton, a small but busy service station which was positioned next to the A45 and also just a stones throw away from junction 15 of the busy M1 motorway. With a Little Chef already operating on the opposite carriageway at Collingtree about a quarter of a mile up the road, it made sense that an AJ's was built here as it provided a variety for those on their journeys. 

An advantage of this AJ's restaurant was that it was built at a service station which didn't just serve traffic on the westbound side of the A45. It also had the ability to serve traffic from local roads as well, thus meaning that there was always the chance of attracting extra custom, especially from the busy industrial estates and highly populated residential areas that were located nearby. It could also serve eastbound traffic of the A45; however, it made sense for eastbound traffic to go to Collingtree just up the road.

In the mid 90s, Forte were bought by Granada, meaning that Little Chef were now under Granada ownership along with their rival brand, Happy Eater. Looking at the figures, Granada saw that out of the three chains, Little Chef was by far the most profitable, therefore a majority of the Happy Eater restaurants were converted into Little Chefs by 1997. In 1997, AJ's received the same treatment and by 1998, most AJ's restaurants were converted into Little Chefs, including Northampton.

The restaurant traded until around 2004/05 following the sale of 131 Little Chef restaurants by the owners Permira when they put Little Chef up for sale. The sites that were usually up for sale were normally quieter ones without a lodge. The restaurant then operated as Buddies USA, a chain. Following the collapse of the Buddies USA chain in 2020, the restaurant is now known as 81 Hamburger Heaven.


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