|The inspiring diner in Leedy, OK - named "The Little Chef"|
The Reading branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on Oxford Road in Reading, Berkshire. It was the first ever branch of Little Chef.
Address and Onsite Information
ADDRESS: Oxford Road, Reading, RG30 1EH
ONSITE FACILITIES: Unknown
The story of the Reading branch begins with the origins of the Little Chef chain itself.
In the 1950s, British Caravan manufacturer Sam Alper and catering boss Peter Merchant had both been touring the USA - Alper to promote his Sprite caravan to the American Market and Merchant to seek new ideas for his business. While there, they both found themselves inspired by the concept of the American roadside diner - specifically those built from caravan-like transportable structures. These diners were efficient - they were cheap to produce and they were able to conveniently be moved around to other places if required. Not only that, they had been growing in popularity in the country thanks to the increasing ease of long distance motor travel. Alper and Merchant were so inspired by this idea, that they decided to join forces, using their collective skills, to bring the idea to the UK. The diner which sparked this idea was in Leedy, Oklahoma and was called “The Little Chef”, utilising a building manufactured by Valentine Industries of Wichita, Kansas. They decided that the name of this restaurant would be the perfect name for their venture too and Alper’s British-built version of the “Little Chef” would open on Oxford Road, Reading in 1958. The red and white painted cabin was located in the car park of the former Rex Cinema. The opening of the Reading branch symbolised the birth of the Little Chef chain and just a few years later, the chain started to expand.
When the Little Chef at Reading first opened, it was very basic and had just 11 seats. This was typical of the first wave of Little Chefs - they were usually housed in basic buildings, seated very little customers and had very few members of staff.
Reading may have been a small restaurant in its heyday but it certainly made it's mark in transport history!
Between 1968 and 1972, the small Little Chef at Reading ceased trading and has since been demolished. It is unknown as to where exactly this historic Little Chef was located, as information on the subject is very scarce.