|Location||Southoe, St Neots|
The Southoe branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on the northbound side of the A1 near St Neots, Cambridgeshire.
Address and Onsite Information
ADDRESS: A1 Northbound, Southoe, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, PE19 5YF
ONSITE FACILITIES: Southoe Car Sales
The Little Chef at Southoe first opened between 1972 and 1976 (under the name of the Eaton Socon branch at first) alongside a filling station at a small service station on the A1 northbound just north of St Neots. In this era of the 70s, Forte were looking to expand the Little Chef chain rapidly in order to increase its presence in the UK and this of course meant that new sites had to be opened. Before the restaurant at Southoe opened, there were already a handful sites on the A1. However, these sites were all cooped together on the northern/midland sections of the road and this meant that the southern section needed a bit more attention. Therefore Forte started colonising the southern parts of the A1 by opening more Little Chefs on these sections, starting with Southoe which filled up a massive gap of a Little Chef free stretch between Alwalton and London.
Southoe was, although difficult to imagine now, a natural stopping point on the journey north, attracting a fair few celebrities as well as commercial and family travellers as well as local people. On Friday and Saturday nights the branch was open all night, with people turning out of local pubs visiting for a late-night meal. The staff nurtured a good relationship with the local Police, especially the A1 traffic patrols who enjoyed free tea and toast 'out the back', with an invitation to 'take the weight off your feet' (having been sat in their car for hours!) indicating that their presence in the restaurant may be beneficial!
However, Southoe was not alone when it opened as just opposite on the southbound side (a couple of hundred metres south of Southoe), the Little Paxton restaurant opened at around the same time, meaning that two restaurants opened in the area instead of just one. Each restaurant had their own side of the dual A1 to serve, therefore both could benefit from an equal amount of revenue and profit. A great pair of sites!
In terms of the building, Southoe opened inside of a flat roofed building with a retro canopy positioned above the windows. This was the typical restaurant house design of the era; basic but certainly practical.
Sadly in the mid 90s, the plug was pulled at Southoe and the restaurant ceased trading by 1996, leaving just Little Paxton on the southbound side to soldier on alone. However, a decade later, Little Paxton ceased trading too and to this day, the restaurant still remains derelict. Southoe on the other hand has become a car dealership and the filling station is no longer in use. And also, at the same time the restaurant closed, gone went the bins and 'minimilk' lights in the car park, and the signage - including the totem.