Before McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King ruled the roost, it was Wimpy that dominated the UK fast-food scene.
Wimpy was the burger-joint pioneer, giving diners up and down the country – including many Berkshire residents – their first taste of American-style fare.
Its popularity started to wane as the big name chains swarmed the UK decades later, but for many people the memories of their largely-unique offerings remain.
Having originated in Bloomington, USA, in 1932, it took a further 22 years for the Wimpy logo to make its way across the Atlantic with Britain’s first ever hamburger-based meal being served at its flagship location at Lyons Corner House in London in the 1950s.
By 1970, the Wimpy brand was a global powerhouse with more than 1,000 outlets in 23 countries around the world.
That said, it was in the UK where it really made its mark on consumers.
A recently unearthed menu from the 1970s, when the chain was at the height of its heyday, is a reminder of what the place had to offer and how much it all cost, Chronicle Live reports.
The Wimpy Grill, Shanty Brunch and Delta Grill were all available for 36p, while a Wimpy Special Grill would’ve set you back a whole 42p.
At the top of the range was the delicious-looking Wimpy International plate which included steak and all the trimmings and cost just 54p.
If you were after one of the classic burgers, then choices ranged from the Wimpy Burger, priced at 16p, to the 21p Wimpy Cheeseburger and the Wimpy Kingsize, costing 31p.
One item on the menu which folk might especially remember was the Wimpy Bender – a wonderfully spicy sausage curled around half a tomato – which could be bought for 16 1/2p (that’s right, we’re going back to the days of halfpennies).
It may be somewhat surprising to spot the fact that a Wimpy Salad cost almost double the amount of the Wimpy Cheeseburger and Eggburger.
There were also excellent options for those of us with a sweet tooth; a Brown Derby (a doughnut with ice cream and fudge flakes) was priced at 17p and the Knickerbocker Glory could’ve been yours for 25p.
Meanwhile a Whippsy – the brand’s own milkshake which was infamously thick – was 17p.
Add in 8p for a bottle of coke, and you could easily be fully fed for less than a pound.
Of course, while these prices seem ludicrously inexpensive, it’s worth taking into account the fact that at the start of the decade, the average weekly wage was around £32 while a loaf of bread cost just 9p.
Wimpy was also the ultimate place to have a birthday party. It had nearly 400 branches in the UK before the emergence of soon-to-be giants McDonald’s and Burger King in the mid-’70s, which created competition Wimpy simply couldn’t compete with.
Crucially, McDonald’s sold their food over the counter; Wimpy, which employed traditional table service, was forced to change tack before ultimately conceding defeat to the new kids on the block.
Across the country a huge number of outlets were forced to shut their doors (with many of these becoming Burger Kings due to being under the same management at the time), with Berkshire feeling this hole as much as anywhere (including one in Oxford Road, Reading), although 64 outlets do remain across England.
Nostalgia plays a big role in keeping the Wimpy brand relevant; in fact, a recent investment programme has seen many of the franchise-owned restaurants upgrade to the company’s new ‘shift’ design, which builds on the brand’s strong heritage and nostalgic traditions, while also featuring vibrant new colours, furnishings and uniforms.
That isn’t to say that they’re stuck in the past though – more than half of its restaurants now offer home delivery services through apps such as Just Eat.
Do you have any memories of Wimpy restaurants? Let us know in the comments.
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