East Anglia: Little Chef to relocate head office to the Diss area

A NATIONAL restaurant chain Little Chef is set to move its headquarters from Sheffield to the Suffolk/Norfolk border as part of a strategy to cut costs.

Little Chef, famed for roadside restaurants across the UK, is moving to an undisclosed location in the Diss area and has told staff of its intention to outsource some work.

Some existing employees will be offered similar roles within the company or be retained in regional roles.

The relocation is set to result in the loss of up to 20 jobs at the head-quarters as part of the company’s restructuring plan, announced in January. The changes included the closure of 67 of the firm’s 161 restaurants with up to 600 jobs cut.

A Little Chef spokesman said: “The head office move and operational reorganisation will have a positive effect on the restaurants with upgraded IT, marketing and site support and EPOS and back office systems.

“We do not anticipate any impact on sites and there will be no redundancies at site level.

A consultation process with employees has begun with Little Chef employees and for those made redundant the company has pledged to honour fully all the terms of their contracts.

Most Read

The restaurant chain was started in 1958 by caravan manufacturer Sam Alper, who opened the first Little Chef in Reading.

The restaurants were modelled on roadside diners he had seen in the United States. Ten years later, the chain had 25 restaurants and by the mid-1980s had become established as a chain of inexpensive places to eat while on the move. At its peak, the brand had 435 restaurants, but restructuring reduced this number to 116.

The restaurant chain’s problems emerged in December 2006 when it emerged the company was losing �3m a year and struggling to keep up with rent repayments.

In January 2007, private equity group RCapital bought the firm, but a number of restaurants continued to close.

The company’s decline has been attributed to increased competition from rival chains and years of under-investment from owners.

Fast food chains including McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King have all opened roadside diners, while Little Chef has also faced competition from the pub restaurant sector which caters for both family and business customers.