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Monday, 16 January 2012 (3022475)
Roadside restaurant may face closure
by David Simister

THE future of a Bickerstaffe restaurant backed by Heston Blumenthal hung in the balance this week after its operator announced it is to close dozens of its sites.

The Little Chef site at Four Lane Ends may be among the 67 sites earmarked for closure after the company said that it had been unable to make them commercially viable, in a decision which will result in the loss of between 500 and 600 jobs nationwide.

THe company refused to divulge which sites would be closed.

The move comes despite an attempt by celebrity chef Heston Blumethal to revamp the menu and image of the roadside restaurants, which was featured in the Channel Four series Big Chef Takes On Little Chef in 2009.

Graham Sims, chairman of Little Chef said: “When we acquired Little Chef four years ago we inherited a number of sites with leases that were uncompetitive. Despite very hard work from some very committed colleagues we have been unable to lift the performances of these sites to a level where they are viable. Consequently, following a thorough review in which we considered all the options it is with regret that we have had to close a number of sites. This means some people’s jobs are at risk throughout the organisation. We will do everything in our power to help every individual find alternative employment within the Little Chef organisation. I know this will be tough and an uncertain time for many

people in our team.”

“By closing these sites we will be able to focus our attention on protecting over 1,500 of our colleagues’ jobs and enabling our investments to be targeted on our remaining strong sites and to develop our brand and our New Concept - towards which the customer response has been very positive.”

The Champion asked Little Chef whether the Bickerstaffe site was one of the 67 branches the company had chosen for closure, but it refused to divulge details of specific sites before this week's edition went to press.

Little Chef currently has 161 sites across the country, including three in Lancashire.


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