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Little Chef Popham


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Very interesting show. Looking forward to tomorrow's thats for sure.

I think i'll wait until the end of the doc before commenting further - from the looks of tonight's show it looked like the director just wanted a celebrity chef to get some publicity and make some short term gains. I can't believe just how delusional he was, did he really expect nitro scrambled bacon and egg ice cream prepared with a griddle and microwave for £2.99? I was quite shocked to their reactions to the food that he presented them with as well.

I think the fundamental problem Heston is facing is the consumer themselves - as he highlighted, they are not after "fancy" food, they just want something simple done well. Or done too well, so that it's grey in the middle in a lot of cases.

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What shocked me was that scrambled eggs taking 3 minutes was apparently too long!!!!! What sort of man expects a chef (notice he described Heston as a Celebrity chef ? :hmmm: ) to produce a meal without giving him a financial figure to work from? I'm not sure who the women was but she looked disgusted at everything they were served when Heston fed the management team.

HB's invitation to dinner at the Fat Duck for £250 a head was great "....eat dinner and then i'll explain to you why we can't serve that for £3.50 a head..." :laugh:

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I think the fundamental problem......... they just want something simple done well. 

Surely this is not a "problem".

Little Chef customers are going to fall into one of two groups.

First group are the ones who are driving along that road and who are existing customers. They want a coffee, cooked breakfast and a pee and know they are going to find it here as opposed to, erm, probably not finding it. I'm in that group.

The second group are the ones driving along that road who are not existing customers. They also want a cooked breakfast but don't currently stop because they think it'll be crap. If they think isnt, they'll stop.

"Something simple, done well". Sounds like good "diner food". Folk on the other side of the pond manage it very well (as well as a lot of crap diner food, I know).

John Hartley

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I think the fundamental problem......... they just want something simple done well. 

Surely this is not a "problem".

It is a problem when the director was talking about how he wants Heston to bring "fireworks" and a new evolution in roadside dining, when the Little Chef customers seemed to want something the simplest of no-frills food. That bit where he said "I was rather disappointed with the meal, it was like something I could have got any other celebrity chef to have done" was a jaw dropper, for so many reasons.

I travel around the UK a bit and have always avoided Little Chef. Apart from the grim cafeteria McInteriors, the food is overpriced and the coffee awful. I don't have a problem with eating ordinary food just as long as I don't have to pay extra quid just for the joy of it being in a service-station.

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I travel around the UK a bit and have always avoided Little Chef. Apart from the grim cafeteria McInteriors, the food is overpriced and the coffee awful. I don't have a problem with eating ordinary food just as long as I don't have to pay extra quid just for the joy of it being in a service-station.

Is it really overpriced? Genuine question. I've not been to LC for food for at least a decade (I had a "coffee" at one last year - not good), so I don't know the prices, but I took it from the programme that all main courses are prices at less than £10. Given the amount of protein on the Olympic breakfast, that doesn't seem too unreasonable (as long as we don't got into any discussions of quality/value).

PS

Edinburgh

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Happy to accept that the "problem" is the tosser who runs the company. He appears unable to grasp how the menu/image can be updated without alienating significant numbers of existing customers whilst bringing in new ones.

If I was Heston, I'd have told them to stuff it by now (which is what he appeared to do at the end of last night's prog). Actually, I tell a lie there - for the three hundred grand that's on offer, I'd have sold my sister as well.

John Hartley

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Is it really overpriced? Genuine question. I've not been to LC for food for at least a decade (I had a "coffee" at one last year - not good), so I don't know the prices, but I took it from the programme that all main courses are prices at less than £10. Given the amount of protein on the Olympic breakfast, that doesn't seem too unreasonable (as long as we don't got into any discussions of quality/value).

The last time I ate there it was one of the breakfasts and it was over 7 quid, no drink included. It was sufficiently ordinary to curtail any further culinary expeditions for me at Little Chef.

The price was a little bit of a shock for myself, as I happily plunder my town's greasy spoons for cooked breakfasts and get at least the same plus a tea or coffee for 5 quid or under all up. The quality at LC was not great enough to my mouth to justify the extra cost.

Anyone eaten at the Popham LC? Anyone want to take a hit for the team?

It'll be interesting to see if the 3 month trial is a success.

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Anyone eaten at the Popham LC? Anyone want to take a hit for the team?

Quite right - Its all well and good Jay et al gushing merrily at the opening with Heston watching over proceedings, but how is it now things have calmed down? Surely there is no more a discerning group of bloggers someone must be up for taking one for the team?

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Well it's not far from me - i work in Winchester but I don't drive, which makes the whole Little Chef concept a bit pointless for me.

Will be heading that way at some point in the foreseeable as its en route to my parents. Will try and stop in and give it a go...

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Apparently the manager and assistant managers have been sacked... A friend of mine ate there 2 days ago and had the mussels and lamb shank. both were great, he was very happy with the meal. We have a LC here at Cambridge, I hope this menu rolls out for the whole franchise, I would be very happy to try it.

I think that is the main problem with food in the UK. Some of the world's best chefs and restaurants are here, but the quality of everyday simple food you will get in a little casual is very very poor and overpriced. In France, Italy, Greece, even in the US you can eat simple well cooked food cheaply.

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Apparently the manager and assistant managers have been sacked...

According to the Independent the manager has not been sacked:

According to the Little Chef, he wanted to return to the branch where he was working before.

"Michael won't be leaving the company, but he's decided he doesn't want to stay at the Popham branch any more," says a spokesman. "He joined the branch to oversee Heston's changes but it's a two-hour drive for him and he decided not to stay as he wants to go back to where he worked before."

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  • 3 weeks later...

We went for breakfast the other day as its near my girlfriends parents house.

Definately not a destination restaurant!! Had the Olympic breakfast at £6.95!! So not cheap.

My local greasy spoon does a better job, at less than a fiver!?

Not really sure what Heston's input was exactly, except maybe adding some black pudding.

I don't doubt it was better than before (in saying that havn't been for a long time!). But just cant see the big ho ha. I think if you want to see any change, go at lunch. You willl have a better chance to check out the Heston input..

I would stick to your local cafe, mine are all certainly better. Need a bit of grease every now and then.

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Definately not a destination restaurant!! Had the Olympic breakfast at £6.95!! So not cheap.

My local greasy spoon does a better job, at less than a fiver!?

I would stick to your local cafe, mine are all certainly better.

We also went on Saturday as we drove across country to Brighton (from Bath). The car park was full, with quite a number of BMW's and Volvos, compared to the other Little Chefs we passed on-route with fairly empty car parks, the TV exposure and Heston has drawn the punters.

It looked like there was going to be a big wait for a table with lots of people milling around the entrance, however the FOH greeter was really efficirent, took our name and suggested a 10 minute wait. He was spot on. They have a big shared table in the middle of the restaurant that helps them rotate customers.

The decor has been done well, clean lines, a few quirky/fun touches and clear evidence of a well thought out brand - US diner meets the A303. It may be a brand but the overall design and colour schemes (lots of red) felt a lot better, and less corporate than the Costa/McDonalds alternative.

The menu is interesting, and there were quite a few dishes that tempted me. Every second person seemed to be ordering the beef cheeks and mash and from a distance they looked fine. I also saw a really good looking suet pudding head to a table, not certain what it was as I couldn't recall it on the menu. They also had a specials board with a Veggie pie and a belly pork dish.

We both had the small breakfast, and a pot of tea. Overall the breakfast was perfectly acceptable, the sausage and bacon were fine, not "ginger pig" standard but definately a notch above many on offer. They are struggling with the pressure, and it took 25 minutes for our food to arrive, however it was all very freshly cooked. Service is quite good, I could see the "Heston" training, with staff keeping us informed of progress and genuinly asking if we enjoyed the food, they still seem a little uncomfortable doing it but it is a pretty good start.

OK I could get a better at my local greasy spoon, but equally I would get worse from 9 out of 10 random greasy spoons. I could also cook a better breakfast, but didn't want the hassle of setting up the calor gas stove and hauling the camping chairs out of the boot. The point of Littler Chef is that it is a roadside eaterie, I don't have a local cafe on the A303 and a detour into a town is going to be a hassle and will be a lottery of greasy spoons and/or pubs. So how does it stack up against the direct competition? Well compared to Costa/Burger King/Starbucks/McDonalds/Pret/M&S I would say it is pretty good. It isn't perfect but it is a far better option than the chains we currently have. If they spread this concept and continued to execute it well I think it would be a good addition to the roadside and a reasonable refuelling stop on a long journey.

Edited by PhilD (log)
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still looks very much like a pr coup from little chef, which suprises me as they did come across as borderline incompetent on the tv.

Given the £300k heston spent on popham, there's no way in the current environment they could roll it out in even a fraction of the estate, even if the management were in favour of it.

you don't win friends with salad

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still looks very much like a pr coup from little chef, which suprises me as they did come across as borderline incompetent on the tv.

Given the £300k heston spent on popham, there's no way in the current environment they could roll it out in even a fraction of the estate, even if the management were in favour of it.

Agree it was a good PR activity (it worked, I went). But wasn't the £300k Heston's fee for the project, the roll out cost would simply be the cost of refurbing the restaurants and training staff so not another £300K for Heston each time. I would also assume they would already have a a rolling refurb budget and ongoing staff training so the incremental cost may not be that great.....but I take your point about the management. I too will be surprised if they manage capitalise on this.

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i'm sure heston would be delighted to get £300k for 3 programmes! i think you could knock a '0' off that to get to the ball park figure.

You don't refurb high volume places like that for less than several hundreds of thousands.

they just can't afford it.

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 1 month later...

I stopped there this past Saturday. I had the Prawn Cocktail, Braised OX cheeks and Trifle. The food was overall good to the level you would expect in a gastropub and would love to see the concept roll out across our motorways...

The highlights were the braised beef and the trifle (and I agree with the Bloomberg's comments on this).

Service was a bit slow and I noticed a couple of tables sending food back (Coq au Vin and Garlic bread) for being cold or stale.

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  • 2 months later...
i'm sure heston would be delighted to get £300k for 3 programmes! i think you could knock a '0' off that to get to the ball park figure.

You don't refurb high volume places like that for less than several hundreds of thousands.

they just can't afford it.

From Catersearch; looks like it could roll out nationwide.

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