FAT Charlie – the 1950s hat-wearing mascot – will live on under the terms of the deal struck yesterday between Little Chef owner Rcapital and its new owner Kout.
Interestingly the private equity firm said that it chose Kout, not for the amount of money it was offering, but because it was the sole bidder willing to keep the brand going.
The other bidders, believed to include Starbucks, McDonald’s, Costa Coffee owner Whitbread and KFC just wanted the physical sites to further the expansion of their own brands.
Rcapital, which rescued the chain from administration, was hurt by the long uncompetitive leases that the chain had been lumbered with. In the period of its ownership it has managed to slash the number of sites by almost two thirds to 83, and finally make the remaining ones viable.
Rcapital boss Jamie Constable said what made this possible, in what after all was one of the worst recessions in history, was the fact they believed they could make it work – and so in the end they did.
Now it’s time for Rcapital to let its baby fly from the nest.
Nevertheless it is hanging on to two of the branches, which must surely be for sentimental reasons.
Using the language of someone bereaved, Rcapital’s Constable said he “took comfort” from the fact the new owners would take the brand to the next stage. After the firm’s ownership of Little Chef for six tough years he said: “It feels like we are selling part of ourselves.”
Constable’s words demonstrate a genuine affection, which it is easy to forget can be just as much part of the business world as cold hard cash.