Little Chef gobbled up by Kuwaiti restaurant giant

 
Michael Bow
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LITTLE Chef, the iconic UK restaurant chain famed for fuelling hungry motorists, has been sold to the Kuwaiti owners of high street bakery Maison Blanc.

The classic roadside diner, a fixture of Britain’s A-roads for more than half a century, has been taken over by Kuwaiti-listed Kout Food Group (KFG) following a three month sale process by owners Rcapital, a UK private equity firm.

KFG will pay about £15m to take on 81 of the 83 Little Chef restaurants dotted around the country. Rcapital, which saved the restaurants from bankruptcy six years ago, will retain two remaining sites for future development.

KFG owns a host of high street restaurants including Cha Cha Moon and several Burger King and KFC outlets.

Its UK chairwoman Fadwa Al Homaizi said it had “exciting plans to revitalise the Little Chef brand”.

The sale is the latest chapter in Little Chef’s tortuous history. ­ In 2002 owners Compass Group sold it to private equity firm Permira before it was sold again in 2005 to People’s Restaurant Group.

Despite attempts to turn around the brand – including drafting in chef Heston Blumenthal to create a new menu and slimming down its chef mascot, known as Fat Charlie, to promote a healthier image – the company entered administration in 2007 before being rescued by Rcapital. Little Chef was set up in Reading in 1958, and merged with rival Happy Eater in 1986 before falling out of favour in the 1990s.