|Location||Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire|
The Cumbernauld branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on the A80 near Cumbernauld, Scotland.
The Little Chef opened in 1984 and was probably one of the best ideas that Forte has in Scotland. Not only was it located on one of Scotland's busiest roads and right beside Scotland's busiest filling station (sometimes two tankers had to call in one day to supply it) but it was accessible from both sides of the road (directly from the northbound carriageway and via a grade separated junction for southbound). This gained it proper services signage on both carriageways, meaning motorists knew about it miles in advance, while its location, just beyond the congested Glasgow road network, made it a logical stopping point.
As a result the restaurant was always busy and must have been a real earner for Forte. Granada too saw its potential when they bought Forte in 1995/6, extending the site to add a Burger King to the Little Chef offering.
However, in 2007 when Little Chef's then owners People's Restaurant Company hit financial problems 41 sites were closed, including 2 in Scotland, one of which was Cumbernauld. This was a real shock!
Two reasons were attributed to this closure. The first was that Cumbernauld Little Chef was right in the firing line for a proposed motorway upgrade and may have had to close anyway. The second surrounded ownership. In 2005, to raise some funds, then owners People's Restaurant Company sold the freeholds to many Little Chef sites and then leased them back. However, this meant that they were now in the hands of a new landlord with limited control over the rents and, given its prime location, Cumbernauld's rent was set at a premium. One that Little Chef could not afford.
The sad thing is that the motorway upgrade did go ahead and missed the Little Chef building so it could have continued to trade. Sadder still, the site still has proper advanced services signage from the motorway, so it is still able to attract trade easily. If only a way could have been found to make it work.
This however has brought good news for the new occupiers of the site. Shortly after closure, the restaurant became a Chinese buffet restaurant and has since changed to a Mexican restaurant. A small wooden kiosk cabin, selling drinks and basic food offerings has now set up too.
A sad case of missed opportunity for this one