|County||City of Edinburgh|
The Dreghorn branch was a former Little Chef located on the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass.
Opened in 1989/ 90, this coincided with the completion of the Edinburgh City Bypass and the ability to go between the A8 in the west to the A1 in the west without going through Edinburgh.
Dreghorn opened with restaurant, lodge and petrol station. Better still it had advanced services signage and was located off a grade separated junction, making it attractive and easily accessible for traffic in both directions. Forte also did a deal with a local farmer to have the services promoted in a field on approach from the north which undoubtedly helped the popularity of the services. Add to this the fact that traffic using the A68. A7 and A702 between Edinburgh and England was almost certain to pass the services and it looked like Forte had bagged a goodie.
Even competition from Granada at the east end of the bypass with its TRSA and AJ's restaurant offering at Musselburgh failed to phase the Little Chef with the two services slogging it out for years. Indeed Forte showed commitment to the site by opening a Coffee stop alongside the Little Chef in the early 1990s, making it the only Scottish site ever to get one, When they took over Forte in 1995 Granada also added a Burger King to the offering, extending the building and changing the entrance from the west to the east side in the process. As well as this Granada changed the AJ's to a Little Chef at Musselburgh so Dreghorn had competition. However, the impression was always given that Dreghorn was still the No1.
By 2001/ 2, there were plans for the site to receive the "New Choices" makeover, something that then owners Compass only reserved for busy, profitable sites, offering Caffe Ritazza, Harry Ramsdens and Upper Crust menus alongside the Little Chef. To all intents and purposes it seemed to be the flagship Scottish site.
However, it never got its New Choices makeover and, in fact in the 2000s, it got very little and even lost its Burger King by the mid 2000s.
So what went wrong. Why did the mighty fall? Well there are many theories. The Edinburgh City Bypass has a reputation as the kind of route that people use through necessity and don't like to stop on. Therefore, the average motorist is more likely to stop when clearing the route. Plus, with more destinations around the city bypass such as South Gyle, Hermiston Gait, Fort Kinnaird and Straiton (with Ikea and its meatballs) popping up there people were inclined to "eat when they got there" and had more choices than just the Little Chef. This was somewhat proved when Musselburgh Little Chef closed down in 2010, leaving only the lodge and filling station to battle on.
Still, one Little Chef should mop up the lost customers and do well right? Things got off to a bad start in 2012 when it transpired that a former employee with a gambling problem had defrauded the restaurant of £700,000. Well, that's great you'd think. It still managed to survive despite having £700,000 wiped off its balance sheet. The future should be rosy. This was backed up when, after the massive Little Chef cull of 2012 by then owners R Capital, the Dreghorn branch became 1 of only 2 Scottish sites to survive. Still, no surprise. Given its history, it was the obvious site surely out of any of the Scottish portfolio to keep going.
However, in 2013, when R Capital sold Little Chef to Kout Food Group a handfull of sites failed to transfer to the new owners with Dreghorn one of them. By the end of December 2013 the restaurant ceased trading. However, by this time it had started to look quite outdated inside.
In February 2016, plans were made in order to convert the Little Chef into a Starbucks/Subway outlet. The new restaurant is due to open its doors in March/April 2016 as work on the building has started to take place.
So, was it a victim of greater choice on the route, in a bad location to attract bypass users or could more have been done to help its chances?