The Kilmarnock branch was a former Little Chef at the junction of the A71, A76 and A77 roads.
Opened in 1990/1991, this represented a return to the area for Little Chef who had previously operated a site at Galston, a stonesthrow to the east of the A71, which was closed by 1980.
Where the Kilmarnock site scored, was in its ability to serve three main routes at once, being located off a large roundabout at a grade separated junction and with lodge and filling station alongside the restaurant it qualified as a proper "A-road Services" and achieved advanced green signage on all three of these routes. In short, a great site.
However, its proximity to another Little Chef, slightly further south on the A77 at Symington took its toll with Symington closing by 2004/05, probably due to the superior location of the Kilmarnock branch and its ability to serve more traffic movements.
However, in 2012, when then owners R Capital decided to close 67 underperforming Little Chef branches, Kilmarnock was one of the ones on the list. This seemed like a strange decision, so what went wrong with Kilmarnock.
There are three possible theories
Firstly, in 2005, in a bid to raise funds, then owners People's Restaurant Company sold the freehold to many Little Chef sites and instead leased them back from the new owner. As well as raising funds it also introduced a middle man to the process who had no loyalty to Little Chef and was able to set rents at whatever rate they wanted. Prime sites attracted the highest rents and therefore had to achieve a much higher turnover than they may previously have had to in order to make the payments, This may have become too difficult for Kilmarnock.
Secondly, the busiest route of the three, the A77, passed underneath the roundabout that the Little Chef was located upon so the site wasn't easily visible to this traffic. Although motorists knew of the services due to the advanced signage they had no way of telling what form it took either as there was no Little Chef advanced signage. A deal with a farmer may have helped this!
Lastly, at the time the Little Chef was built the A77 linked poorly to the motorway network in Glasgow, meaning that users had wind their way through the urban street network. Thus many people chose to bypass Glasgow and instrad use the A71 to get between Kilmarnock areas north of Glasgow and this road ran right past the Little Chef, making it highly visible by users.. However, with the building of the M77 motorway this linked the A77 straight to the Glasgow motorway network. This not only meant that people stopped using the A71 in favour of the A77 but it sped the journey time between Glasgow and Ayr, meaning that people felt less of a need to stop at Kilmarnock. Still, for longer distance traffic it could be argued that the site still has potential, especially given the lack of a motorway service area on the M77.
Today, McDonalds have taken advantage of this prime location and are in the process of demolishing the Little Chef to build a new restaurant.