The Popham branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on the westbound side of the A303 near the village of Popham, Hampshire. It is probably the most famous Little Chef in the UK.
Opened in 1995, Popham typified the Little Chef of the era and was housed inside of a building with a pitched grey-pan tiled roof, lightly toned bricks and large windows; the more modern alternative to the pitched roof, double front house design. It was the sister site to the Micheldever branch, the eastbound branch which opened all the way back in the mid 1980s.
The A303 is a road running from the M3 motorway in Hampshire to Honiton in Devon. It feeds many towns, intersects with many routes to the west and is often used by travellers escaping to Devon and Cornwall for a summer break. Thus, a Little Chef here would be sure to have plenty of passing trade and be able to attract a lot of long-distance traffic. Little Chef's owners Granada thought so too and, to maximise the restaurant's potential chose a location close to the M3 motorway, a busy motorway in the area, to help encourage traffic from another road. The site chosen also had a filling station which helped attract extra custom to the Little Chef so the chain had most angles covered.
As Granada were in charge of the Little Chef when it first opened, they decided to add a Burger King to the site which helped attract extra custom to the Little Chef besides the filling station. The Burger King however later closed. In 2006, the old Burger King area was replaced with a Coffee Tempo! outlet.
In 2008, one of the biggest events happened for Little Chef. Celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal came to the Popham Little Chef and appeared in a three hour documentary on Channel 4 where he attempted to refurbish the Little Chef brand. When Blumenthal came to Popham, he saw that the restaurant was dated and needed an upgrade. He also saw that Little Chef had a tired menu. After the review of the restaurant, the Little Chef closed temporarily whilst works were taking place inside. The new Little Chef had so many differences compared to the old one. The site gained the Ab Rogers designed interior featuring the modern British diner decor and "Blue Sky Thinking" ceiling and a timeline wall, charting Little Chef's evolution through the years. Blumenthal also altered the Little Chef menu by adding some menu items that were inspired by his own restaurant, the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire. A massive success!
After the refurbishment, the Little Chef became busier than ever. The services car park was full to the maximum and the restaurant itself was full of customers that were happy to see the change. The site even has electrical car charging points so that electrical powered cars can charge for a bit whilst the driver is enjoying a meal.
Sadly, the Little Chef didn't have high hopes for long. The restaurant started to recieve a lot of negative reviews on TripAdvisor with an average rating of 2 stars. A real shame for this Little Chef.
In 2012, a Little Chef Express opened at Popham, in the old Burger King/Coffee Tempo! area.
In 2013, Blumenthal was dropped from the Little Chef menu because his items inspired from his own restaurant, The Fat Duck were "too posh" and not like Little Chef meals. Little Chef is more of a fry up chain rather than an advanced food chain.
In 2017, the Little Chef closed its doors as part of the Euro Garages takeover. It's future currently remains unknown but it is very likely that it will become a Starbucks.