The Reading branch was a former Little Chef restaurant located on Oxford Road in Reading, Berkshire.
In the 1950s, British Caravan manufacturer Sam Alper and catering boss Peter Merchant had both been touring the USA, Alper to promote his Sprite caravan to the American Market and Merchant to seek new ideas for his business. It seems that both were inspired by the concept of the American roadside diner: its compact, transportable structure that could be moved around and its increasing popularity thanks to the growing ease of long distance motor travel. They joined forces and used their collective skills to produce a British version, based on a diner that they saw in Leedy, Oklahoma called “Little Chef”, manufactured by Valentine Industries of Wichita, Kansas. They decided that this would be the perfect name for their venture too and Alper’s British-built version of the “Little Chef” opened on Oxford Road, Reading in 1958. The red and white painted cabin was located in the car park of the former Rex Cinema. The opening of the Reading branch symbolised the birth of the Little Chef chain and just a few years later, the chain started to expand.
When the Little Chef at Reading first opened, it was very basic and had just 11 seats. Little Chef like Reading, which opened in the 1950s and 1960s, were usually housed inside of basic buildings, seated very little customers and had very few members of staff. Reading may have been a small restaurant in its heyday but it certainly held a lot of history!
Between 1968 and 1972, the small Little Chef at Reading ceased trading and has since been demolished.