|Location||Symington, North Ayrshire|
The Symington branch was a Little Chef on the southbound A77 between Kilmarnock and Prestwick
Opened between 1972 and 1976, this was one of three Scottish sites Little Chef added to its portfolio in this period with Claverhouse and Port Glasgow the others.
Symington was slightly unusual in that it was a split level building, appearing like a normal single storey Little Chef from the roadside but, due to a change in ground level, it was able to host extensive storage space underneath, making it two storeys high from the back. There was also an overflow car park round the back with quite a steep ramp to get down to it.
A successful site, Symington has little competition until the 90s. The first change came in 1990/91 when Forte opened another Little Chef around 5 miles further north on the Kilmarnock Bypass (which would not have existed when Symington opened). Located at a junction this was able to serve three routes at once, making it a no brainer for Forte. If they didn't get it someone else probably would. Symington by contrast was serving only one side of one route hence, it was always going to be the poorer relation. To make matters worse, by the mid 90s a Brewers Fayre opened just off the roundabout to the south of Symington and again was able to serve more traffic, with both sides of the A77 and A78.
In a lot of ways it's a surprise that Symington lasted as long as it did. Maybe there was always a plan to close it but it ended up actually remaining busy enough to justify itself?
However, by 2004, then owners Permira were planning a sale of Little Chef and, as part of that, they planned to get rid of 131 of Little Chefs existing portfolio. Symington was one of these branches and closed by 2005.
This was not the end for Symington though. The building was then turned into Indian restaurant Balbirs which it successfully trades as today