Memories of Wimpy
We came across this Wimpy menu from 1972 the other day and began reminiscing about the local Wimpy restaurants which used to be on Neville Street and Lord Street.
The Wimpy chain originally began in 1934 in the United States and was based in Chicago. The brand was introduced to the United Kingdom in 1954 as “Wimpy Bar” by Lyons and the first “Wimpy Bar” was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. Originally, the bar was a special fast food section within traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals.
In 1955 the Washington Post wrote about the recent opening of a “Wimpy’s Hamburger Parlor” on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.
“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.” In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise initially had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.
Bizarrely during the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight. This may be because of an assumption that they might be prostitutes!
Here in Southport the first Wimpy was run by a Yugoslavian man named Pane Sormaz, who had settled in Southport in 1956 and had become known locally as Barney. Barney was well known in the town, originally from working in the El Cabala coffee house on Eastbank Street in the 1960s, and then for running the town’s Wimpy restaurants. He managed the Wimpy on Neville Street for 17 years, before opening another on Lord Street, where he worked until his retirement in 1993.
By 1970, Wimpys had hit its commercial peak and expanded to over 1,000 restaurants in 23 countries. Sadly, by the end of the 1980s, Wimpy was beginning to lose ground to McDonald’s and so the new management of Wimpy began to streamline the business, by converting some of the traditional table service restaurants to counter service.
In June 2017, only 80 Wimpy restaurants remain in the United Kingdom, down from over 500 during its height in the 1970s. Today, the only remaining Wimpey within 50 miles of Southport is to be found at 31 Princes Pavement in Birkenhead.