Although the Wimpy name is most closely identified with the city of Chicago, Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, and after opening units in five other Midwestern cities.
By 1947, the chain had 26 units, and expected to sell eight million hamburgers annually in the Chicago area.
According to a 1978 Chicago Tribune article, Gold's company Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago had 25 locations in the United States at its height, but only seven locations remained at the time of his death in 1977. When Gold died in 1978, Gold’s stores were put up for sale, but there were no takers and they were shuttered.
|The north east corner of Clark and Madison Streets, Chicago. 1958|
|Looking east on Madison Street at the north east Corner of Clark Street, Chicago.|
|Madison and Clark Streets, Chicago, Circa. 1955|
|Madison and Clark Streets, Chicago, 1957|
|Looking east on Monroe Street from Dearborn Street, Chicago, 1966. Wiompy is on the near side of the Shubert Theater.|
|Wimpy's on the east side of Wabash Avenue looking north towards Lake Street. Circa 1952|
|Wimpy's located on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Higgins in Jefferson Park, Chicago. July 4, 1965. Courtesy of Debbie Craig.|
|Wimpy Grill at the southwest corner of Washington Street and Wabash Avenue, Chicago. Year unknown.|
Today all of the U.S. Wimpy’s are long gone.
In 1954, Gold sold a licence to J. Lyons and Co. to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, in 1957, Wimpy Grills Inc. of Chicago formed a joint company with Lyons called Wimpy's International Inc., based in Chicago, to operate Wimpy Grills in the rest of the world.
The joint company eventually grew to 1,500 locations, and Gold later sold his share to Lyons prior to his death. After obtaining full control of the international licensing outside of the United States, Lyons and its successors handled global franchising through their United Kingdom based subsidiary Wimpy International Ltd. This arrangement ceased when Wimpy UK became a subsidiary of South Africa-based Famous Brands in 2007 and the South African company started to handle worldwide franchising duties directly from Johannesburg.
Wimpy United Kingdom
Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom, from Edward Gold's Chicago based Wimpy Grills, Inc. and, in 1954, the first "Wimpy Bar" Lyons was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London.
|Britain's first Wimpy Hamburger Parlor in the Lyons Corner House cafe (as a Wimpy franchise) on the corner of Rupert Street and Leicester Square, London. 1954|
In 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for 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.
Buchwald wrote, "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 Whippsy milkshakes, the British franchise initially had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.
During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight. Some sources speculate that this may be because of an assumption they might be prostitutes.
By 1970, the business had expanded to over 1,000 restaurants in 23 countries.
In July 1977, the business was acquired by United Biscuits. By the end of the 1980s, Wimpy was beginning to lose ground to McDonald’s, which had opened its first restaurant in the country in 1974, and so the new management of Wimpy began to streamline the business, by converting some of the traditional table service restaurants to counter service.
When United Biscuits decided to divest its restaurant division in 1989, it sold the business to Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo). At the time of the sale, there were 381 locations in the United Kingdom. Grand Metropolitan had acquired Burger King the previous year, and it began to convert the counter service restaurants to Burger King, since it had a greater global brand recognition.
In February 1990, the remaining 216 table service restaurants were purchased by a management buy out, backed by 3i. These were locations that were considered less desirable by Grand Metropolitan. At the time of the buyout, there were also 140 franchised locations outside of the United Kingdom. In October 1999, Wimpy rolled out a chain of restaurants known as Dr Beaks, to take on brands such as KFC.
A second management buy out occurred in May 2002, backed by the Bank of Scotland. At the time of the sale in 2002, there were approximately 300 locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
On 27 February 2007, Famous Brands, which owns the Wimpy franchise in South Africa, announced that it had acquired Wimpy UK. Having acquired the brand, Famous Brands has re branded Wimpy in the United Kingdom, to bring it in line with Wimpy South Africa. The "new" logo is actually one used by Wimpy UK from the 1960s until the 1980s.
In November 2009, Famous Brands began to upgrade its 170 locations in the United Kingdom to resemble United States style diners.
By June 2017, only 80 restaurants remain in the United Kingdom, down from over 500 during its height in the 1970s.
Wimpy South Africa
Wimpy International opened its first South African location in Durban in 1967. The South African restaurants were sold to Bakers SA Ltd in the late 1970s, which in 1987 sold the South African chain to Pleasure Foods, then known as Juicy Lucy SA. Famous Brands Limited, then known as the Steers Holdings Limited, acquired Wimpy when it bought Pleasure Foods in 2003.
In February 2007, Famous Brands acquired the United Kingdom based Wimpy to become the parent company for the chain, and become in charge in collecting the franchise fees from the other franchises.
|Komani/Queenstown, South Africa, new style Wimpy's Restaurant.|