Before McDonald’s and Burger King, there was Wimpy – check out the 1970s menu and prices

Before McDonald’s and Burger King, the quintessential burger restaurant in the UK was Wimpy.

The brand was born in Bloomington, USA, in 1932, and the first restaurant in Britain, serving the very first burger-based meal in that country, opened at Lyons Corner House in London in 1954.

By 1970 Wimpy was a global favorite and there were over 1,000 outlets in 23 countries around the world – many of them scattered around Newcastle, Tyneside and the North East.

READ MORE: 25 Tyneside Faces From 2005 – Do You Recognize Anyone?

Our retro menu takes us back to Wimpy’s 70s heyday.

Check out some of the tasty favorites and insane prices of the era: Wimpy Burger 16p; Wimpy Cheeseburger, 21p; and Wimpy Kingsize, 31p.

And what about meals? A Wimpy Grill sold at 36p; a Wimpy Special Grill was 41p; and the premium Wimpy International, including the steak and all trimmings, was 51%.

One menu item that people will particularly remember was the Wimpy Bender – a wonderfully spicy sausage wrapped around half a tomato.

Elsewhere, a Whippsy – the brand’s own milkshake – was at 17p, while a Knickerbocker Glory could be yours for 25p.

A 1970s Wimpy restaurant menu

It should be remembered, of course, that while these prices seem ridiculously low, in 1976 the average weekly wage was £ 70 for a man and £ 45 for a woman.

Around Tyneside, a number of popular Wimpy bars have swapped over the years.

In Newcastle there were outlets, at various times, on Northumberland Street, Newgate Street, St Mary’s Place, at the Bowers’ Gunner House restaurant on Pink Lane and in Eldon Square.

In May 1973, when the St Mary’s Place store opened, the Chronicle noted: “Wimpy’s business in Britain is booming.

The Wimpy Restaurant in Newgate Street, Newcastle, after it closed in June 2002
The Wimpy Restaurant in Newgate Street, Newcastle, after it closed in June 2002

“Since the introduction of Wimpy in 1954, more than 600 Wimpy bars have opened across the country – and new bars are opening at the rate of one per week.

“In 1971, approximately 75 million Wimpys were eaten and countless millions of cups of coffee drunk.”

But the market was about to change.

In 1974, there was a new kid on the fast food block in the UK – the American giant McDonald’s, with the brand reaching the North East in the mid-1980s.

Importantly, McDonald’s sold its burgers and fries at the counter, and Wimpy, who employed traditional table service, was forced to change course.

Later, the arrival of Burger King provided another major competitor and the number of Wimpys in the UK gradually declined.

In June 2002, the Chronicle reported that Newcastle’s last Wimpy on Newgate Street had unexpectedly closed.

Today there are 64 Wimpy locations in the UK, 16 of which are in London, the closest being the Huddersfield branch in West Yorkshire.

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