Have you visited Wimpy in Dundee? Memories of an iconic burger chain

Wimpy was Dundee’s first introduction to American-style fast food and arrived when Ronald McDonald was still a gleam in his father’s eye.

The iconic burger chain was founded in Chicago in the 1930s by Edward Gold and is named after Popeye character J. Wellington Wimpy.

Mr. Gold signed a deal in the 1950s to offer the UK franchise rights to Joseph Lyons.

Burger lovers were licking their lips when the first Wimpy restaurant opened in Dundee in the 1960s on Reform Street.

Wimpy was famous for his red leather booths and tomato-shaped ketchup bottles and his treats were served on real plates with a proper knife and fork.

Dundee’s own Wimpy bar in the 1960s.

What could we expect to find on the Wimpy menu in the 1960s?

There was the Wimpy cheeseburger, the burger and the eggburger.

There were all-day breakfasts, jacket potatoes, salads, toast and shakes, plus retro desserts including knickerbocker glory and sundaes.

Dining in this style had never been seen in the UK before and the number of Wimpy restaurants had grown to 500 nationwide by the 1970s.

The iconic Wimpy sign that would attract customers.
The iconic Wimpy sign that would attract customers.

The ‘Wimpy Brunch’ – a burger and fries – could be yours for 35p while its famous cheeseburgers could be had for 20p in the 70s.

The Reform Street restaurant was eventually taken over by the Halifax building society in 1987 and Wimpy moved to Murraygate to sell his meat treats.

Defending himself on “food being delivered to the table within 10 minutes of ordering”, Wimpy has seen decades of dominance.

But the writing was on the wall when Scotland’s first McDonald’s arrived in Dundee in November 1987 and opened in Reform Street.

Wimpy's in Murraygate in 1988 when the branch was hit by footfall after McDonald's opened.
Wimpy’s in Murraygate in 1988 when the branch was hit by footfall after McDonald’s opened.

Players from the Dundee Tigers ice hockey team cut the ribbon and launched the restaurant’s grand opening event.

McDonald’s bosses even created a special whiskey to celebrate the launch in Scotland.

Wimpy was now drinking in the Last Chance Saloon, with McDonald’s tidied up as its golden arches became the town’s favorite burger spot.

McDonald’s sold its burgers and fries over the counter and Wimpy was now forced to change its waitress service outlets to compete with its new rival.

A newspaper advertisement stating that Wimpy in Dundee would reopen soon
Wimpy reopened to loyal customers after a brief closure in the 1980s, but more trouble loomed on the horizon.

Wimpy began to lose popularity in the city.

The Murraygate outlet was soon replaced by Burger King and its last branch opened at Stack Leisure Park in Lochee in the 1990s.

The Megabowl outlet was the perfect place to grab a burger before a game of bowling or a trip to the Zapp Zone or Odeon for a movie.

Wimpy was praised by farmers at the time for his decision to start serving British beef again at his branches after the BSE crisis.

During a demonstration in 1996, several Scottish farmers stopped in Lochee for lunch and congratulated the management.

However, the number of Wimpy restaurants has continued to decline over the years, and now only around 70 Wimpy diners can be found in the UK, including three in Scotland.

Dundee Megabowl in the 1990s, before it closed in 2011.

Residents of Fraserburgh, Dingwall and Kilmarnock can still experience the past and taste its famous cuisine.

And one remaining outlet in Dundee is one of the last reminders of Scotland’s adventure in American fast food; Gone but not forgotten…

Dundee, South Africa, that is.

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From a drunk Pete Doherty to a jolly Andi Peters, we remember some of the famous customers at Scotland’s very first McDonald’s – in Dundee

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