On the skids: Dunlop Rubber

Dunlop Rubber was once a leading British multinational. Its presence at Fort Dunlop, Birmingham ended in 2014 after almost 100 years.

John Boyd Dunlop (1840 – 1921) was a Scotsman who developed the pneumatic tyre. In 1889 a company, led by Harvey du Cros, was established in Dublin to manufacture bicycle tyres based on Dunlop’s discovery. Dunlop himself was sceptical of the commercial potential of the product, and took a 20 percent stake in the venture.

The product was tested by the greatest cyclist of the era, Willie Hume (1862 – 1941), who won seven races out of eight in a trial of the new tyre.

Manufacture was relocated from Dublin and Belfast to Coventry, the heart of the British cycle industry, from 1893. Factories were also established in the United States, France and Japan.

John Boyd Dunlop divested his shareholding in 1895, and the company was sold to the financier Ernest Terah Hooley (1859 – 1947) for £3 million in 1896. Within a matter of months, by bringing on aristocratic directors and garnering press attention, Hooley was able to publicly float the company for £5 million.

Dunlop produced its first tyre for a motor car in 1906. The first rubber estates in Malaysia were acquired, in order to ensure a supply of raw material, in 1910.

Construction began on the 400 acre Fort Dunlop headquarters and production site in Birmingham in 1916.

Dunlop was the fourteenth largest manufacturing company in Britain by 1918, and its only large-scale tyre manufacturer. It had a market value of £8.9 million in 1919.

Dunlop began to diversify from tyres from 1924. It entered the sports market in earnest when it acquired the tennis racket manufacturer F A Davis. Charles Macintosh, the raincoat manufacturer, was acquired in 1926.

The Malaysian estates were expanded over time, and Dunlop was the largest single landowner in the British Empire by 1926.

By 1930, Dunlop was the eighth largest public company in Britain, with a market value of £28.2 million. The company was a major industrial supplier for Britain during the Second World War, producing the bulk of rubber tyres and boots for the war effort.

By 1946, Dunlop had 70,000 employees, and sales outlets in nearly every country in the world. By 1948 Dunlop  was the tenth largest British company, with a market value of £55.9 million.

Dunlop’s fortunes were closely interlinked with the British car industry. In 1950 Britain was the world’s second largest car manufacturer, and the world’s largest exporter of cars. Many of these cars were fitted with Dunlop tyres. In the 1950s Dunlop accounted for almost half of all tyre sales by value in Britain.

By 1955 Dunlop employed 100,000 people, and was the second largest private employer in Britain after ICI. In 1959 Dunlop was the twelfth largest company in the world outside the US.

Dunlop began to decline from the early 1960s as it was slow to adapt to the new market for steel-belted radial tyres. Performance was also undermined by the decline of the British car industry.

In 1970, a long strike at Fort Dunlop resulted in a loss of £3 million at the group’s British operations: the first in its history. As a result, the largest British car manufacturer, British Leyland, which had previously acquired all of its tyres from Dunlop, adopted a policy of dual sourcing to ensure supply.

In the late 1960s, Dunlop was the 35th largest company outside of the United States. In 1973, Dunlop was the eleventh largest British industrial company, with a turnover of £495 million and capital of £290 million.

In 1971, the company merged with Pirelli of Italy, to create the world’s third largest tyre manufacturer. The combined group had a turnover of almost £900 million.

The merger was a disaster: the Pirelli branch lost money every year until 1980. The merger was undone in 1981, but it was too late: Dunlop had amassed massive debts and was almost bankrupt. Dunlop shed over 19,000 employees between 1978 and 1982.

By 1978 Dunlop’s tyre manufacturing operations ran at an increasing loss. By the late 1970s, the Washington plant near Newcastle upon Tyne was the only profitable factory among Dunlop’s eight European sites. Tyre operations lost £22 million in 1980.

In 1981 Dunlop sold its 51 percent stake in its Malaysian rubber estates for £60 million to Multi-Purpose Holdings, a Chinese-Malaysian group. The Dunlop estates were Malaysia’s sixth largest plantation group, covering over 55,000 acres.

In 1983, Dunlop’s European tyre business was sold to its former Japanese subsidiary, Sumitomo, for £82 million.

Between 1970 and 1983, Dunlop had shed over half of its employees, from 107,000 people to 53,000.

The remnant of Dunlop was acquired by the industrial conglomerate BTR plc for £101 million in 1985. BTR sold the US tyre business to its management for £142 million.

In 1996, BTR began to sell its remaining Dunlop businesses to various interests around the world. The sporting arm, Dunlop Slazenger, was sold to private equity firm Cinven for £372 million. Dunlop Standard, the aerospace group, was sold to private equity firm Doughty Hanson for £510 million.

W H Smith and Woolworths: a cautionary tale

Tired stores, confusion over what the shops sell, high prices. No, it’s not Woolworths, its W H Smith’s.

W H Smith currently occupy the position that Woolworths held maybe ten years before its demise. The Smith’s stores desperately need a makeover. Too many of the stores are dirty and untidy, and reminiscent of a jumble sale.

Smith’s actually did quite well from the demise of Woolworths. It likely picked up some of the stationery, toys and confectionery business from its rival. But it’s struggling in the face of intense competition on the high street, online, and from the supermarkets.

The travel concessions are actually pretty good. They offer the traveller all that he or she needs for a journey: books, chocolate, magazines. But I don’t see much reason to visit a high street Smith’s. Waterstones do books better, Amazon do books cheaper. Okay, their magazine range is good. I might consider them for cards if there isn’t a Clinton’s nearby. Their stationery is quite good, but nothing fancy, and is overpriced. And why do I need stationery? People don’t really buy stationery that often, do they? It’s no surprise to read that the travel concessions are keeping the entire business afloat.

http://www.retail-week.com/companies/whsmith/whsmith-trials-franchising-to-expand-its-store-network/5050816.article

Smith’s seem to sell a lot of children’s toys and games these days. It’s just a confusing premise. Why does a newsagents sell toys? I don’t think W H Smith why I need to buy a toy. One gets the impression that they’re just trying to fill some of those massive stores.

The whole situation reminds me of Woolworths. Both are (were) brands with enormous recognition and presence on the high street. But people found fewer and fewer reasons to pop in. Then they got embarrassed to be seen in one. Then Woolworths closed.

I read that Smith’s are trialling franchising their brand to newsagents. Some trialists report a 20 percent rise in sales as a result. Smith’s main problem is their store size. They’d be better off with more small locations that trade on their convenience. Smaller stores would result in lower rents.

The saga of SegaWorld London

SegaWorld was the largest indoor theme park in the world, and operated in central London between 1996 and 1999.

Nick Leslau (born 1959) and Nigel Wray (born 1948) paid £96 million to acquire the Trocadero on Piccadilly Circus, London, in 1994. Tenants included a Planet Hollywood restaurant, a cinema, retailers such as HMV and the Guinness World Records experience, but 110,000 square feet across seven floors remained unused.

The partners negotiated with Sega to open an indoor theme park. At the time Sega, along with Nintendo, dominated the world video gaming scene, and Sonic the Hedgehog was at the peak of its popularity. Sega would operate the park rent-free, with the landlords receiving a half share of the profits.

SegaWorld had already received a “light launch” in Bournemouth, with a £3 million video game arcade that opened in July 1993. After the London SegaWorld opened, the Bournemouth park’s name was changed to “Sega Park” to avoid confusion.

The London site was modelled on Sega’s Joypolis theme park in Tokyo, which contained many of the same rides. Although Joypolis was smaller, when it had opened in 1994 it had been the largest indoor theme park in the world.

SegaWorld London logo

SegaWorld London received a £50 million investment and was the largest indoor theme park in the world. Sega claimed that over $1 billion in research and development had helped produce the park. SegaWorld had six rides which combined traditional and virtual reality elements. The concentration on virtual reality was partly due to the fact that space was constrained in the Trocadero. Each ride cost around £2 million to build. As well as the rides there were 400 coin-operated arcade machines.

SegaWorld also contained the longest above-ground escalator in Europe. Customers embarked upon it at the park entrance, and it took them up all seven floors in a single run. It was so large that during installation it had to be lowered in through the Trocadero roof in five sections.

SeagWorld London had massive marketing hype. James Bidwell, head of marketing for Sega Europe, called SegaWorld, “the most sensational new tourist attraction in the world”. Buzz words like “futuractive” were used to describe the park by its marketing agency.

SeagWorld London opened in September 1996, with a launch party featuring Robbie Williams.

Laslau later reported that his “heart just sank” at the launch event. Over 100 people were queuing for a ride that could handle 40 customers per hour. He prepared himself for the media evisceration that he predicted would be forthcoming.

The Daily Telegraph described the park as “little short of a disgrace” and a “joyless tourist trap”. Cosmo Landesman of the Sunday Times described the park as “prosaic and tacky”. Meanwhile, Tom Whitewell of The Guardian said “it’s not all that different from your local shopping centre” and described the ride technology as “nearly always obvious and unsubtle”. Several reviewers pointed out that one of the rides was a dressed-up dodgems.

It was overpriced (£12 entry for adults), rides broke down, the queues were lengthy, and it failed to live up to the marketing hype. The coin-op machines cost £1 a time, and were already available elsewhere without an entrance fee. Laslau later described his disappointment:

Sega could not deliver what they said they’d deliver… It looked amazing, but their rides were not capable of delivering the number of people they needed to deliver to support the operation. People were queuing for ages … It was a question of over-anticipation and under-delivery.

Reviews following the launch event did not improve. In December 1996, John Tribe reported the experience to be a “glitzy con-trick” in The Times. That month, the entrance fee was reduced to £2 but fees for the rides of between 50p and £3 were introduced in an attempt to reduced the hour-plus queues that developed during busy periods.

In February 1997, it was revealed that SegaWorld visitor numbers, at 1.1 million, as well as average customer spend, were about half those anticipated. The park lacked basic facilities such as a bar, chairs or cloakrooms.

After a £1 million loss in 1997, admission fees were removed entirely in December that year and an IMAX cinema was installed. John Conlan, the Trocadero’s new chairman admitted:

We have realised that this is not an indoor theme park. It is an amusement arcade and you would not normally pay to go to an amusement arcade.

A £2 million 125 ft free-fall ride was opened in March 1998, with sponsorship from Pepsi. But this new investment failed to stem continued losses of £2 million a year, and Sega was evicted by Trocadero management in September 1999.

The disorganisation, mechanical failures and lack of market research reflected poorly on Sega. A Sega World operated in Sydney, Australia between 1997 and 2000, but closed down under similar circumstances.

The interactivity, optimism for the future, over-expectation and consequent media cynicism would also characterise the Millennium Dome, which was a kind of theme park/interactive museum.

Further parallels can be made between Sega World and DisneyQuest, a similar indoor theme park with virtual reality elements which also over-promised and failed to deliver.

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Cadbury is the second highest selling confectionery brand in the world after Wrigley’s chewing gum. Similar to the Coca-Cola Company, much of Cadbury’s success has been driven by a single product, the Dairy Milk bar. When someone says Cadbury, you instantly think of Dairy Milk, it’s purple packaging, and the famous “glass of milk and a half” slogan.

The Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar was introduced in 1905. Developed by George Cadbury Jr, it was the first milk chocolate bar to be mass produced in the UK. By 1914, it was the highest selling Cadbury line. The economies of mass production combined with rising incomes meant that the working classes could afford chocolate for the first time.

However, other manufacturers such as Fry and Rowntree soon caught up with Cadbury’s mass production methods. So why were none of their own product lines as successful as Dairy Milk? There is first mover advantage, yet it took seventy years for a product to seriously challenge Dairy Milk in the UK market. The Rowntree Yorkie bar made inroads in the 1970s, but has since faded somewhat. The Mars Bar built market share throughout the 1970 and 80s, largely because it retailed for half the price of Dairy Milk, so it was hardly battling on equal terms.

Why has Dairy Milk been so successful? There are two consistent brand selling points: Quality/Healthfulness and Luxury.

The brand has always been advertised as affordable luxury. Purple has been the dominant colour in the packaging since 1920. When you see purple on the shelf of the supermarket, you can be almost certain that it’s a Cadbury product. Purple reinforces the brand image: purple is regal and elegant and represents luxury. By dressing their product in purple regalia, Cadbury are expressing their confidence in the quality of their product. The packaging implies “Fit for Kings”, without the arrogance of explicitly saying so.

There is also an implicit ego boost associated with consuming a product that is “fit for royalty”. “You are good enough to consume this regal product”. The brand is egalitarian, which ties into the egalitarian nature of the Quakers, of which the Cadbury family were members.

This ties in with the original context of the product, which was offering the once luxury product, only affordable for the few, to the masses.

The luxury connotations of Dairy Milk reinforce the notion of a chocolate bar as a form of self-treating. The idea of chocolate as a reward, which is a powerful one, as consuming chocolate triggers the release of endorphins into the brain, which are the body’s “reward mechanisms”.

Since 1928, the product has been represented by the famous slogan, “A glass and a half”. This refers to the amount of milk (426ml) that a half pound (227g) bar of Dairy Milk contains. The slogan represents quality: no other competitor claims to contain as much milk, and milk is a simple, pure, quality ingredient.

Milk also suggests a certain amount of healthfulness. Milk grows bones and is/was given to schoolchildren. Milk is also a natural product, which counteracts the natural suspicions the individual may have regarding processed food.

Meanwhile, the name “Dairy” conjures up wholesome, rural imagery. The countryside has healthy and natural connotations. Interestingly, the second most successful Cadbury product after Dairy Milk is the Creme Egg, which also uses the double “dairy” imagery.

Dairy Milk line extensions continue to reinforce this image. To the modern consumer, “Fruit and Nut” and “Whole Nut” sound more like health bars or healthy cereals than high calorie confections. Again, fruits and nuts are products with healthy and natural connotations that professionals are always recommending we eat more of.

This healthfulness connotations help to allay the individual’s principal reason for not buying chocolate: it’s not good for you as it has a high sugar and fat content.

Bouncing back: Dunlop Slazenger

The Dunlop and Slazenger brands remain prominent in sporting goods, especially in racket sports such as tennis, squash, golf, badminton, hockey and cricket.

Dunlop was established as a rubber goods company in 1889. In 1909, it moved into sporting goods when it began to manufacture twelve dozen golf balls a day at Manor Mill in Birmingham. In their first year, Dunlop balls won five of the major British golf tournaments.

From 1924 the company branched out into tennis balls, and from 1925, tennis rackets. The decade saw Dunlop established as a leading sporting goods supplier due to a mechanised production line, which reduced costs, as well as a strong commitment to research and development. It was considered the foremost manufacturer of golf balls.

Production of the golf balls was temporarily discontinued in 1941 due to war work and a lack of rubber supply. After the war, Dunlop transferred production to Speke, Liverpool, where it had leased a former aircraft factory.

Dunlop’s Fort Maxply tennis rackets were used by more than half of the competitors at Wimbledon in 1952.

In 1959, Slazenger, a major English sporting goods rival, was acquired. In 1960, exports by Dunlop Sport totalled £1.6 million.

In 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard used a Dunlop 65 ball when he played golf on the moon.

Production of rackets at Waltham Abbey in Essex fell prey to cheaper imports produced overseas, and the factory was closed in 1979, with production concentrated on the Slazenger site at Horbury in West Yorkshire.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the company was slow to see that wooden rackets were going the way of the dinosaur. Eventually, it started manufacturing the new lightweight graphite rackets, and wooden racket production ended in 1984.

From 1981 to 1988, Dunlop Sports sponsored John McEnroe in the most expensive tennis sponsorship deal in the world, worth $500,000 annually, plus commissions on McEnroe branded rackets.

More tennis Grand Slams have been won with Dunlop rackets than any other brand.

By 1982 Dunlop Slazenger had annual sales of £100 million, but it was struggling to remain profitable. In 1983 the company lost £6 million. Alan Finden-Crofts was appointed chief executive, and identified the company weaknesses as a local (as opposed to international) outlook, weak marketing and a lack of a global strategy. By 1986 he had turned around the company to make an annual profit of £16 million.

The Slazenger factory at Horbury, Yorkshire was closed in the late 1980s.

During the breakup of the Dunlop empire between 1996 and 1998, Dunlop Slazenger was sold to its management, backed by the private equity firm Cinven, for £330 million. Cinven sold Dunlop’s rights to the Puma sports brand in the UK back to its German parent. Cinven invested heavily into the business to make it profitable.

A large tennis ball manufacturing plant in Barnsley, Yorkshire was closed in 2002, and the machinery was shipped to a facility outside Manila in the Philippines. Token production in Germany and South Africa also ended, and the Philippine plant became the sole supplier of Dunlop Slazenger tennis balls. Due to Dunlop Slazenger’s high market share, the company estimated that 60 percent of the world’s tennis balls and 90 percent of squash balls were manufactured at the site.

Dunlop was producing around 250,000 golf balls every day by 2003.

Cinven sold the company to Sports Direct International for £40 million in 2004.

Sports Direct sold Dunlop Sport to Sumitomo Rubber Industries of Japan for £112 million in 2017. Sports Direct retained control of Slazenger, thus reversing the effects of the Dunlop Slazenger merger in 1959.

Guinness and the Sapeurs campaign

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The Sapeurs are incredibly interesting. It it the collective name for men in the African Congo who, amid all the dust and slums, spend all their spare cash on dressing like 19th century bohemian flaneurs. They are the Oscar Wildes of the Congo.

The men are courteous and civil gentlemen. What they do is essentially street theatre. The men light up people’s day when they see them. The Sapeurs claim that it is a form of escapism for a region that has been devastated by civil war. They aspire towards a better existence for their community.

The Sapeurs made me think about the importance of aesthetics, as a source of both escapism and aspiration. Some people say that Oscar Wilde was an elitist. I don’t think he was any more of an elitist than the Sapeurs.

Guinness have recently made a short documentary about the Sapeurs which I thought was really interesting.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CScqFDtelrQ&w=560&h=315]

Guinness are good at creating incredibly interesting advertisements. I have enjoyed the global; focus of their recent efforts. Recent ads have told interesting stories loaded with pathos in a subtle way so as not to make them cheesy, exploitative or overbearing. Here is the Guinness Sapeurs ad:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-3sVWOxuXc&w=560&h=315]

A history of Donnay Sports

Donnay is best known today as a cheap clothing brand available from Sports Direct stores.

Donnay_Logo_1

Founded in Belgium in 1913, Donnay became involved in sporting goods in 1934 when they began to manufacture wooden tennis rackets. Throughout the 1970s, Donnay was the world’s largest producer of tennis rackets.

From 1979 to 1983 Donnay was buoyed by its sponsorship of Bjorn Borg, the superstar tennis player of the era. As the company did not have a marketing manager until 1987, the company image during that era was very closely tied to Borg.

Donnay first ran into trouble in 1973 when Wilson Sporting Goods dropped the company as its contract tennis racket manufacturer in favour of cheaper production in Taiwan. The Wilson contract had accounted for 1.3 million rackets out of a total production figure of 2 million.

Donnay was also slow to make the switch from the increasingly obsolete wooden rackets to the lightweight graphite models. The company manufactured just 3,000 graphite rackets in 1980, against 1.8 million wooden rackets.

When Bjorn Borg retired from tennis in 1983, it was the final nail in the coffin for Donnay. The company had tied its fortunes too closely to a single figure, and had maintained production in Belgium whilst competitors moved production to the Far East. Its production line was ten times longer than rival manufacturers.

The company lost money every year after Borg’s retirement, until it declared bankruptcy in 1988. It was purchased by Bernard Tapie, a French singer turned businessman, who later acquired Adidas.

Tapie had a major success when he signed an 18 year old Andre Agassi between 1989 and 1992. Despite this, the company struggled to maintain profitability. The local government in Belgium acquired it to save it from bankruptcy in 1993. The factory in Belgium was closed down, and a company that had employed 600 people now employed 25 at a distribution centre. In 1996, Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, acquired the global rights to the brand for $3.9 million.

Ashley originally supported the brand as a leading tennis company. However in 2004, he acquired Dunlop Slazenger. Dunlop-Slazenger became the prestige tennis brand, and Donnay became the marque for cheap rackets and clothing.

Note: if it seems as if I just mined this from Wikipedia, I was myself largely responsible for writing the Wikipedia page as of 2014. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donnay_Sports)

A history of TGI Friday’s in the UK

TGI Friday’s was the world’s first international casual dining chain.

Whitbread was a large British brewer. The company had established the Beefeater restaurant chain in 1974. Eager to replicate this success, Whitbread experimented with a number of new restaurant concepts in the 1980s. A 50 percent stake in the British franchise for Pizza Hut from 1982 was to prove highly successful. The British franchise for Quick, a Belgian fast food chain, was acquired, but the concept quickly failed.

Whitbread opened the first TGI Friday’s in Britain in Birmingham in 1986. A former Wendy’s in Covent Garden, London was converted in 1987. The site enjoyed a £1 million makeover, and was an exact replica of the American model. Outlets were soon added in Fareham, Reading and Cardiff.292px-TGI_Fridays_logo.svg

TGI Friday’s was established as a singles bar on the east side of Manhattan by Alan Stillman, a young perfume salesman, in 1965. At the time, New York pubs and bars were aimed at men. Stillman redecorated the bar to make it brighter, cleaner and more domestic, in order to make it more attractive to women. Daniel R. Scoggin was a customer who recognised the franchising potential of the restaurant, and instigated the roll-out of the chain across the US.

TGI Friday’s was the first chain of themed casual dining restaurants. The flamboyant bartenders were the direct inspiration for the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail (1988), which was filmed in the original Friday’s. The restaurant claims to have invented loaded potato skins in 1974, and helped to popularise nachos. After a few years, the chain began to attract families, particularly during the daytime.

The chain was an instant success in Britain. Whitbread had insight into the mindset of the British public, and knew the local property market. The Covent Garden site was the busiest TGI Friday’s in the world by 1992, and reputedly the busiest restaurant in Europe. In one week, its 260 seats yielded a turnover of £180,000.

There were 12 sites in Britain by 1993, and the average annual turnover was £2.5 million. According to Sally Dibb and Lyndon Simkin, Friday’s altered the UK dining scene “beyond recognition” due to its vitality, enthusiasm and tight quality control standards. The company hired staff with extrovert personalities, and the restaurants provided a theatrical experience. From the beginning, TGI Friday’s was an early example of a company that tried to be “nice”, to treat its employees fairly and to be a good corporate citizen.

The chain grew to 41 outlets by 2004. At this time, Whitbread indicated that it would divest the chain if profits failed to improve. Sales remained disappointing throughout 2005. Whitbread sold the chain to the American parent company, Carlson, for £70.4 million in 2007. Whitbread felt that it had grown the chain as much as it could.

Wendy’s Hamburgers in the UK

Wendy’s is the third largest burger chain in the world, although the majority of its restaurants are in the US. It positions itself upmarket from McDonald’s and Burger King.

The first British outlet opened in London in 1980. For trademark reasons it was called Wendy, not Wendy’s. The operation was a joint venture between Wendy’s International and Grand Metropolitan, a large British hotels and brewing concern. An experienced local operator, Grand Met had already enjoyed great success with the Berni Inn casual dining chain in Britain. A flagship Wendy outlet was opened on Oxford Street. The idea was to target the over-25s market.

Grand Met exited the joint venture just a year after it entered it,  and Wendy’s International assumed full control of the British operations.

Wendy expanded to 16 restaurants. However, soaring rents at its central London sites left the company struggling to make a profit. The sites, all of which were located in London and the South East, were sold to Whitbread for £6.8 million in 1986. The majority of Wendy sites were converted to Quick, the Belgian fast food retailer.

Wendy’s returned for a second attempt at the UK market in 1992, with outlets at Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street. Outlets were now known as “Wendy’s”, and featured salad bars. The company announced plans to expand to 70 sites across Britain. The initial expansion concentrated on London and West Yorkshire.

There were twelve restaurants by 1996, including eight company owned and four franchised. Wendy’s retreated from the British market for the second time in 2000. Some of its most prominent sites were taken over by McDonald’s, including Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, York Way near King’s Cross and Briggate in Leeds. Wendy’s blamed high property and operating costs for its failure in the British market.

A lot on their plate: Fatty Arbuckle’s

Fatty Arbuckle’s was one of the largest casual dining chains in Britain during the 1990s.

The first Fatty Arbuckle’s outlet was opened in Plymouth in 1983. The restaurant was co-owned by Liverpool-born friends Pete Shotton (1941 – 2017) and Bill Turner (died 1993). Shotton had been a member of the Quarrymen alongside John Lennon (1940 – 1980).

The restaurant was modelled on American diners, and had a retro Hollywood theme. It was named after Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of America’s most successful silent film actors in the 1910s. There was a focus on large portions served on 13-inch plates.

A second restaurant was opened in Bournemouth in 1985. After Shotton and Turner met Adrian Lee and his wife, they offered them the job of running the Bournemouth outlet. Within three years, Lee was managing director of Arbuckle’s.

Bill Turner died in 1993, and Pete Shotton acquired his stake in the business.

Each new Arbuckle’s outlet proved an immediate success. Franchise outlets were opened from 1991, which allowed the chain to rapidly expand to 22 restaurants by 1995. Arbuckle’s was the largest American-style restaurant chain in the UK by 1997, with 42 outlets.

Arbuckle’s, with its focus on beefburgers and steaks, was hit hard when a BSE-epidemic struck Britain in 1996. 70 percent of its sales had been burgers. Pete Shotton sold his majority stake in the business to the turnaround experts, Alchemy Partners, for £5 million.

Alchemy was widely credited with reviving the fortunes of Arbuckle’s. More profitable leisure park sites were pursued over high street locations, and the chain peaked with 58 restaurants by 1999. “Fatty” was dropped from the name from 2000 in order to appeal to health-conscious diners.

However, after making heavy losses, the company entered into receivership with debts of £6.8 million in July 2000. The loss-making majority of outlets were immediately closed down.

The brand and ten outlets were acquired by the Noble House Group, headed by investor Robert Breare (1953 – 2013), for a rumoured £1 million. Breare was charismatic; a hyperactive, shambolic and disorganised man, who enjoyed living the good life. He was adept at acquiring companies, but not so skilled at managing them.

The ten remaining outlets were closed down in 2006. Two former managers acquired the rights to the name and opened a revamped Arbuckle’s at Downham Market in Norfolk from 2008.

The American-style restaurant is still represented in Britain by TGI Friday’s, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito (Tex-Mex), but other American-style restaurant chains such as Henry J Bean’s and Old Orleans have closed down.