On the trail: a history of Slug and Lettuce

Slug and Lettuce is a British chain of bar restaurants with 70 outlets.

Slug and Lettuce was established by entrepreneur Hugh Corbett (born 1943) in 1985. Corbett brought a degree of trendiness and relative luxury to his pubs, with an increased focus on wine and food. His pubs were all given nonsensical names, which differentiated them from their competitors. Eventually Slug and Lettuce became the standard name. “I wanted a name that would stick in the memory, and Slug and Lettuce certainly does that”, reflected Corbett.

Corbett imitated the stripped-back character of David Bruce’s Firkin pub chain. Bare pine board flooring, no curtains, and large glass windows were the order of the day. This meant that people could look into the pub from the street, and the new light and airy open plan design made the pubs more attractive to women.

Corbett cannily located the first Slug and Lettuce in Islington, which was beginning to undergo gentrification due to its proximity to the newly liberalised City of London.

There were six outlets by 1986.

Slug and Lettuce was sold to David Bruce for £2.25 million in 1992. Bruce began to pursue the relatively untapped female market in earnest, imitating elements of the upmarket Pitcher & Piano chain and increasing the emphasis on food.

Slug and Lettuce underwent another rebranding, aimed at creating an English pub/Continental bar hybrid, in 1995.

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