Harry Ramsden's
Harry Ramsden's is a fast food restaurant
Fast food restaurant
A fast food restaurant, also known as a Quick Service Restaurant or QSR within the industry itself, is a specific type of restaurant characterized both by its fast food cuisine and by minimal table service...

 chain based in the United Kingdom which offers fish and chips
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is a popular take-away food in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada...

 and assorted themed dishes. The business has 35 owned and franchised outlets throughout the UK and Ireland and serves around four million meals annually.

It is Britain's longest established restaurant chain.

Early history

The business was started by Harry Ramsden (1888–1963) in 1928 in a wooden hut in White Cross, Guiseley
Guiseley is a small town in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. Situated south of Otley and Menston, it is a suburb of north west Leeds. At the 2001 census, Guiseley together with Rawdon had a population of over 21,000. The A65, which passes through the town, is the...

, West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a metropolitan county within the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England with a population of 2.2 million. West Yorkshire came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972....

, northern England. Three years later he moved into a new premises, complete with fitted carpets, oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 panelled walls and chandelier
A chandelier is a branched decorative ceiling-mounted light fixture with two or more arms bearing lights. Chandeliers are often ornate, containing dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light...

s. The original hut still stands on the same site adjacent to the main restaurant, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fish and chip shop in the world, seating 250 people, serving nearly a million customers a year. Harry Corbett
Harry Corbett
Harry Corbett OBE was a British puppeteer, known as the creator in 1948 of the long running 'Sooty' glove puppet character.He was born in Bradford to coal miner James W...

 of Sooty
Sooty is a British glove puppet bear and TV character popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. The children's television show which bears his name has continued in various forms since the 1950s and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the...

 fame was a nephew of Harry Ramsden and played the piano in his uncle's original restaurant.

In 1954 the business was sold to Harry Ramsden's long term business partner Eddie Stokes for , subsequently selling in 1965 to Essex based Associated Fisheries.


In 1988, the company, which still comprised the original Guiseley fish and chips premises, was bought by Merryweathers, led by Chairman John Barnes. Barnes led the transition of the business from a single restaurant in Yorkshire to a world famous brand.

Following a decision by their bank to withdraw funding, the management pulled off an audacious move to float the company on the London Stock exchange in 1989. The public offer was over subscribed by two and a half times. The next ten years saw rapid expansion throughout the UK and worldwide through company owned and franchised restaurants. Worldwide locations in Hong Kong, Australia, EPCOT
Epcot is a theme park in the Walt Disney World Resort, located near Orlando, Florida. The park is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely international culture and technological innovation. The second park built at the resort, it opened on October 1, 1982 and was initially named...

 and Saudi Arabia added to the growing stature as an international brand.

A franchise deal with Granada motorway services to develop kiosk
Kiosk is a small, separated garden pavilion open on some or all sides. Kiosks were common in Persia, India, Pakistan, and in the Ottoman Empire from the 13th century onward...

-style units ultimately led to Granada Ltd buying Harry Ramsden's for in October 1999.

When acquired by Granada Harry Ramsden's comprised four company owned restaurants, twenty five franchises and sixteen Henry Higgins units. Granada expanded Harry Ramsden's into motorway locations. Some franchise territories infringed onto motorways so Granada bought the franchises back.

In 2000 Compass merged with Granada. Under Compass, the business was expanded into motorway service station kiosks, contract catering locations such as schools, Post Office canteens, Little Chef
Little Chef
Little Chef is a chain of roadside restaurants in the United Kingdom, founded in 1958 and owned by the UK private equity group RCapital. Little Chef's previous owners were The People's Restaurant Group Ltd., a company belonging to British catering entrepreneurs Simon Heath and Lawrence Wosskow,...

, Butlins
Butlins is a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom. Butlins was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families....

 and Haven Holidays.

SSP ownership and future

By April 2006, Compass had spun off its motorway service stations to Moto bought by Macquarie Bank of Sydney, Australia. Its specialist airports and railways division SSP was sold for to EQT Partners of Sweden (who also own Findus
Findus is a company that produces and retails frozen food. Its products include Crispy Pancakes, which were invented in the early 1970s.- Origins :...

). Harry Ramsden's was sold with the SSP business.

Under the early years of SSP ownership the business had to compete with other SSP brands for investment.

In 2008 SSP recruited industry turnaround specialist Chris Sullivan as Managing Director. During 2009 Sullivan led a radical revision of the food on offer improving quality, reducing wait times and removing menu items which were more pub-restaurant than chip shop. The strategy delivered a marked improvement in sales in the food court and seaside restaurant business of Harry Ramsden's, promping parent company SSP to market the business for sale.

On 19 January 2010 SSP sold Harry Ramsden's to Boparan Ventures Limited. BVL is the private investment vehicle of Ranjit Boparan.

Commenting on the deal, SSP CEO Andrew Lynch praised the turn around in performance by Chris Sullivan and his team and said:
BVL plans to open another 100 units in the next five years and create 600 new jobs.

On 29 November 2011 it was announced that the original Harry Ramsden's restaurant in Guiseley
Guiseley is a small town in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. Situated south of Otley and Menston, it is a suburb of north west Leeds. At the 2001 census, Guiseley together with Rawdon had a population of over 21,000. The A65, which passes through the town, is the...

, Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

 is to close down due to claims from the owners that Harry Ramsden's that the restaurant was losing money and that any refurbishment to the restaurant to make it profitable would be unviable. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-15949876

Undercover Boss

In 2010, the chain was the focus of an episode of the Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 television series Undercover Boss
Undercover Boss
Undercover Boss is a television franchise series that has been released in multiple countries, originating in 2009 on the British Channel 4...

. The CEO of the company, Marija Simovic, posed as a new starter in a variety of locations – Swindon
Swindon is a large town within the borough of Swindon and ceremonial county of Wiltshire, in South West England. It is midway between Bristol, west and Reading, east. London is east...

, Merry Hill Shopping Centre
Merry Hill Shopping Centre
Westfield Merry Hill is a shopping centre in Brierley Hill near Dudley, West Midlands, England. It was developed between 1985 and 1990, with several expansion and renovation projects taking place since. The original developers and owners were Richardson Developments but the Centre has had a number...

, Blackpool
Blackpool is a borough, seaside town, and unitary authority area of Lancashire, in North West England. It is situated along England's west coast by the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, northwest of Preston, north of Liverpool, and northwest of Manchester...

, Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

 and Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth, often known to locals as Yarmouth, is a coastal town in Norfolk, England. It is at the mouth of the River Yare, east of Norwich.It has been a seaside resort since 1760, and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the sea...

 – to try to understand why the company was struggling in today's market. At the end of the programme, Simovic promised big changes in a bid to turn around the company's fortunes, along with promoting a number of employees who had impressed her.


Under the name of the brand, Premier Foods
Premier Foods
Premier Foods plc is a British food manufacturer headquartered in St Albans, Hertfordshire. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.-History:...

 make mushy peas
Mushy peas
Mushy peas are dried marrowfat peas which are first soaked overnight in water and then simmered with a little sugar and salt until they form a thick green lumpy soup. They are a traditional British accompaniment to fish and chips and sometimes mint is used as a flavouring...

 (since April 2006), and Ross Youngs (owned by Heinz
H. J. Heinz Company
The H. J. Heinz Company , commonly known as Heinz and famous for its "57 Varieties" slogan and its ketchup, is an American food company with world headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.Perhaps best known for its ketchup, the H.J...

 since October 1999) make frozen fish and oven chips.

External links

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