Before McDonalds came to the shores of Blighty we had our own brand of fast food burger restaurant in the form of Wimpy, or Wimpy Bars as the restaurants were often referred to. Â Wimpy took their name from the character J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons, as he was a bit of a burger addict, although this character was never used to promote the restaurants as far as I know.
The first Wimpy Bars opened in the 1950s but they were at their most popular during the 1970s and 1980s, although by the time the eighties arrived McDonalds were already doing a good job of crushing poor old Wimpy under foot.
Whilst some of the Wimpy Bars worked under the counter order system this was originally seen as being far too un-British, so the majority had waitress service initially. Â The burgers were more to British tastes at the time as well, since they were far more plain and simple than McDonalds with all it’s weird relish and those yucky slices of gherkin (I hate those). Â Of course, as time has gone by British tastes have become more American, and Wimpy is now all but gone from the high streets of the UK. Â These days you’re most likely to find a Wimpy at a motorway services.
During their hay day though, Wimpy were very popular, sporting the twee slogan “Wimpy is the home of the hamburger, we’ve got the greatest burgers under the bun” and their mascot Mr. Wimpy, who was basically a mutant Beefeater guard from the Tower of London. Â Dressed in the well known red uniform of the Beefeater’s, he was a squat little chap who’s hat was so big it covered most of his face. Â All you could really see was a big round nose and a tiny little bit of his smile.
Mr. Wimpy featured on the TV adverts and promotional items for Wimpy, including badges and freebies such as paper travel game books. Â He even had his own computer game, which was a version of the old arcade game Burger Time. Â Mr. Wimpy had to make burgers by walking over buns, beefburgers and slices of cheese to make them drop to the bottom of the screen to build a burger. Â Quite fun, and it was one of the first games I had on my Commodore 64.