The chain expanded rapidly throughout the 1970s, and would acquire the Happy Eater chain in the 1980s, its only major roadside competitor. It peaked in numbers in the late 1990s with 439 restaurants. Little Chef began to face decline in the early 2000s. This was mainly due to the chain expanding too fast, meaning it could not properly invest in all of its locations. The lack of investment tainted the brand image of Little Chef, making it appear outdated to consumers in the 2000s. The chain was also facing increased competition , as motorways had become favoured by motorists over A-roads for long-distance journeys. Compared to its peak in the late 1990s, by 2005 the chain had lost almost half of its locations.

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