Feast of the M60 looks at some more obscurities in the world of hamburger hawking
Several years ago, we did a Feast of the M60 Not So Perfect Ten on forgotten fast food joints. We included King John’s Restaurant in the now-missed Kings Hall shopping arcade in Oldham, and the Big Bite burger bar that was in the corner of Co-op’s Shopping Giant superstore.
Since 2012, the Great British Burger Market® has become a lot more competitive. Whereas McDonalds is top dog in the mainstream market, Five Guys and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have carved a niche at the premium end. In the middle ground, J.D Wetherspoon enjoys that position, once enjoyed by Wimpy. Where it trumps many of the burger giants is the fact it sells cask conditioned ales.
Alongside McDonalds and Wimpy, the close of the 1970s saw the rise of a third force in fast food in the South of England. It was Burger Queen’s first foray into the UK market. Enter Huckleberry’s.
Huckleberry’s: Burger Queen’s UK entry
The alliance of brewery and burger peddler is a far from new one. Wimpy was at one time owned by the same people as Wilson’s Brewery (Grand Metropolitan).
Back in 1979, Grand Metropolitan’s Chef and Brewer brand teamed up with Burger Queen for a slice of the burger boom with 18 restaurants in Greater London and Hertfordshire. The name of the chain of Huckleberry’s – presumably a reference to Mark Twain’s most famous novel instead of a cartoon dog. The name came about to avoid confusion with our reigning monarch.
Huckleberry’s first store opened on the 22nd October 1979 at 679 Green Lanes, Wood Green. It was handy for the Tube Station. The chain’s house specialities were the Huckleburger, priced at £1.10, the Double Decker burger (78p) and their Double Cheeseburger (74p). Allowing for inflation, the equivalent of £6.38 in today’s prices for a Huckleburger without fries. For the Double Decker burger and the Double Cheeseburger, £4.52 and £4.29 respectively. An eight piece box of chicken in 1979 was £4.00 – a staggering £23.20 today! As for regular fries, 19p in 1979 – the equivalent of £1.10 today.
According to the head of Druther’s (hitherto Burger Queen), it was “a crazy experiment”. Its logo was owned by the Coca Cola Company, who 42 years later would play a part in the future of Huckleberry’s Wood Green branch.
For the first half of the 1980s, there were Huckleberry’s burger bars in the South of England. They were noted for their thick milk shakes and fried fish as well as Huckleburgers. By 1986, reorganisation saw to Huckleberry’s brief moment in the sun. Grand Metropolitan’s fast food restaurants were sold to United Biscuits, so Huckleberrys disappeared from the fast food scene, with branches becoming Wimpy bars and Burger King outlets.
As for the pioneering Wood Green branch, it is now one of Costa Coffee’s stores after being a Burger King. Since 2019, Costa became part of the Coca Cola Company, which takes our story full circle.
Before I go…
Did you ever call into Huckleberry’s in the early 1980s? Did you work for any of their branches? Feel free to comment.
S.V., 08 June 2021.