CR Blog

The new Little Chef

Graphic Design

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 12 May 2011, 10:10    Permalink    Comments (39)

Venturethree has completed an overhaul of Little Chef that sees the brand adopt what the consultancy claims is a 'Wonderfully British' approach. And 'Charlie the Chef' has a new outfit too

Little Chef has been trying hard to update its dowdy image ever since it was taken over by new owners in 2007. Heston Blumenthal was brought in to update its menu, the process of which was featured in a TV documentary.

Blumenthal introduced new dishes and new cooking methods in a trial modernised branch of Little Chef in Popham, Hampshire. The exercise apparently proved successful – the chain has opened nine new branches in the past year and plans 20 more.

Venturethree has, it says, tried to reposition the chain as a 'modern British brand' with new menus, interiors and the introduction of a take away service.

First of all, there's the logo. Venturethree has given the Little Chef himself, known as Charlie, a new outfit and relieved him of that strange bowl of white stuff he previously bore aloft in his right hand. He no longer seems to be wearing a romper suit and instead sports an on-trend double-breasted affair (new Charlie shown top, old Charlie below).

Apparently he is also "friendlier and more refined, with new energy and purpose," according to venturethree's CEO and strategic director Philip Orwell. Erm, OK. Well, he certainly looks more modern (perhaps based on Heston himself?) especially when featured on these fly posters

The logotype has also changed, the upper case having been replaced by that old design consultancy standby for 'friendliness', the script face.

There will also be a new range of Good To Go take away food

 

A new colour scheme is designed to tie in with the British theme, featuring (as seen on the trays above) 'mushy pea green, raspberry ripple pink, English mustard yellow and baked bean orange'.

Menus make much use of the chatty copy style made famous by Innocent to reinforce what Venturethree claims is a tone of voice rooted in British humour.

Most striking are a series of Pop Art style giant sculptures of a ketchup bottle, tea mug and lollipop (a normal size version of which kids get for finishing their meal) that will appear at various Little Chefs around the country.

They look fantastic in the renders – hopefully they'll look just as good in a drizzly lay-by off the A303.

Venturethree worked with Ab Rogers Design and Cake on the project which also includes new interiors

Having spent some dismal times in various Little Chefs and (the horror) its one-time Happy Eater rival over the years, the overhaul (and the promise of better food) is very welcome. With half-term and a schlep to Cornwall coming up, I (and many others) will soon have the chance to see if the reality lives up to the promise of the new image.

 

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39 Comments

I like.

Although on the last signage visual the wordmark is a little thin in comparison to the mark. Like them more separately than I do together. Nice job though, bright, fresh and fun.

The sculptures would be great as roadside signage too.

Let's hope the actual brand lives up to the branding…
Lee
2011-05-12 11:30:59


The only thing left to do is make sure they hire staff that aren't so lacking in basic social skills, and they're 'good to go'. See what I did there?
Will
2011-05-12 11:35:20


I spotted this on a drive to Devon last week – check out my instagram pic. Wonder if the food matches up – not braved the interior yet!

http://instagram.com/p/DnUjq/
Jo Spencer
2011-05-12 11:37:46


Really nice job although the main problem they've got now is the staff/service - looking good though!
James Kirkup
2011-05-12 11:48:21


Great job all round! Yes, it's easy (and a bit snidey CR) to point out the some rebrand cliches. But isn't that the aim of design, that it influences and trickles down to those outside the design-world bubble to make the world a better place?

This is just the kind of refreshing process that might have helped save Oddbins…
Grogger
2011-05-12 11:53:28


A vast improvement on the original that probably pre-dates Demsey & Makepiece, the XR3i Cabriolet, Charles & Diana's wedding and Thatchers term in office. Whilst the design elements feel much more in keeping with our times, visually it feels like its missed a trick or two. The elements all feel very disconnected - the logotype, the rounded little chef character, the chatty words and the bright colour palette are all very nice, but somehow they all feel very separate.

From a branding perspective I want to know who this 'Little Chef' is, what he stands for and why the hell I should give the crappy food another go? Bring the little fella to life, let him have a voice and be the personality, make him stand for something... at the moment he's just a nice looking rounded chef type character in the middle of a coloured poster... speak to me little chef, speak.
Kevin Blackburn
2011-05-12 12:07:18


What happened to the Praline rebrand?

http://www.designbypraline.com/recent/project/c/45/p/95/
Tom
2011-05-12 12:27:50


Good stuff, I like the script face and the colours. It will be interesting to see if this turns their fortunes around.
James
2011-05-12 12:32:19


I like it, considering I've never seen the brand before I think it helps me give a more objective view. definitely a step in the right direction.
taurean bryant
2011-05-12 12:40:58


Didn't Iris in Sheffield have something to do with the brand a while back too?..

As for Oddbins (from Grogger comment above).. They wouldn't listen.
David Thompson
2011-05-12 12:46:28


Wow, David Thompson, thanks for the head-up. Your work is lovely. Some of the Grogger Team are former-Oddbins staff so we're very sad to see the demise. Would you like to do a Grogger interview for us?
Grogger
2011-05-12 12:51:26


I see new little chef its is good at lease he dose wear trousers and slimmer
Robin Bush
2011-05-12 12:57:31


Hey, I ate in one of the new Little Chefs on Monday morning. I have been telling my team about it this week. The breakfast was great and the environment is so much better. I will make a point of stopping there next time. I say good work by all involved. A welcome refreshment in all senses of the word.
Alan Smith
2011-05-12 13:25:35


(๑‘◡‘๑)
Modena THeGreat
2011-05-12 13:35:17


A definite improvement no doubt. But surely this is a case of the client expecting 'branding' to change all their fortunes? If the food is still bad, if the staff are still disinterested it will not work. Having a 'friendly' and 'open' typeface, some cool posters slapped on a hoarding (nice visual), or some big type saying 'yum' on a tray does not a brand make – it's just slapping a new veneer on some rotten wood.
Gregg
2011-05-12 13:48:15


Firstly, nice work by Venture Three.

But wasn’t the Little Chef identity recently redesigned by Praline?
http://www.designbypraline.com/recent/project/c/45/p/95/

And I’ve just been pointed in the direction of the Iris Associates website which also has a Little Chef rebrand on it.
http://www.irisassociates.com/casestudies/littlechef/rebrand/

It would be interesting to see a timeline of recent developments, who did what and whether their work was integrated in any way. It was suggested to me that maybe Pralines design was only created for Heston's project and not actually taken on by the Little Chef — I don't know if this is true or not.

The work from all three agencies updates and improves the feel of the brand, but you don’t often see three brand refreshes so close together.
Mark
2011-05-12 14:04:19


Grogger...

The demise of Oddbins is sad but a rebrand may not have saved them – given the way most people buy wine today. The business models have changed, but Oddbins didn't, and it's probably just another high street sector that the Tesco juggernaut has killed off.

My main problem with the Oddbins approach is that they focused on an existing/ageing market base and forgot that as their customers got older, they might want to think about attracting new ones.

I could go on in detail about what we proposed to re-awaken the brand and give it renewed vigour (which all fell on deaf ears). And I seriously doubt we were the first to try (and fail).

The most obvious creative suggestion was to renew the personality injected by Gerald Scarfe, and we proposed several quality illustrators to pick up where he left off... Sanna Annukka to name one (this was three years ago).

But the owner didn't see a problem, didn't 'get-it' and was happy with the existing bland culture, so there was no appetite to move forward and the rest is history. Perhaps it was our failure also for not getting these points across.

A shame.

david@davidesign.info
David Thompson
2011-05-12 15:30:37


Thank David, really interesting to hear you opinions. I agree with you, they should have channeled their energy into younger, fresher markets.
Grogger
2011-05-12 16:58:19


I like the design in parts but I do agree that it all feels a little disconnected somewhat. The logo font, while the idea is good, is not to my personal taste. My favourite picture's the multi coloured posters. They look ace.

but in any case, I don't think that rebranding (however many times) will save Little Chef in the long run. I hope not, there's something about the brand that I (and other people my age 28) nostalgically warm to.
Egg
2011-05-12 17:03:22


i like. seems like a 'proper' rebrand with everything considered, i.e. not just the design but actually making the product/ service good. i can imagine not being thoroughly depressed by the prospect of entering a little chef now.
James Nelson
2011-05-13 00:25:45


Already feeling nostalgic for the old design. Those things aren't sculptures, they're just nasty slick nonsenses. Anyways, safer to take a packed lunch I think.
Jane
2011-05-13 01:49:44


The old branding always reminded me of Ernie from Sesame Street trying to make himself vomit with his index finger. So this is an improvement.
Simon Twilley @ PackTV
2011-05-13 09:18:40


Good work V3...



.. unnecessary insulting reporting detracts from the story...its not all about you.
adam devey smith
2011-05-13 10:04:00


Loving this.

Reading some of the comments about the total package not necessarily being joined together I cant help but feel that this is the point. The fast food market has changed dramatically over the last 5 years, Macdonalds for example has changed everything from menus to seating arrangements. Each restaurant now differs slightly to target a more broader brand savvy audience. Tough brief, but nevertheless they are trying.

In my humble opinion, its clear that the rebrand wants to say different things to different people. The look and feel associated with the Innocent brand is very obvious and it works. The colour schemes are really fresh and it distinguishes it from anyone else in the market. A top priority for any brand. As also mentioned above, the staff employed have to buy into this new concept, otherwise all this good work is going to waste.
Razor
2011-05-13 13:19:12


Memories run deep, so despite the 'new' look, it will take mountains of pr to get a lot of ex users back through the doors.
Gail Baird
2011-05-13 13:23:58


I know Charlie is a chef (all be it a little one) but there is something about the style that reminds me of Mr Stay Puffed from Ghost Busters!! Is it just Me?
Tracey
2011-05-13 13:59:49


I actually felt hungry as I looked through this post, what is going on?!
Pickle Design
2011-05-13 20:35:30


Refreshed and up to date that had to be one of the easiest jobs to complete.

For once I like it!

It will make a welcome set of colours after all that Motorway Grey.
Christopher Brown
2011-05-14 16:27:45


I haven't any Little Chef for a long time, and truly this post makes me go there right now. Little Chefs are going to look amazing. I am looking forward to going on a business trip to visit one of them. I especially like the Pop Art style designed ketchup bottle, tea mug and lollipop.
Julie Kinnear
2011-05-15 21:03:51


Little Thief

Innes
2011-05-16 15:45:00


@David Thompson

Gerald Scarfe? Do you mean Ralph Steadman?
Gordon Comstock
2011-05-16 16:58:47


I must be honest, not that fond of it. The chef is too Pilsbury Dough Boy-ish, and the font doesn't sit too well with the chef and a little bland without him - plus I don't think that typeface will age too well. I like the secondary elements of the brand, the colours and secondary font are very Pop Arty in their approach, which does help underpin that more light-hearted feel they they're trying to capture in the rebrand. So, some good stuff and some bad - Will it become as iconic as the big yellow M or the Colonel??
Mark Cook
2011-05-16 20:25:36


Really nice and seems to have been thoroughly considered. Let’s hope they deliver on the promise on site.

A little unsure about the sculptures though, they seem a little at odds with the styling, but that’s just my opinion.

I’m really pleased he wears more than a neck scarf now too...
Jenmacc
2011-05-18 09:39:16


Nice, bright and friendly branding.
Glad to see they've dropped the plate of goop from the logo and the all in one romper suit too :-)
bluepigcreative
2011-05-20 17:34:25


If this is purely a fresh, modern look and feel, then this rebrand is a futile exercise.

What Little Chef needs is a rethink of their product and offer. Oh, wait, Heston tried that and met with an old fashioned and stony faced management team.

If they continue to serve obscenely overpriced and truly horrendous food, then sure as microwaved eggs is eggs, then they won't last much longer.

There's a place on the motorways of Britain for an amazing food / break from driving experience. And when Little Chef closes down, there'll be plenty of space for it.
James Warfield
2011-05-26 12:28:55


It's not a bit of a wash and brush-up that will turn this culinary donkey into a prancing show pony.
Curator
2011-05-26 13:02:35


Sometimes though, branding can only go so far. If you have a product that has a specific reputation and you need to change that reputation, you have to change the product in terms of price, quality and delivery as well as the brand image, one doesn't work without the other! Has Little Chef done this, I'm not sure that there reputation has changed that much but I can't admit to being a regular customer.
Freya
2013-01-21 16:30:00


On a day out 10/06/13, we traveled from Aldershot to Stourhead. We stopped off at a Little Chef at West Knoyle, we ordered 2 flat coffees and two teacakes, the coffees arrived at 10.30 am ............. at 10.50am, I decided this was abit much, not a hard order is it ? we got up to pay and leave, went to the guy on the till, I pointed out to him we didn't get any teacakes and I was only to pay for 2 coffees, when I asked why no teacakes the chef looked around and said 'there is no teacakes', so why wasn't the message passed on to us ? I felt the order was just too small for them, reason being, when myself and husband was going to the West country several years ago, the same thing happened WHY !!!!!!!
Marion Sandford
2013-06-12 07:47:39


Personally I think the whole 'dine at the roadside' thing has died out for the most part. Cars are faster and more comfortable, pre-packed food is now the norm and the good old British holiday era also seems a little irrelevant nowadays. Service stations in general seem to either be for people using the toilet or those stopping for a quick coffee. Let's face it, most people these days don't enjoy having a cooked breakfast at the side of the M6. It's just a result of the times. There'll be a good few who still love it but I never hear anybody mentioning Little Chef round here anymore. It's a shame.
George
2013-10-14 12:55:58


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