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US flavour for new-look cafe

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: March 29, 2014

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IT seemed like a good idea at the time . . . . that may well be the verdict on an ambitious business launched in 1981 with every intention of catching the public mood at the time.

It was the brainchild of go-getter Paul Richards who gained extensive experience in catering for the public taste - notably as director of a popular people's restaurant on Stafford's Greengate Street.

His idea - long before McDonald's appeared on the scene - was to introduce American culture to the eating -out scene, serving up the kind of goodies which could be found in every major town and city in the United States.

Richards had operated the successful Beefeater restaurant on the upper floor of Jenkinsons’ 56 Greengate Street premises and transformed it from a traditional English restaurant into a hamburger joint.

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Jenkinson's bakery was already well-known - as was the grocery store and wine shop operating from the ground floor - so how did Mr Richards change his market from UK the US culture?

He commissioned Ian West Design based at Mill Street to provide the setting of a typical family restaurant which had been popular for a couple of generations in the United States.

They came up with decor to change the existing walls of the restaurant, with yellow dominating the scene, matching lampshades suspended above every table, each covered with a clean light brown and white checked oilcloth.

The new eatery was to be called Freeway and attractive promotion girls wearing striking black T-shirts inscribed with the yellow logo handed out leaflets to passers-by in advance of the restaurant opening.

Potential customers were tempted by a free glass of Coke with every main meal, free children's badges and T-shirts at a nominal price . . . all augered well for Paul Richards and his grand idea.

Richards had carried out customer research and came to the conclusion that they wanted nostalgia, and a strong identity in a place where every age group could sit and eat.

He told the Newsletter at the time: “At first, it was difficult to accept that a traditional English restaurant should undergo such change."

The new venture employed more than a dozen people and catered for the needs of anyone wanting refreshment, from mid-day to midnight, seven days a week.

But what about the menu? An assortment of meals were offered including:

California Sunshine: Corn on the cob, yellow and succulent served with melted butter.

US Revival hamburger: The drooling aroma of bacon, the richness of melted cheese and a Freeway burger of pure beef.

These are but two examples of meals with titles such as Midwest Blowout, Freeway Roundup, Truckers Ferry, Yellowstone Park selection - all names of six-ounce hamburgers served in sesame buns made in the Jenkinson's bakery.

The bold advertising campaign ensured that would-be customers were getting a taste of America this side of the Atlantic.

Jenkinson's, originally owned by Mr R JYoung, had traded on Greengate Street since the 1930s when a young Walter Dean - Mr Young's grandson - officially opened the new restaurant in confectionery shop.

Mr Young died in 1946 and by 1958, the restaurant had been refurbished to include an extended brunch bar; by 1964, it was the Beefeater Restaurant, staying open late at the weekends and often having music for dancing.

The Freeway closed within a couple of years of Paul Richards’ bold venture and the Jenkinson business became one offering catering services. The Greengate Street premises were taken over by Currys and is now used by Clinton Cards.

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