Posts Tagged ‘joe lyons’

j lyons teashop, j lyons delivery van, lyons swiss rolls

A typical J. Lyons teashop, with a delivery van to the right advertising Lyons Swiss Rolls

If you were born in the 1970s in Britain, you’re unlikely to remember Joe Lyon’s teashops. J. Lyons & Co was a very large British restaurant chain, food manufacturing, and hotel conglomerate founded in 1887. It is best remembered for its chain of 250 tea shops, the first of which opened in 1894 and the last of which closed in 1976, and for the posh Lyons Corner Houses in the West End of London. It was said there was a Lyons teashop every 100 yards in the centre of London.

J. Lyons & Co was named after Joseph Nathaniel Lyons, who was appointed by the owners, the Salmon and Gluckstein families, as a ‘front man’ to run a pilot teashop at exhibitions. His name was used because it was felt to be beneath the dignity of the families to go into catering. By the 1950s and 60s the teashops had become quick stops for busy shoppers where one could drink a cup of tea and eat a snack or an inexpensive meal. The tea shops always had a bakery counter at the front, and their signs, art nouveau gold lettering on white, were a familiar landmark. There was competition from ABC teashops which had a more modern look about them – ABC stood for Aerated Bread Company – but the ABCs were considered a little more down-market than their counterparts.

food rationing, j lyons teashops, second world war

Here is the tariff for all J Lyons teashops in 1940. This was during the Second World War. Food rationing had just been introduced though restaurants remained exempt until 1942.

Before the Second World War service uniformed waitresses, known as ‘Nippies’, would serve you at your table, but after the War the tea shops were converted to cafeteria service. At the end of a long counter, before the cash register, were steaming water urns for the tea (coffee drinkers were in a minority), with rows of cups set out ready to be filled.  In the middle of the counter, much of the hot food was served from square steel compartments stacked on top of each other (to be replaced later by bains maries), into which staff would insert plates of food from their side and you had to lift the ‘doors’ of the compartments to try to find your chosen meal. The tables had formica plastic tops – no tablecloths like in the corner houses – with invariably a bottle of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce on it, together with salt and pepper pots, and an ash tray.

j lyons, corner house, restaurant, oxford street, tottenham court road, london

J Lyons Corner House, Oxford Street & Tottenham Court Road, London

The Corner Houses, which first appeared in 1909 and remained until 1977, were noted for their art deco style. Situated on or near the corners of Coventry Street, Strand and Tottenham Court Road, they and the Maison Lyonses at Marble Arch and in Shaftesbury Avenue, were large buildings on four or five floors. On the ground floor was a food hall with counters, and on the upper floors was the restaurants, each with a different theme and all with their own musicians. (more…)

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