The Woolworths Museum

1950s Restaurant

The staircase leading into the bright new customer restaurant at Woolworths in Portsmouth, which opened in 1953 (Image: with thanks to Mr Roger Stafford)


In the 1950s most large city centre Woolworth stores offered hot meals and drinks throughout the day. Where space allowed they had a large restaurant, which some stores called the Cafeteria. If space was tight they had a smaller Tea Bar. These were the equivalents of the Americans called the Woolworth Lunch Counter or Soda Fountain. For many shoppers this was an oasis in the midst of a day's shopping. In Portsmouth a spectacular curved staircase with huge picture windows, led up to a large, modern Restaurant on a mezannine floor. The balcony had views across the salesfloor below.


The service counter in the Woolworths Restaurant (cafeteria or lunch counter) at Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK


Customers would help themselves to a tray and make their selection from the wide range of hot and cold meals that were on offer.


Breakfast for under 10p at F.W. Woolworth in the 1950s (Image: with special thanks to Mr Roger Stafford)


Meals were served throughout the day, with the bacon and egg breakfast for one shilling and ninepence (about 9p) a firm favourite.


The restaurant in Woolworths Portsmouth enjoyed a spectacular birds eye view across the salesfloor.  It was built as a mezannine (balcony) floor around the back walls of the store


The large seating was only ever seen empty like this before the store opened in the morning. Customers were allowed into the restaurant an hour before the main store opened, with the first service at 8am each day. For a spell the restaurant even opened on a Sunday, while the main store remained closed. By 8.30am customers struggled to find a seat for their cooked breakfast in the early 1950s!


A throng of customers at the service counter in the F.W. Woolworth Restaurant (Image with thanks to Mr Roger Stafford)


Further waves of customers crammed the restaurant for coffee and teacakes from 10.30 and for lunch from noon. Many people made the the Woolies Restaurant a meeting point in Portsmouth.


Not a microwave in sight as the Woolworths chefs prepare lunch in the kitchens at the Oxford store in 1957 (Image: with special thanks to Mr Roger Stafford)


This rare view offers a glimpse behind the scenes at the kitchen facilities. The picture was taken in 1957.


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1950s Gallery



Grand re-openings


H.M. Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation


The mobile shop


Interactive Fifties Store


Embassy Records cover story


Digital Jukebox


Advent of self-service


Commonwealth Openings


Zimbabwe Album


Caribbean Album


Fiftieth birthday celebrations


A warning from the USA


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