Eating Out 1900-1950

Eating Out 1900-1950

In 1900, most Londoners ate most of their meals at home. Men ate out more than women did: wealthy men dined out at their clubs, or if they were very adventurous, at a French restaurant in Soho. Most working men returned home for their midday meal. Those who did not, ate plain British food in plain British chophouses.

Popular restaurants

Eating out was transformed by a generation of catering entrepreneurs who created the 'popular restaurant' to serve London's changing workforce. The growth of commuting had created a new demand for lunch. The growing number of women in the workforce also increased demand for lighter sorts of food, and surroundings less male-oriented than chophouses.

Writing in the 1930s, Thomas Burke cited restaurants as one of the most visible changes in London society. 'To young people of today, a London without popular restaurants to which almost anyone can go for any sort of meal is almost inconceivable, yet 50 years ago [London] had very few, if any, of that sort'.

Jo Lyons

The most popular of the new restaurants were those run by Jo Lyons & Co. Lyons opened its first large restaurant at the Trocadero in 1894. Its real innovation was its chain of Corner Houses, the first of which opened in Coventry Street in 1909. Corner Houses offered reliable meals in clean and attractive surroundings. Their waitresses, known as 'nippies', became London icons in their smart black and white uniforms.

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