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Restaurants, cafeterias and similar equipment ice cream parlors

J. Lyons & Co. was a large-scale British restaurant, food manufacturing, and hotel conglomerate. It was founded in 1887 as a spin-off from the Salmon & Gluckstein tobacco business. Joseph Nathaniel Lyons (b. 1847) was appointed to run the company and it was named after him. J. Lyons & Co. was the pioneer in the introduction of computers to business, and the company manufactured and sold a range of LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) computers in the period 1947 to 1963.

Entrance of a former Lyons restaurant in London


Products and image

To the public, J. Lyons & Co. were best known for their chain of tea shops which began in 1894 and finally closed in 1981, and for the Lyons Corner Houses in the West End of London. The tea shops were slightly more up-market than their ABC (Aerated Bread Company) counterparts. They were notable for their interior design, from the 1920s Oliver P. Bernard being consultant artistic director. Until the 1940s they had a certain working-class chic, but by the 1950s and 60s they were quick stops for busy shoppers where one could get a cup of tea and a snack or a cheap and filling 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 (before the Second World War service was to the table by uniformed waitresses, known as ’Nippies’, but after the War the tea shops converted to cafeteria service).

Corner Houses

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, the 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, the ground floor of which was a food hall with counters for delicatessen, sweets and chocolates, cakes, fruit, flowers and more. As well as this they had hairdressing salons, telephone booths, theatre booking agencies and at one period a twice-a-day food delivery service. On the other floors were several restaurants, each with a different theme and all with their own musicians. For a time the Corner Houses were open 24 hours a day, and in their heyday each one employed in the region of 400 staff. They were colourful and bustling, with bright lights and ingenious window displays designed by Kay Lipton (née Man). In the post-war gloom, the Corner Houses, smarter and grander than the local tea shops, provided a degree of escapist relaxation. Between 1896 and 1965 Lyons also owned the Trocadero, which was similar in size and style to the Corner Houses. A fuller account is at "J. Lyons & Co catering outlets". http://www.kzwp.com/lyons/cornerhouses.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 


As well as the tea shops and Corner Houses, Lyons ran other large restaurants such as the Throgmorton in Throgmorton Street (pictured above). Their chains have included Steak Houses (1961–1988), Wimpy Bars (1953–1976), Baskin-Robbins (1974-) and Dunkin’ Donuts (1989-).


The Regent Palace Hotel, Glasshouse Street, London was operated by Strand Hotels Limited, a subsidiary of J. Lyons and Company and opened on 16 May 1915. Strand Hotels also operated the Cumberland Hotel (Marble Arch, London), Kingsley Hotel, Park Court Hotel, Windsor Hotel, White’s Hotel and the Strand Palace Hotel after the inception of Strand Hotels Limited. The last London hotel that they operated until the demise of the group in the mid-70s was the Tower Hotel situated by Tower Bridge in London.


In 1938, Lyons purchased the Bee Bee Biscuit Company, which manufactured biscuits from its factories in Blackpool. Six years later, Lyons changed the company’s name to Symbol Biscuits Ltd. and began selling biscuits under the Symbol and Lyons brand names: one of their innovations was Maryland Cookies in 1956. In 1990, Lyons changed the Symbol Biscuits name to Lyons Biscuits Ltd.

Archival Material for J.Lyons & Co. Circa `48.jpg
Kay Lipton creating one of her window displays for J.Lyons & Co Ltd. at the Marble Arch Corner House, London, U.K

See also

Cadby Hall, Lyons HQ and manufacturing complex

Greasy spoon, the antithesis of a Lyons Corner House

LEO (computer)

Wimpy Bar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : Restaurants, cafeterias and similar equipment ice cream parlors
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