Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Forte and Co

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1935 After working in his father's ice-cream parlour and cafes, Mr Charles Forte opened his first milk bar in London's West End through Strand Milk Bar Ltd.

Post-WWII the company developed a range of popular and high quality restaurants and banqueting facilities, including the acquisition of the Cafe Royal in 1954.

1954 Forte acquired the Criterion site

Became Forte & Co Ltd

From 1955 catering concessions were obtained at several UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham.

1958 The company began the acquisition of hotels, with the Waldorf in London

1959 The company opened the first motorway service area at Newport Pagnell on the M1, and seven others in the next decade.

1961 Forte Holdings was one of the largest privately-owned businesses in Britain. Forte agreed a £30 million merger with Mecca, a publicly quoted company, but this deal collapsed because of difficulty with valuing some of the Forte businesses.

1962 Acquired Mr Whippy ice cream and also acquired many other businesses

1962 Forte Holdings was floated on the Stock Exchange to raise funds for expanding the steak houses and develop motels. Control of the company was retained by its founder's specially created private company, Forte Investments, which held 71 percent of the equity.

1963 Acquired Joseph Terry, chocolate manufacturers

By 1970 Fortes had 28 hotels in the UK and Ireland and 15 overseas, including the George V and Plaza Athenee in Paris.

1962 Acquired the City of London catering firm, Ring and Brymer

1967 At this time Forte's controlled most of the major airport catering activities in Britain through the link of Airport Catering Services with B.E.A.[1]

1969 Acquired the Criterion site in Piccadilly Circus, London which included Lillywhites and the Criterion Theatre, businesses Forte already owned.

1970 Merger with another hotel and catering concern Trust Houses to form Trust Houses Forte

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times Sept. 6, 1967
  • Competition Commission report [1]
  • Biography of Charles Forte, ODNB