Berni Inns in the 1980s

Stroud Imperial Hotel 1982 when it was a Berni Inn
Stroud Imperial Hotel 1982 when it was a Berni Inn by zen whisk is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Berni Inn chain was struggling as the 1970s ended. By 1983 sales had dropped 30% from their 1979 level. Owners Grand Metropolitan (famous for Watneys Red Barrel) decided it was time for a change and the Berni chain got a facelift.[1]

The Berni chain's refurbishment got into the news for all the wrong reasons in 1984. The Royal Hotel at Long Eaton refused to re-engage waitresses who could not fit into a size 14 uniforms. The catering workers' union got involved, regular customers threatened a boycott, so Berni dropped the size 14 rule. [2]

As well as new uniforms for waiting staff, Berni changed the decor. The plush red style, inspired by a 1950s American steak house, was out and a fresh green palette was in. There was a more extensive menu with more choice.

The best day of the year for Berni was Mothering Sunday. Joyce MacDonald, writing for The Times, reviewed the Coach & Horses, 19 Chiswick High Road, London. She concluded that Berni Inns were a safe place to take your mother.[3]

Berni menu - 1984

These are some highlights from Berni's 1984 menu.


There was no mention of the range of different sherry choices as on the 1973 menu. The wine list was surprisingly more limited. However, a new addition, Muscadet, reflected a new taste for dry white wines.


The new Berni menu featured starters for the first time. Although they still considered fruit juice an acceptable starter.

There is a mixture of classics that would not have been out of place in the 1970s. But Berni was also catering to more adventurous tastes with Taramasalata. Perhaps some customers wanted to relive memories of holidays in Greece.


All of the mains included chips or jacket potato, and peas or beans.

Berni in 1983 was still a meat fest. There was no vegarian option. Most of these dishes are Berni favourites, the rump steak, plaice and half roast chicken were on their menu in 1970. There is nothing particularly new in the menu, just more choice.


Desserts were an after thought on older Berni menus. The basic price included cheese and biscuits or ice cream. In 1984 there is a reasonable choice.

Berni also offered their classic range of liquer coffees and a glass of port to finish.

Beyond Berni

Grand Metropolitan expanded their restaurant chain beyond Berni In the early 1980s they introduced three new restaurant brands:

Read more:


[1] 'Berni Inn for £60m facelift' by Vivien Goldsmith - published in The Times 9 December 1983

[2] 'Waitresses win fight over weight' - published in The Times 4 October 1984

[3] '...and mothers to be spoilt' by Joyce MacDonald - published in The Times 12 March 1983.

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