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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

J. Lyons & Company Limited - Lehman Brothers Collection

J. Lyons & Company Limited

List of Deals

J. Lyons & Company was a catering and food-manufacturing company first organized in England in 1887. After a couple of failed attempts, J. Lyons finally succeeded as a business when it was reestablished a third time in 1894. It was then registered as a limited company and shares were offered to the public. The founders were Isidore Gluckstein, Montague Gluckstein, Barnett Salmon, and Joseph Lyons. It began operations as the supplier of catering to the Newcastle Exhibition in 1887. It opened its first Lyons teashop at 213 Piccadilly in 1894, the first of over 250 teashops that were opened in succeeding decades, distinguished by their white and gold storefronts and occupying prominent positions in many English cities and towns.

In addition to tea shops, J. Lyons operated catering events, some at particularly important locations and events such as at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, London’s Guildhall, where the Lord Mayor’s banquets were held, Chelsea Flower shows, and Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. J. Lyons also branched out to build the famous Trocadero Restaurant near Piccadilly Circus and then build the Corner Houses, huge restaurants on four or five floors where orchestras played continuously. At one point in the 1930s, J. Lyons was employing so many musicians that an Orchestral Department had to be formed to manage the musical staff.

During the 1920s and 1930s, J. Lyons diversified into managing hotels, laundries, tea estates in Africa (Malawi), meat pie companies, ice-cream companies, tea and coffee companies, jam and soft drink factories, and confectionary manufacturing. They were also the first to introduce frozen food to the British public.

During World War II, J. Lyons managed one of the largest bomb-making facilities in the UK, and their engineering works made a range of war material. They also packed millions of rations for troops fighting in Asia and other parts of the world.

J. Lyons embarked on a rebuilding program after the war, expanding their operations into Europe and the United States as well as taking on large projects in the UK. They acquired the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Company and the Dunkin Donuts Corporation. They also developed the Wimpy hamburger chain and added several large bakeries and meat pie factories.

Unfortunately, in the late 1960s and 1970s the company’s decline came as fast as its previous growth. By the mid 1970s J. Lyons was in serious financial trouble due to excessive debt incurred through an over-ambitious expansion program as well as the oil crisis.

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