In the 1950s most large city centre Woolworth stores offered hot meals and drinks throughout the day. Where space allowed they had a large restaurant, which some stores called the Cafeteria. If space was tight they had a smaller Tea Bar. These were the equivalents of the Americans called the Woolworth Lunch Counter or Soda Fountain. For many shoppers this was an oasis in the midst of a day's shopping. In Portsmouth a spectacular curved staircase with huge picture windows, led up to a large, modern Restaurant on a mezannine floor. The balcony had views across the salesfloor below.
Customers would help themselves to a tray and make their selection from the wide range of hot and cold meals that were on offer.
Meals were served throughout the day, with the bacon and egg breakfast for one shilling and ninepence (about 9p) a firm favourite.
The large seating was only ever seen empty like this before the store opened in the morning. Customers were allowed into the restaurant an hour before the main store opened, with the first service at 8am each day. For a spell the restaurant even opened on a Sunday, while the main store remained closed. By 8.30am customers struggled to find a seat for their cooked breakfast in the early 1950s!
Further waves of customers crammed the restaurant for coffee and teacakes from 10.30 and for lunch from noon. Many people made the the Woolies Restaurant a meeting point in Portsmouth.
This rare view offers a glimpse behind the scenes at the kitchen facilities. The picture was taken in 1957.