The first Wimpy hamburger outlet on the place de Paris opened in 1968
Photo: Happy Snacks
It began with a Wimpy rather than a bang, but successful restaurant franchise operator Happy Snacks opened the first hamburger fast food joint in the grand duchy just over a half-century ago.
Happy Snacks, the restaurant chain that manages franchises of Exki and Pizza Hut in Luxembourg, last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Founded by Jeannot Scholer, the father of current majority shareholder Antoine Scholer, the company opened its very first outlet, a franchise of hamburger restaurant Wimpy, on the place de Paris in December 1968. Half a century from that humble hamburger beginning, the company employs 260 people of 26 different nationalities and has an annual turnover of €16.7 million.
Jeannot Scholer had the idea upon returning from a sojourn in the United States. Having seen that even the French were flocking to fast-food joints, he convinced his father, the owner of retail chain Monopol, to provide the capital for Happy Snacks.
A second Wimpy outlet opened on the place d’Armes in 1970 and after a number of other restaurant openings which it then divested (including the Patin d’Or in Kockelscheuer which went on to earn a Michelin star) it was in the 1980s that the franchise business really took off. Happy Snacks opened its first outlet of French fast-food joint Quick on the place d’Armes in 1984, followed by a first Pizza Hut in 1987 and Mexican food restaurant Chi-Chi’s in 1989. “My father revolutionised the world of gastronomy in Luxembourg,” says Antoine Scholer.
Trend for healthier options
All three brands soon expanded across the grand duchy, though the company sold off its Quick outlets in 2008, and many of its locations went on to become Burger Kings. By that time Scholer and his two brothers, who had taken over the business when Jeannot passed away in 2001, had spotted the trend for lunchtime diners seeking fresher and healthier fast-food options and opened the first Exki franchise in Kirchberg. Antoine Scholer has since taken over Happy Snacks and brother Pierre has taken over Happy Mex, which operates the Chi-Chi’s franchises.
Now the company has four Exki outlets in the grand duchy and Antoine’s son Alex is developing the franchise licence for Exki in Germany. It opened its first outlet in Cologne last November and is planning a further 15 Exki restaurants in Germany over the next 8 years. Meanwhile, May this year will also see the opening of a fifth Luxembourg Pizza Hut in Rodange.