Berni Inn

The Berni Inn logo

Berni Inn was a chain of British steakhouses, established in 1955. It was established by brothers Frank and Aldo Berni, who modelled the chain on restaurants they had seen in America. The restaurants introduced the postwar British public to its own home-grown restaurant chain, which came with its own pre-stylised restaurants with Tudor-looking false oak beams and white walls.[1]

By 1970 the chain comprised 147 hotels and restaurants, including the New Inn at Gloucester, the Mitre at Oxford, and several in Japan.[2] It was the largest food chain outside the USA.[2]


Brothers Aldo and Frank Berni, alongside their partner Paul Rosse, opened the first Berni Inn on 27 July 1956 at The Rummer, a historic pub in central Bristol.[3] More outlets were opened, and the company went public in 1962.[3]

The chain offered slick service and value for money, achieved partly by offering only a limited meat-based menu and a relatively small wine list. It had a loyal and regular following and quickly expanded through the 1960s, first throughout Bristol, and then through much of the rest of the country.

Unlike other restaurants, Berni Inns did not do their own butchery but bought in quality steaks already prepared. Behind the scenes, staff training manuals showed that they expected high standards from their employees.[4]

Their brother Marco managed Harvey's Restaurant in Bristol in the 1960s.

The first female manager within the Berni Inn franchise was Gerda Thut,[5] who took over The Sawyer's Arms in Nottingham in the 1960s. This was noted as a progressive step in management and equality at the time.[6]

The chain was sold to Grand Metropolitan for £14.5m in 1970.[3]

Berni Inn was sold to Whitbread in 1995, who converted the outlets into their own Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants.[3]

Aldo Berni died in 1997 at the age of 88.[7] Frank died 10 July 2000, aged 96.[8]


A typical menu was of the form:[9]

Note: Stilton tended to be available only in the more expensive section of the restaurant.

The most frequently ordered meal, even as late as the 1980s, was prawn cocktail, steak and Black Forest gateau. This is sometimes called the Great British Meal. As Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham note in their 1997 book The Prawn Cocktail Years, "cooked as it should be, this much derided and often ridiculed dinner is still something very special indeed".[10]

In popular cultureEdit

In the Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life", Holly notes that even though loneliness weighs heavily on us all, "Personally, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that we are over 60 billion miles away from the nearest Berni Inn."

The restaurants were also mentioned in the Only Fools and Horses episodes "Yesterday Never Comes", where Del takes his date there, "Go West Young Man" and "Fatal Extraction".

There is a scene, with an accompanying song lyrics in the made-for-TV film That Day We Sang by Victoria Wood, first aired on Boxing Day 2014, depicting a Berni Inn in 1969.

In the novel Clever Girl, by Tessa Hadley, the narrator writes that when she was a child in the early 1960s, her mother took her to a Berni Inn for dinner to celebrate the mother's birthday; however, this "was a waste" as "overawed and stubborn, I wouldn't eat a thing."[11]

There is a scene set in a Berni Inn in the 2010 film Made in Dagenham and the 2014 musical which is based on it.

The restaurant was mentioned by Gordon Ramsay in S05E05 of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, “The Priory”, and "Moore Place".

Berni Inn is mentioned by fictional chat show host Alan Partridge in an episode of his radio show Knowing Me, Knowing You. While interviewing a fictional French Michelin Star chef, Partridge speculates on a collaboration between Berni Inn and Peter Ustinov called "Pete and Berni's Philosophical Steakhouse," apparently mistaking the surname "Berni" for a first name. The joke was repeated when the radio show converted to television and became the hit TV series Knowing Me, Knowing You. Alan Partridge also asked the chef on his chat show if he was jealous that he had only one restaurant and Berni Inn had thousands.

In the an episode of Harry Enfield and Chums, Tim Nice-But-Dim is asked what he did after he left school and replies that he was picked up by his parents and taken to Berni Inn.


  1. ^ "Welcome to haute cuisine: how Berni boys brought dining out to the masses". MansfieldPeople. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Aldo Berni". Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Brothers Frank and Aldo Berni revolutionised how we ate out with their 'Temperance Bars'". Western Daily Press. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Berni Inn Newsletter". Retronaut. Archived from the original on 1 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Berni Inn newsletter". Flickr. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  6. ^ "The Lady with the Keys". Flickr. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  7. ^ "Aldo Berni". Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Frank Berni". 12 July 2000. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  9. ^ Nigel Slater. "Nigel Slater serves up a second helping from his new book, Eating for England". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  10. ^ "The Prawn Cocktail Years". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  11. ^ Hadley, Tessa (2015). Clever Girl. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-06-228288-0.