/Fast Eddys, a pioneer of 24-hour dining long before McDonalds, finally closes its doors

Fast Eddys, a pioneer of 24-hour dining long before McDonalds, finally closes its doors

Posted

May 11, 2019 08:46:54

It was a place that welcomed families in the day and prostitutes in the night.

Key points:

  • Fast Eddys opened as Perth’s first 24-hour diner in 1978
  • The original owners sold up in 1996, and the new owners expanded the chain
  • But it struggled as a franchise model and the original restaurant has been sold

It was a place where you could eat a steak and chips at 4:00am and then return at 4:00pm for scrambled eggs on toast.

It was a place that hosted Christmas lunches and even wedding receptions.

Fast Eddys was the first restaurant in Perth to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, serving anything to anybody at anytime long before McDonald’s and the kebab shops took hold.

But after 41 years in Perth’s west end, the iconic WA institution has shut its doors after the building was sold to a Chinese investor for $4.8 million.

A place that welcomed all comers

Gina Sanderson, who worked the graveyard shift at Fast Eddys for four years in the 1980s, said the restaurant was a cultural melting pot for all walks of life.

“It was the only place you could go, everything else was shut, which made it an incredibly interesting place to work,” she said.

“You just had every type of person you could imagine walking through the door.

“It could be kids that had just come back from their school ball, people that had gone to concerts, truck drivers.

“It could be drug addicts and prostitutes, people that had been working in nightclubs and finishing at 4:00 in the morning.”

Ms Sanderson said the clientele was colourful at the best of times.

“The takeaway was the rougher section of Fast Eddys — people were often very drunk, or whatever they were,” she said.

“We knew most of the brothel owners and the workers because they would knock off work and come and get something to eat.

“We knew who they were and they felt safe there, which was important.”

Ms Sanderson said staff were like a family.

“It was a fantastic time in my life — lifelong friendships were formed,” she said.

“We did everything together — we did house moves, deaths, births, falling in love, falling out of love, we went out to the trade nights dancing together, we’d go away for weekends together.

“We basically lived, ate, breathed and loved each other.”

She credits the diner’s managers, Soo Smoker and her sister Julie, with creating a welcoming atmosphere that captivated staff and customers alike.

“They just accepted and loved everybody and brought everybody in,” she said.

“The kinds of people that worked there could be travellers, trainee doctors, nurses, punk rockers, journalists, opera singers, philosophers, designers, students.

“People could be gay, straight and in between, it just didn’t matter.”

A lifelong diner love affair

Perth businessman Neil Hancock was a lifelong customer of Fast Eddys, beginning with late nights spent inside the restaurant as a university student.

“We’d be there up 4:00 in the morning having lots of cups of tea and hamburgers,” he said.

“It was the place to be when all of Perth had closed down – it was a beacon for people to go to.

“The food was good and the decor was very unusual, things from the 40s and 50s were splattered all over the place.”

Mr Hancock said a mishap with his family’s agreed Christmas lunch venue led them to spend Christmas Day at Fast Eddys one year.

But his relationship with the diner runs deeper than that.

“I got married down at the Bell Tower and after we’d finished the reception, we all actually went to Fast Eddys to celebrate,” he said.

“I was there in the tuxedo and the wife was there in her beautiful wedding dress.

“That was very exciting.”

‘A jack of all trades, master of none’

During its heyday, Fast Eddys fended off competition from other Perth late night spots such as Hamburger Hill, Captain Munchies and Bernies Hamburgers.

But the concept of serving restaurant-quality food at any time of the day was one original to Fast Eddys.

It became a staple in Perth food guides over the years.

By Word of Mouth, 1979: “Fast Eddys deserves a great deal of credit for having the courage to open Perth’s first 24-hour diner.”

Cheap Eats in Perth, 1986: “You haven’t experienced Perth if you haven’t been to Fast Eddys.”

Paul Eats Perth, 2006: “Fast Eddys is a jack of all trades, master of none … but hey, they were open.”

In 1996 it’s founders, Chris and Con Somas, sold the business and it soon after became a chain with several franchises opening across Western Australia.

In 2001 the company expanded into New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria and was also planning to cement its international footprint in South-East Asia.

Charm lost in commercial ambition

But Ms Sanderson said the quality of the service and food suffered severely with the expansion, leading to its eventual downfall.

“Later after it got franchised out, I think it lost its charm,” she said.

“But the original Fast Eddys was incomparable.

“You could walk in there at 4:00 in the morning and have a steak and it would be superb.”

While hungry punters now have a smorgasbord of late night food options to choose from, Mr Hancock said nothing came close to Fast Eddys.

“Their scrambled eggs were legendary, they were some of the best I’ve ever had,” he said.

“Very much an end of an era.”

Topics:

food-and-beverage,

hospitality,

human-interest,

community-and-society,

perth-6000,

wa