Stan Meadowcroft (Duncan Preston) is an opinionated and easily provoked (but well-meaning) maintenance man who is responsible for cleaning the factory and fixing equipment.The new cheery but disorganised human resources manager Philippa Moorcroft (Celia Imrie) is from the South and doesn't fit in well with the rest of the staff; she moved to Manchester because of her relationship with senior member of staff Mr Michael (Christopher Greet).as Bren's disadvantaged, delusional and manipulative mother who lives in a caravan behind a petrol station.

After a mixup, Bren manages to get a place, but she ends up giving the money to her mother instead.

Their colleagues bet on when Bren and Tony will "get it on", and they finally get together after Tony puts on a surprise birthday party for Bren, who was born on Christmas Eve.

Later in the series, Philippa can't attend the Millennium Meal she organises, and Anita has a baby; after leaving it anonymously for Bren to care for, she takes it back and goes on maternity leave; she is replaced temporarily by Christine (Kay Adshead), who is disliked by the rest of the dinnerladies.

In the first series, Bren and Tony's relationship begins to develop, and she supports him as he undergoes chemotherapy.

Philippa tries to organise team-building activities, the factory receives a royal visit, Bren's mother causes a scandal in the factory, the team bring their mothers to work, HWD Components merges with a Japanese company and Tony is temporarily replaced due to his treatment.

Throughout the second series, Bren and Tony's relationship develops further; the canteen takes on a work experience girl, Jean goes to stay with her sister after she is put in a foul mood by her unfaithful husband, a murderer escapes from a local prison and Bren's fear of needles is mistaken for pregnancy.

Jane (Sue Devaney) organises a holiday to Marbella, on which Bren and Tony want to go together.

The series is set entirely in the canteen of HWD Components, a fictional factory in Manchester, featuring the caterers and regular customers as the main characters.

It depicts the lives and social and romantic interactions of the staff, and is centred around the main character Brenda Furlong (Wood).