When Motorways were first built in this country, Motorway services targetted a very different audience than of today. With motorways now allowing the lucky owners of cars to reach destinations much faster than before, so with it evolved a whole new manner of socialising. Service stations then were generally areas that you would deliberately target to meet with friends, or to enjoy a meal, with most open through the night.
Of course, that is a very different description to the modern day service station whereby for many at least, the idea is to give an area of refuge to wheeled vehicles, owners along with essential services like toilets, food and fuel.
But Motorway service stations have undergone a bit of a revolution in recent years with services like the magnificant Gloucester Services leading the charge. Gloucester have done away with the ‘generic’, and made the ‘feel’ of their services to be more of a unique experience than the run of the mill, sometimes dreary, same-old-brand of mini supermarket, burger counter and new agent…
Perhaps modern service stations are also a reflection of the way consumers have changed over the years too. Whilst there will always be those who want the cheapest of ‘anything’, whether it be food, vehicles or clothing, we are all pretty much partly influenced in daily life by brand and identity. Whilst the likes of Gloucester don’t feature external brand concessions like many motorway services, they have in afffect, created their own brand. That brand being a pleasureable experience where you can sample foods in a relaxed unhurried environment or shop in their farm shop and find foods and drinks and household products in a single place that you would have trouble doing even on a popular busy high street (the choice of Gins at Gloucester is very good, but not as good as their choice of gourmet Scotch eggs!)
So, with more savvy consumers, so too comes a consideration for better environmental surroundings….wider parking spaces, higher glass walls which allow more natural light in, clean toilets and big open plan eating areas are pretty much the norm for those voted in the list of the best service stations in the ‘Best and Worst’ list announced for 2018, just this week.
It’s unlikely that service stations will go ‘full circle’ and again start acting as a meeting place for night time entertainment, but times are nevertheless changing and we can possibly expect to start to see professional chefs working in roadside eateries and more and more quality when it comes to the non essential products that are being sold. In France, this is already a part-reality, and service stations there are generally held in pretty high regard.