|Associated names:||KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Eat In, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, WHSmith, Fone Bitz, Waitrose, Days Inn, Subway, Papa John's Pizza, Harry Ramsdens, Ramada, Tossed, Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin Robbins|
|Predecessors:||Trusthouse Forte, Ross|
|Acquired by:||Appia Investments|
|Chief executive:||Rod McKie|
|Headquarters address:||2 Vantage Court|
MK16 9EZ [map]
|Phone number:||01908 299700|
Having recently introduced several new brands to the motorway Welcome Break are currently in a strong position, having recently opened their first new services for several years at Peartree - a site they had previously lost. They are the second largest operator, behind Moto.
Welcome Break Today
Welcome Break own a lot of the older sites, like Charnock Richard and the second-oldest in the country, Newport Pagnell. This contrasts with several late 1990s services they own, such as Oxford and Hopwood Park, both of which have been praised for their architecture.
In 2011 Welcome Break became the first operator to launch a network of electric car charging points and began a programme of refurbishing the interior of all their services, which included totally replacing Sarn Park.
Following a series of successful trials, Welcome Break recently introduced Waitrose, Starbucks and WHSmith to many of their services, replacing their own shop and Coffee Primo. This goes with KFC and Days Inn which they rolled out across the early 2000s. With these new brands they hope to attract a wider range of customers.
As of 2014, newer brands recently introduced to the motorway include Harry Ramsden's, Ramada, Subway and a series of drive thrus. These have been followed by interior restaurant redesigns, creating a more 'homely' look at previously claustrophobic services, but it has resulted in the closure of their restaurants in favour of 'quick service' options.
The new brands and changes in direction go hand-in-hand with the several stages of refurbishment which has been carried out at all of their services, trying to freshen up some of the older ones and introduce more modern facilities. As part of this, they briefly painted many of their services orange (to match Coffee Primo) and red (for KFC), but instead settled on black to go with their new colour scheme which was introduced in 2006. In 2007 they applied to display 'supergraphic' advertisements stretched across the internal walkways at all of their services. They were all refused on road safety grounds.
Welcome Break have talked about branching into another sector all together, with the opening of services at Cardiff Gate and more recently Peartree, both of which aim for local traffic as much as long-distance traffic. They also took over the catering at the Eurotunnel UK Terminal, and later agreed to take on the freight terminal as well.
All of their services now have truckwash facilities and they have also refurbished a Routemaster bus which travel around with coffee facilities.
In 2009, Welcome Break launched 'Welcome Break Radio' to rival Moto's special stream of Virgin Radio and their predecessor's 'Granada Radio'.
Welcome Break did very well in the Loo of the Year Awards, which until then had been dominated by Moto. In 2008, out of 36 graded services, 30 of them won five stars and the remaining six all four stars. Overall, out of all the country's public toilets graded, Welcome Break's facilities came eighth, beaten by the likes of McDonald's and ASDA. They were awarded a 'Standards of Excellence' (Champions League) award.
The Times listed Welcome Break as being the 81st biggest private company in 2008 (dropping 22 places since the year before), with annual sales of £631m and profits of £37m.
They keep staff updated on their latest goings-on through social media and a monthly magazine both under the name 'Stan Break'. They regularly support Children In Need.
Welcome Break were originally created in the 1970s by Allen Jones, an ex-Little Chef MD who left the company when it's owner, Trust Houses, merged with Forte. The name was chosen by staff after his own choice, 'Mr. Chef', was rejected for being too similar to its rival.
Welcome Break sites followed a similar format to Little Chef, being small restaurants with waitress service. In the late 1970s, in a bid to rival Little Chef more seriously, Jones joined forces with rival and former Trust Houses MD Michael Pickard who had left Trust Houses to set up Happy Eater in 1972. By 1979 Welcome Break's 10 or so sites had all either closed or become Happy Eater sites. The Welcome Break name was retained by the company for future business ventures.
A few years later, Hanson Trust, who had now acquired Happy Eater, acquired four "highly respected" services from Ross, which they applied to Welcome Break name to. They were soon bought by Trusthouse Forte in 1986 who decided to use the combined name 'THF Welcome Break' at their new Sutton Scotney services. In fact, they soon decided to use Welcome Break's name at their nine motorway services - using the popular brand's name to stop the notorious service station industry from damaging Forte's high reputation. The new brand was kicked off in 1988 with a TV advertising campaign.
Forte also bought Happy Eater at the same time, and introduced three Happy Eaters to Welcome Break services.
In 1995 Forte announced that they were going to add a McDonald's to every one of their services, but the process was stopped after just two because Forte were acquired by Granada, a deal which included Welcome Break. Granada described Welcome Break's original concept as "still looking good", but that they "have not been kept up to date". Granada then said that they wanted to add Burger King and Little Chef to all the services and make use of the Travelodge chain which they had also acquired as part of the deal, and that in doing this they wanted to make a much-doubted £500m from the deal.
Just months after buying them, Granada upped the prices at all of their services given that they now owned over 75% of the motorway market: for example the M4 is 189 miles long and yet the only services which weren't owned by Granada were at the very end. It's not surprising that they did make their £500m.
By now, Granada had grown so much they were investigated by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, who put a cap on the prices at their services and insisted that they sold Welcome Break. After a £400m deal from ASDA fell through, it was bought by Investcorp for £476million, but the whole event took almost 2 years - a time which angered many people, especially Roadchef. Welcome Break didn't get all their services back: many smaller a-road services like Sutton Scotney on the A34 were kept by Granada, but they shrunk it down and sold it off a few years later.
During the shake-up, Granada had fixed franchises for Little Chef and Travelodge for all their services, so after the split Welcome Break had to replace them with their own-branded Red Hen and Welcome Lodge respectively, although these have now been phased out themselves. For a while former Red Hen units were left unused, before becoming coffee lounges for Coffee Primo and now Starbucks.
After making a profit for the first time in a while, Investcorp put Welcome Break up for sale in 2008 with a price of around £500million. They were bought by Appia Investments, although the exact price is not known.
When Welcome Break was merely a motorway restaurant to rival Little Chef, circa 1975-78, its logo was too an attempt to rival Little Chef's logo. It was a purple silhouette teapot figure with legs, a head and a chef's hat, inside a triangle with a red outline similar to the Channel 4 red triangle or an upside down Give Way sign. The accompanying text added "Highway Family Restaurants" at the bottom.
Since it became a fully fledged service station, there is little evidence of Welcome Break's first motorway logo - it can be seen on this 1986 photograph on the BBC website. In around 1990, this was replaced by the slightly iconic swan logo and blue colour scheme, which can be seen to the right. In 2000 that image was then freshened up slightly to create a more relaxing image. The Welcome Break services at Warwick were given a hill figure of a swan made of quartz that same year, although it never resembled the swan on the logo, and is no longer there.
At one time they advertised their services with the slogan "High St. prices". How times change!
In 2006, the swan logo was then replaced by their new green-on-black colour scheme. All their services now use a mural which resembles its location, with the words 'Welcome Break' in white and green-on-black. Welcome Break have also teamed up with KFC, Waitrose and Starbucks to appear on their road signs, but they've previously used Sainsbury's, Burger King and Coffee Primo. At the end of the trend of pushing brand names further than their own, many road signs no longer used the Welcome Break branding at all, but new signs use the new format, showing the green-on-black logo. The logo for the video game service KontolFreek is highly identical to the Welcome Break logo, except with the addition of a controller outline. Coincidence or not?
Welcome Break Services
A list of services ran by Welcome Break can be found at on a map., or you can view them
With the success of the Days Inn motel brand, Welcome Break had a hand in a hotel in central London. They have since expanded the motels at London Gateway and Birchanger Green to use the more upmarket 'Days Hotel' name.
In addition to this, Extra have let out most of their facilities to other companies, many of which have been taken up by Welcome Break:
- Baldock (A1/A1(M)) - motel branded as Days Inn
- Cambridge (A14) - motel branded as Ramada (formerly branded Days Inn)
- Cobham (M25) - doughnut stand in WH Smith branded as Krispy Kreme; restaurants branded as Harry Ramsden's, Tossed and Papa John's Pizza; coffee shop as Starbucks and motel as Days Inn
- Peterborough (A1/A1(M)) - motel branded as Days Inn
- Wakefield (M1) - (Not Services) motel branded as Ramada (formerly branded Days Hotel)
- Winchester (M3) - (Moto Services) motel services with Welcome Break running southbound motel
The following services were once branded as Welcome Break:
- Barnsdale Bar (A1) (possibly)
- Burtonwood westbound (M62)
- Copdock (A12/A14)
- Dover Port (A20)
- Grantham North (A1)
- Pease Pottage (M23/A23)
- Ross Spur (M50/A40)
- Sutton Scotney (A34)
1970s A-road Sites
The following a-road sites were ran by Welcome Break in the 1970s:
- Camel Cross Motors (A303)
- Fourways (A37)
- Henstridge (A24)
- Holmwood (A24)
- Hilltop Grill (A30)
- Kennford (A38)
- Lamberhurst (A21)
- Newcott (A303)
- Rake (A3)
- Upper Swainswick (A46)
The following services were planned by Welcome Break but they were never built:
- Bridgwater - site adjacent to existing service area (M5)
- Catherine-de-Barnes (M42)
- Kirby Hill (A1(M)) - previous plans
- Tibshelf (M1) - Welcome Break developed the first plans
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