Roadchef is the smallest of the biggest operators, and being the only one of the three not to have had an affair with Granada, they have previously looked quite different to the rest.
Roadchef's most popular partner is by far McDonald's, negotiated in 2012.
Their services usually take two forms; either small, secluded services built by Roadchef or modern open ones which have been inherited and re-built or built by them in recent years.
The headquarters used to be located in Barnwood, Gloucester, before moving to a purpose-built space at Norton Canes. Norton Canes is arguably their premier site, one of the busiest and most profitable, and repeatedly the most highly-rated in England. In 2019 the Transport Focus survey graded Roadchef as the most popular of the major operators.
In 2014 they purchased their only a-road service area at Sutton Scotney, and began completely refitting each unit.
After an unsuccessful stint with McDonald's in the 1990s, and a period of falling behind competitors who were building new shops and popular fast food stores, Roadchef tried again in 2008. This time, under a more relaxed franchise agreement, it was a success and eventually rolled out to all their sites, which has significantly increased turnover. In 2015 they also joined their rivals in providing convenience stores, with Roadchef's partner being Spar.
Although many of their services had each facility tucked away in its own unit, Roadchef have been working to create a large food court at each of their sites, by moving facilities around. This has created a brighter, busier atmosphere, albeit much busier too. The front of their older services now uses grey cladding to brighten them up.
After several experiments with restaurants, they are now introducing Fresh Food Cafe, with one of the more extensive menus from a large operator. New restaurant refurbishments usually include posters with local history.
Recently they have began to sell some of their forecourts to Euro Garages, allowing Roadchef to focus on the more profitable amenity buildings. By the end of 2017 Roadchef had moved their focus entirely to hospitality, rather than trying to balance it with fuel sales.
Full details: History:Roadchef
The Roadchef name was first used in 1973. Despite several problems with finance and image they continued to grow, taking in several former operators and working with many different brand names.
Roadchef's first logo showed a motorway symbol wearing a chef's hat. On amenity buildings, the company name would be written in gold/beige.
In the late 1970s, the logo was completely changed to showing a mug and a chef's hat, all in red. It would sometimes be accompanied by the slogan "serves the traveller". The company name would be written in exactly the same font.
In 1984 another new logo was introduced, which for the first time emphasised that "RoadChef" is two words. The 'Road' was written in light blue and the 'Chef' in dark red, each word with a large capital letter that looked like it was about to eat the following three letters.
This was simplified in 1989, when the text was made entirely red and a red border was introduced. Spin-off brands RoadShop and RoadLodge were proposed in the same style. Evidence of this logo can still be found, if you know where to look.
In 2001, another significant change was made, this time writing the company name entirely in lower case and adding a swirl below. The 'chef' portion was emphasised and the corporate branding began to insist that 'Roadchef' was one word again. In around 2013, the background for this logo was changed from red to grey.
In 2006, Roadchef's Managing Director suggested names like theirs could be phased out of public use in favour of big brand names. The first sign of this was when, in line with the other operators, Roadchef changed their logo so that it read 'Roadchef Costa Coffee'. Part of the trial at Strensham involved making the headboard read 'McDonald's Costa', leaving their own name out entirely, something which the others soon picked up on.
Within their services, Roadchef continued to use their own name, alongside their partner brands. Changes to the advertising regulations in 2012 saw them happy to continue.
Full details: List of Roadchef services
The following services were owned by Roadchef:
- Ecton (A45)
- Harthill (M8)
- Nuthill northbound (A1)
- Thrussington (Green Acres) southbound (A46)
- Winchester (M3)
Roadchef are currently developing plans to build:
The following services were planned by Roadchef but they were never built:
- Calcutt (A417)
- Catherine-de-Barnes (M42)
- Gloucester (previous design) (M5)
- Great Wood (M4 westbound)
- Sheffield (original plan) (M1)
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