The UK's second-largest operator, Welcome Break have been extensively refurbishing several of their services (even rebuilding Sarn Park entirely) and replacing restaurants with a whole-new range of takeaway food brands. They were also quick to roll-out stand-alone Starbucks drive thrus wherever possible.
In November 2018, Ireland's largest service station operator Applegreen purchased 55% of Welcome Break. Applegreen explained that they would be responsible for the brand's overall "strategy and operations", while Welcome Break's management would take responsibility for Applegreen's existing UK locations - though this may just mean the larger ones.
As a result, Welcome Break are now promoting a special "fuel good" fuel, which is also used by Applegreen. There have been rumours that Applegreen are preparing for a "price crash" at Welcome Break services.
Welcome Break Today
They were one of the first operators to take social media seriously, which they continue to use to market their facilities. Welcome Break also regularly support Children In Need.
In 2017, they started branding themselves as "Your Welcome Break". A sign with this slogan is usually followed by a dubious established date of 1959.
Having led several refurbishment programmes, throughout 2015 Welcome Break redesigned most of their food courts, introducing Subway, Tossed, Papa John's Pizza and Harry Ramsden's to the motorway network, but doing without the traditional restaurant all together and relying on Harry Ramsden's for the breakfast trade.
Welcome Break then reintroduced sit-down dining under the established brand PizzaExpress, with separate restaurants opening up outside their services.
Some of these units are operated by Welcome Break at other operator's services, including Cobham.
Brightly-coloured wood-effect styling is used for many of their fittings, flooring and corporate signs.
Welcome Break have always taken their roll in providing motorway hotels seriously, right back to when they leant their own name to the Welcome Lodge. This became Days Inn (also Days Hotel), including some sites they operate away from the motorway network and at other operator's services.
Days Inns are now being replaced by the more upmarket Ramada. In April 2019, Welcome Break opened a new Ramada in the suburbs of Glasgow.
The Applegreen Influence
Applegreen's takeover of Welcome Break took effect in January 2019. A number of services are expected to transfer to the Welcome Break brand. Welcome Break own their own forecourts and have operated them under the Shell brand for a long time; Applegreen are effectively a rival to Shell.
While Welcome Break and Applegreen have been publicly supporting each other on Twitter, several more changes were noticed. In March 2019, Welcome Break opened a new truckstop at Rothwell. The petrol station attached to it carried no branding other than Welcome Break's name. Planning documents for it were sent from Applegreen's Dublin office, and the forecourt advertised that it accepts Applegreen's fuel cards.
In July 2019, Welcome Break removed Shell's deli2go from their forecourts, using their own creation, 'The Deli', instead. Hopwood Park was chosen as the place to launch "fuel good", a new type of fuel which they say is exclusive to Welcome Break (not Shell). "Fuel good" is an Applegreen promotion, and Welcome Break are promoting it with Applegreen's colour scheme. Welcome Break also claim "fuel good" is the cheapest fuel on the motorway, a sign that they are adopting Applegreen's strategy of using low fuel prices to attract customers. This is a strategy that is rarely seen on the UK motorway network.
Applegreen briefly considered selling Welcome Break's hotels, but concluded the partnership was good for both businesses. They said that they expect the benefits of working with Welcome Break to be "significantly larger than our previous expectation".
Welcome Break currently work mainly with the following brand names, either as a franchise or similar arrangement, or as one of their own creations.
Catering: Burger King, Chopstix Noodle Bar, Harry Ramsden's KFC, PizzaExpress, Pret a Manger, Subway, The Good Breakfast, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks on the Go
Shops: Waitrose, WHSmith
Main Amenities: Fourex Money Exchange, Ecotricity, Game Zone, Tesla Supercharger, Welcome Break Gaming
Hotels: Days Inn, Ramada
Fuel: Welcome Break Fuel
Welcome Break have historically worked with some of the following brands:
Catering: Baskin Robbins, Burger Break, Coffee Primo, Coffee Shop, Eat In, Happy Eater, Julie's Pantry, La Baguette, Little Chef, McDonald's, Papa John's Pizza, Red Hen, Sweet Delights, Tossed, Costa Express, Dunkin' Donuts
Shops: Book Stop, Flower Shop, Fone Bitz, Music Stop, Sainsbury's Local, Shirt Factor, The Shop, Thorntons
Hotels: Forte Travelodge, Welcome Lodge
Fuel: Shell, Texaco
Full details: History:Welcome Break
The Welcome Break name was originally nothing to do with motorway services - it was an old name which was recycled and held on to. They went on to become the pride of Trusthouse Forte's family, and despite several names and changes forced upon them by Granada, the name continues to survive.
Welcome Break themselves chase their heritage back to the construction of their Newport Pagnell site in 1959, rather than the past uses of the Welcome Break brand.
When Welcome Break was merely a motorway restaurant to rival Little Chef, circa 1974-78, its logo was also 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.
From April 1984, the new Welcome Break motorway services had a whole new red-and-cream logo.
In 1988, this was replaced by the memorable swan logo and blue colour scheme, which can be seen to the right. It was designed by the Michael Peters Group for Forte's rebranded Welcome Break.
In total four versions of the swan were produced: one had a very pale background and black feet, and the second had a darker background and yellow feet. In 2000 the biggest change came, as more styling was applied and a sunrise was added to the graphic. The fourth was used by Welcome Break's French sister company Côté France.
The Welcome Break service area 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 were given a mural which resembled its location, with the words 'Welcome Break' in white and green-on-black.
Welcome Break's corporate branding remained consistent for a long time, until the Applegreen takeover. From July 2019, subtle changes were noticed in the colours used in their posters, which allowed them to carry over Applegreen promotions. A totally new logo, with a different font and black colours swapped for grey, was used for refurbished petrol stations. This new logo began to be used elsewhere from March 2020.
Welcome Break has teamed up with KFC, Waitrose and Starbucks to appear on their road signs, having 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.
Welcome Break Services
With the success of the Days Inn motel brand, Welcome Break had a hand in a hotel in central London. They no longer run this but do have similar Ramadas near Wakefield and Glasgow. They have since expanded the motels at London Gateway and Birchanger Green to use the more upmarket 'Days Hotel' name, now Ramada.
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)) - coffee shop branded as Starbucks and motel branded as Days Inn
- Beaconsfield (M40) - coffee shop branded as Starbucks
- Cambridge (A14) - motel branded as Ramada
- East Kilbride (A726) - new Ramada hotel
- Cobham (M25) - coffee shop branded as Starbucks and motel branded as Ramada
- Peterborough (A1/A1(M)) - motel branded as Days Inn
- Wakefield (M1) - Ramada hotel away from services
- Winchester (M3) - motel taken over and branded as Days Inn
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)
- Oxford Peartree (A34/A43/A44)
- Pease Pottage (M23/A23)
- Ross Spur (M50/A40)
- Sutton Scotney (A34)
Original A-road Sites
The following A-road sites were ran by Welcome Break in the 1970s. Many of their locations are included on the Happy Eater map.
- Camel Cross (A303)
- Fourways (A37)
- Henstridge (A24)
- Holmwood (A24)
- Hilltop Grill (A30)
- Kennford (A38)
- Lamberhurst (A21)
- Newcott (A303)
- Rake (A3)
- Upper Swainswick (A46)
As part of Applegreen's takeover, a number of services were proposed to be transferred from Applegreen to Welcome Break. These were the ones which most suited Welcome Break's existing estate, including several in Northern Ireland where no UK mainland motorway services operator can be found.
As of November 2020, no public changes have been made, but there have been some internal changes. For example, during COVID-19, several of these sites used Welcome Break's track and trace system. A few of them are now advertised on Welcome Break's website. The full list of planned transfers, which may have since changed, is:
- Alwalton (Kate's Cabin) (A1)
- Ballymena (A26 Northern Ireland)
- Cromwell (A1)
- Darrington (A1)
- Fosseway (A46 - if and when it is rebuilt)
- Hillsborough (A1 Northern Ireland)
- Lincs Gateway (Spalding) (A16)
- Lisburn (M1 Northern Ireland)
- Spaldwick (A14)
- Templepatrick (M2 Northern Ireland)
- Whitley (A49)
- Wyboston (A1)
The following services were still being actively considered by Applegreen at the time of the takeover. They are now being pursued by Welcome Break:
- Rotherham & Sheffield Gateway (M1) - planning permission has been granted and Welcome Break have confirmed their commitment to it
- Solihull (M42)
Welcome Break and Applegreen are also working on Newark (Fernwood) on the A1.
The following services were planned by Welcome Break but they were never built:
- Alderborough Gate (A1(M))
- Bridgwater - site adjacent to existing service area (M5)
- Doncaster (North) (M18) - Welcome Break's plans were used by Granada
- Kirby Hill (A1(M))
- Norton Canes (M6 Toll)
- Selby Fork (A1)
- Tibshelf (M1) - Welcome Break developed the first plans
- Wetherby (A1(M)) - Welcome Break's plans were used by Granada
They also bid to run three Irish services:
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