On Sunday I had the dubious pleasure of transporting son no 1 up to Nottingham university. Like all good students he arrived at the house only minutes before we were due to leave, hungover, unpacked and tetchy as hell. The prospect of two hours in the car was not a glowing one.
Due in part to residual alcohol levels and in part to the sheer monotony of M1 driving we found ourselves passing the time by observing the relative merits of Motorway Service Station retail brands.
Toddington for example presents Burger King/Costa/M&S. Ok if you like bacon double cheeseburgers and overpriced sandwiches but not a patch on Leicester Forest East where you step out to the gold standard Starbucks/Waitrose combo – well worth the extra miles. Watford Gap, being a Roadchef outlet has a mixed bag of McDonalds and Costa and the encouragingly named “Hot Food Company”.
But the stop/don’t stop decision is not influenced by food retailing alone. If you have a nectar card you’ll be wanting a BP petrol stop and if you’re a Shell loyalty junkie then of course you’ll be watching for the yellow and orange. Tough call if all there is to eat is cardboard nastiness that is a cheesy whoppa. Supersize that? I don’t think so.
Sadly though, the range of retail exotica within the spectrum is capped at coffee, fast food, and amusements. And I for one find it as hard to see the difference between the food brands as I do between the petrol brands unless of course you could have a nitro-glycerine shot in your four-star.
So we got to talking about what the perfect motorway service stop should be like. They need to spice up the experience a bit. If your eyes are heavy from 200 mind-numbing motorway miles then how about some bungy-jumping from the Membury (M4) Radio mast? Arguing in the car as we all do presents a perfect opportunity for marital guidance from a top solicitor. Toilets with advertising is damaging to a brand but toilets with faces of people you hate inside could be stress-relieving: I see Kerry Katona and Harry from One Direction being early candidates for this role. And for amusement out with the slot machines and in with gratuitous banker-punching. Line ‘em up and knock ‘em down!
Look; clothing shops like Cotton Traders (Roadchef) and Fone Bitz (Moto, Welcome Break, Roadchef) may be OK for some but they are not cutting it for me. How about a Harrods/Alton Towers combo at Gordano? Or a Mosimanns/Spearmint Rhino/Freshfields stop-off at Heston Eastbound – that should get the trucks rolling up and think of the targetting for the ad boys and girls!
Send me your dream ticket motorway retail combinations and I’ll publish the results. Who knows, Motorway driving could start to become a whole lot more fun.