I recently went on a road trip which involved stopping at a motorway service station in each direction. As far as I’m concerned, service stations are a necessary evil on a long journey. But I was surprised that a few clever innovations made a big difference.
The first one was pretty much as expected. A cold, uninviting, fast food environment that I just wanted to get out of as quickly as possible – some areas were deserted, others crammed with tired looking people.
The second was a completely different experience. It was completely open plan, and on 2 levels which technically should have made it feel ‘colder’ than the first one. But it didn’t because they had decorated it in warm colours, there was a central seating area with comfy sofas and low coffee tables, lounge chairs, and proper restaurant style tables and chairs. You didn’t have to sit in the same outlet where you bought your food, so there was a real buzz evenly spread out. The lighting was not too harsh, and there was generally a cohesive feel to the place.
They also had a table set aside for coach drivers with free condiments, cutlery and napkins laid out for them – a thoughtful touch that I’m sure makes a difference, and provides an opportunity for coach drivers to mingle with others.
In a market where it’s hard to create standout, this service station has made its mark, certainly on my family. We’ll be stopping there again!