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FEATURE ‘La Croissanterie’ – a bright appealing, pastry food to go option next to a bank of three new hi tech hot drinks. Site 1 A lorry driver from Poland looking somewhat bemused at the Seven electric charging points, six of them for the drivers of Tesla cars. Site 3 A boutique in a service station must be considered a novel idea. Full marks for layout and design. Site 3. be serving more than 6 million customers a week with total pro forma gross annual revenues of around EUR 6 billion. Ilyas explains the landscape further “The new combination will be perfectly placed for faster growth, leveraging EFR’s fuel expertise and international experience with Euro Garages’ successful brand partnership model and consumer retail excellence. A new holding company named Intervias has been established, with a combined Board, led by Group Chairman Tony DeNunzio CBE.” Exciting times certainly lie ahead indeed for everyone at Euro Garages and EFR. But coming back to my journey into French pastures and the job in hand, does continental Europe want a croissant or a sandwich and do the motorway service facilities in France fare well under scrutiny? These were the lurking questions in my mind as I sped down the slick A26 and A1 motorways in northern France, heading away from Calais towards Reims, where I would stop for lunch. I visited three sites that day and not surprisingly perhaps, whilst considering they were both on the same motorway, service area number one was strikingly similar to service area number two, both of which I am happy to say were showing signs of recent improvements designed to bring their overall facilities up to date with fresh and modern features. A baked food counter called ‘ La Croissanterie’ offering pastry and other simple hot food options, featured in both locations and in each case was the centre piece of the take away food option. Alongside this facility sat three brand new, taller than me, hot drinks machines, boasting a varied menu of choices and options including a contactless payment facility. The instructions though, whilst picturesque and somewhat charming, baffled even the most experienced traveller including the East European truck driver (see picture) who in the end like me benefited from a two minute presentation by a very helpful staff member. Whilst both sites had well stocked shops and one of them also had an impressive looking chilled food display offering sandwiches, fruit and soft drinks options, I have to say that neither of these locations gave me very much to get excited about, especially considering the prestigious toll roads I had been driving on, which had cost me nearly 100 euros that day. Maybe the traffic levels are such that service areas on a larger scale with multi food to go options, are just not viable on these routes, like they are for example on busy motorways in the UK, but I certainly would like to have seen more of something, just to give me that extra feel good factor whilst taking a break from my long journeyHowever, given that I may have been slightly down hearted about what I had seen thus far, my final site visit to a site on the A26, 185 km south of Calais at Essigny Le Grand, was a real eye opener and I would say instantly appealing from any ‘stop off motorists’ point of view. In appearance it prospect of getting his coffee any time soon. Site 1 was an extremely modern motorway service area with multiple fresh food choice options, in stylish well designed surroundings. The retail section was excellent, offering general goods, technical services and food items in a large spacious area, with bold fluorescent signage. In the walkways some very attractive looking vended food options showed a real touch of class where it was most noticed, including one that I especially liked called ‘Le Soups’. I would certainly have tried one if I could have spared more time. Most surprising of all was a clothes ‘boutique’ looking like it was much more suited to being on London’s Oxford Street, rather than playing a supporting role to a petrol station. Underlining the site’s modern approach, was seven electric chargers stood in a line outside, six of them being for Tesla’s and all of them unoccupied, patiently waiting for the future. For electric cars, it is actually not too far away. So in conclusion, no firm answers to the questions I posed myself earlier that day, but maybe it’s just a matter of choice. More choice is certainly preferred in everything retail nowadays and providing it is packaged and marketed with a touch of style; it’s hard to see where in this industry anyone can fail to succeed. Euro Garages and EFR will be at the forthcoming idac and erpec 17 conferences in Amsterdam from May 31st – June 2nd. www.idac17.com and www.erpec.com. erpecnews is published by McLean Events, Conferences and Media Ltd. 21


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