The UK has the worst motorway service areas in Europe, according to a survey by European motoring organisations, including the AA Motoring Trust.
The Roadchef on the M6 at Sandbach, Cheshire, was the only motorway service area in Europe rated "very poor" out of 62 inspected in 10 European countries. Roadchef declined to comment.
Other service areas didn't perform much better, as the price of a standard meal in the UK was twice what it cost in Italy and Germany.
The inspectors said the UK fell way behind European competition when it came to catering. Only the Welcome Break on the M40 at Oxford was rated "good" out of the eight UK service areas in the survey.
The UK finished bottom of the survey compared with 2001, when it finished seventh out of nine other countries. The highest rated service area was in Germany.
Bert Morris, deputy director of the AA Motoring Trust, called the results disappointing, but said the sector suffered from strict and outdated regulations which included limits on what operators could sell.
He said: "While there's no excuse for failing to clean toilets, or serving poor food in messy restaurants, it's clear that operators have to bear some high regulatory costs and don't have the freedom to sell a wide range of goods."
Inspections were carried out over Easter and looked at the catering, hygiene, shopping facilities, prices, and general condition of the facility.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 24 June 2004