Motorway services operator Roadchef is to regenerate its entire estate over the next five years, bringing in McDonald's in a franchise deal and scrapping its old-style "servery tray rail" approach to dining.
The company will spend £12m overhauling its catering facilities at 10 sites within two years and staff levels will increase by 20% as part of a move which it hopes will "significantly" increase turnover and drive operational profits upwards of 13% in the next five years. Costa coffee outlets will also be upgraded.
Roadchef currently has an annual turnover of £200m and employs over 2,000 staff at its 19 sites across the UK.
Simon Turl, chief executive of Roadchef, commented: "This investment is the cornerstone of our business improvement plan which has been under development for the past two years. By regenerating and strengthening our branded and in-house portfolio, we strongly believe we will redefine the face of motorway catering."
As part of the investment programme, which has already commenced at Clacket Lane on the M25, McDonald's will replace existing Wimpy outlets in the quick-serve restaurant brand's first-ever corporate franchise agreement. In a 20-year deal, Roadchef will sell McDonald's food and drink at high-street prices.
Turl continued: "We feel extremely privileged to be McDonald's first UK corporate partner. Our aim is to provide customers with quality, value and choice, and the franchise agreement will enable us to deliver on all aspects of this commitment."
The past 24 months have seen Roadchef undertake a pilot study of the new catering concepts at its Strensham (south) site on the M5. In addition to a successful McDonald's unit, the company has also trialled a number of other new initiatives, which have contributed to an increased visitor conversion rate of 63% compared with 56% at other similar-sized service areas.
The biggest change to the company's catering portfolio will see the eradication of the much-maligned Motorway Service Area free-flow restaurant, in a lesson learnt from the airport industry. All of Roadchef's Rest Bite outlets, which offer a traditional "servery tray rail" approach to dining, will be converted to the Roadchef own-brand Hot Food Company.
"The free-flow restaurant is something of an institution on the motorway. However, once seen as cutting-edge, it has over recent years witnessed a huge decline in popularity, welcoming less than 10% of overall site visitor numbers," Turl said. "The Hot Food Company, a concept designed by Roadchef's team, is a modern brand, which improves food quality, speed of service and continues to deliver value to customers through promotions such as the two meals for £10 deal, but in a more contemporary setting. Our aim is to drive sales at this outlet by highlighting to customers that we are providing the complete package - choice, quality, speed and value."
By Neil Gerrard
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