midlands: up to 4mlpa

Spar Bilsby: Bilsby Filling Station in Alford, Lincolnshire, had been facing an uncertain future until the management team decided to give it a new lease of life with a £600k refurbishment. The site is in a rural village with around 150 houses, on the A1111 which a recent survey voted as the sixth quietest A road in the UK. It is also near the sea so business is seasonal. Fuel sales were down to around 16-17k litres a week. It was the first site bought by the company’s founder Gill Marsh in 1971 and had not had a proper refit for about 30 years, according to managing director Tim Dant: "We could see it had potential, and after lots of conversations, 18 months planning, more quotations than I can count, we embarked on the project in January 2017. We closed the store and ripped out everything floors, ceilings, petrol pumps, pipeworks and so on. We re-opened on February 28 and things have gone from strength to strength. The store is now averaging a 40% increase in shop sales. Fuel sales have risen from just over 1mlpa to 3mlpa, hitting a peak of 85k litres last May Bank Holiday."

The site is fully Spar branded on the canopy, pumps and pole sign. "We decided to strip out all the add-ons," explains Tim. "This enabled us to get a fuel supply agreement at the lowest possible price, meaning we can match the supermarkets on price while still making a reasonable margin. The site is vibrant, modern, relevant and deeply rooted in our community. We were really pleased to win the award and for all our hard work to be recognised."

midlands: 4mlpa plus

Spar Fairfield: Spar Fairfield of Louth, Lincolnshire, was opened in November 2014 and is the flagship store for Blakemore Retail. It is located just off the main A16 trunk road between Boston and Grimsby and is a welcome sight as you approach looking to refuel both your car and your stomach! It has everything you would expect in a modern- day forecourt, with its spacious forecourt featuring 10 fuel pumps including two fast-fill HGV pumps. Easy access to each pump helps to ease congestion. There are also three electric car charging points, which currently gives the site a point of difference compared with other forecourts in the area. There is also a smart jet-washing area which, like the rest of the forecourt, is heavily branded with all the offers in-store such as Subway, Costa and Greggs to tempt customers in. Once inside the clean and well-presented store, attention is drawn to the many promotions and the wide range of meal solutions, including chillers clearly marked to draw customers in with ideas for ’Tonight’s tea’. "We are also really proud of are our toilet facilities," says site manager Michele Lawson. "They are fitted out to a high spec and are kept to a very high standard, which shows our customers the high cleanliness standards we maintain and gives them confidence in the rest of the store. We work as a team and are very customer focused as soon as there is a queue everyone goes to the tills and it’s cleared within seconds. Shift patterns are also key. We were thrilled to win the award it is great recognition for everyone’s hard work."

northern england: up to 4mlpa

SPAR ROE LANE: This Shell site, which opened in October 2016, delivers a modern 3,000sq ft convenience store right in the heart of Southport.

Store manager Angela Prescott says the shop has a fantastic feel about it, helped by photo images of all the landmarks around the town. "Customers love them," she says, "as they bring back memories." And as a James Hall company store, they have a ’time line’ across the checkout area, which shows the start of the company back in 1863 right up to the opening of Spar Roe Lane in 2016.

The store includes a Daily Deli offering of hot and cold snacks available throughout the day. Staff bake fresh bread on the Deli, which complements the Clayton Park range of fresh morning goods. Fresh cream cakes are popular, with the best seller being extra large eclairs.

The Spar has also teamed up with local butcher Graham Eyes, who has over 35 years trading experience in Southport, with his range of butchery lines complementingthe rest of the store’s products.

Technology includes multi-screen TVs at the entrance showing special offers, as well as a TV at the till area to keep customers up to date with the latest news.

Says Angela: "We are very proud of our store and have fitted in well with the community. One customer even sent a letter in recently saying our staff and service were ’simply the best’."

northern england: 4mlpa plus

laceby lodge services: Manager Kristian Harrison thought his site in Grimsby should win the Northern England regional awards because of its state-of-the-art store, which he says caters to the needs of every customer they could possibly have walking through their doors.

"We have a Subway which provides fresh food made to order with the freshest of ingredients used. There is also the option of a Greggs for the customer that prefers the bakery product. If neither of these meet their needs, they can choose to relax and unwind in our Insomnia coffee shop, which has indoor and outdoor seating."

The store also meets the needs of the customer who needs to do a basket shop. "We have a wide range of grocery items in addition to the daily essentials of bread and milk. Fancy a bottle of wine or a four-pack of beer when you get home? No problem, as our store has a wide range of competitively priced beer and wine with the added advantage of being chilled so it’s ready to drink for as soon as they get home."

Outside there’s ample parking plus a picnic area with seating for 20-30 people.

"Our forecourt is spacy enough to cater for all types of vehicles, which creates a nice ambience even before you stop your vehicle," says Kristian. "The award-winning Shell V-Power caters for the performance vehicle while we also have an electric vehicle charging point, which is becoming increasingly popular as well."

best design & development: sponsored by harvest energy

glews services: This site was the subject of a £4m expansion and redevelopment project, which included a contribution towards the cost of installing a new roundabout and access road off the A614.

The site was designed with the customer in mind, to make it as easy as possible for people to access everything they need on a quick stop off, as well as providing comfortable, well-equipped facilities for those who want to take a longer break from their journey.

Ten wide-lane petrol filling bays have been created, along with parking for up to 15 vehicles at the front of the shop. The newly-expanded Spar shop boasts 23m of chilled space. New food-to-go options include a Subway and a refurbished Glews Services Kitchens, which serves traditional, hearty, hot meals and can seat up to 35.

best food-to-go outlet: sponsored by rollover

applegreen m1 southbound lisburn: This site has six food offers: Greggs, Lavazza, Burger King, Subway, Chopstix and The Bakewell, which is Applegreen’s own brand. The Bakewell puts an emphasis on high quality, great tasting and beautifully presented food. Applegreen has its own in-house food scientist, Aimee McKernan, who works to source the highest quality food at an affordable price.

With McKernan’s help it has developed the Eat Smart range, which uses clean, natural ingredients. The brand’s promise is a readily available healthy option for every meal throughout the day whatever your journey.

Applegreen says its Greggs has created a huge amount of ’buzz’ with customers and, based on the success of Greggs within Applegreen, the bakery chain has now opened its first standalone outlet in Belfast.

best forecourt innovation: sponsored by londis

jet abbeyside service station: Nick Baker has transformed Abbeyside from its former 600sq ft Mace store and Jet-branded forecourt into a double-storey 2,000sq feet dual-branded Jet/Spar convenience destination. Open 24/7, it has been designed to cater for today’s time-poor consumers who want to tick off as many things as they can from their ’To Do’ list under one roof. External innovation includes a 24-hour coin-operated Revolution self-service outdoor launderette; Amazon and InPost Lockers; and three 24/7 Istobal jetwash bays including a raised platform for oversized vehicles.

Inside, one of the biggest innovations is the installation of two CBE cashless, self-serve checkouts for non-fuel purchases, which Nick says are proving invaluable for queue-busting at peak periods.