LOCATION: Micheldever Service Station is located on the A303 eastbound at Popham and was, until recently, an Esso ’On the Run’. It is now one of the growing numbers of Euro Garage sites in the south. There are the usual ’service station ahead’ signs on the A303, but the service station pole is not visible until drivers are on the slip road up to the site.
The site is shared by Micheldever Service Station and behind it there’s the Popham Diner.
The Esso-branded canopy is high and covers four islands of pumps with a total of 32 nozzles. The bold new-look Synergy design device enhances each pump island.
I was surprised by the price of fuel. It was 7ppl more expensive than I’d paid a few days previously when I refuelled at a non-motorway service station, and 5ppl more than the service station immediately opposite on the westbound carriageway. At that price I did not fill my tank!
Lack of space prohibits any car wash facility, and shop front offers were limited. To the left of the forecourt is a designated parking area reserved for HGV vehicles.
The shop front carries the bold and very visible messages: Euro Garages, 24 hours, Greggs, Subway and Starbucks.
On a white background, the corporate Spar logo is, as ever, very distinctive. The shop is not over large but it sure has impact. Across the rear are the three fast-food offerings a Starbucks counter, the Subway and the Greggs unit. All three seem to have sufficient space and there is also a small seating area. To the left are two walls of floor-to-ceiling refrigerated soft drinks cabinets and to the right, the till area. What a shame that a delivery cage seemed abandoned by the entrance.
A very tight range of packaged grocery products features most of the main top-up lines bread, milk etc. No fresh produce or local products were available.
A free-standing unit displayed a range of pocket money toys and there were a significant number of Celebration tins of sweets at £5. I noticed that at least three customers purchased a tin while I was in the shop.
The customer toilets were in excellent condition, clean and spotless. No maintenance rota is displayed but it is obvious that this facility is receiving the attention it deserves. Long may it continue.
When paying for my fuel and shop purchases, the member of staff worked hard to ensure that a special offer deal was correctly priced. He was friendly and did an excellent job.
By any standards the Euro Garages story is impressive. Started in 2001 with one forecourt, the company has grown rapidly and now operates around 350 sites. It is sure to grow bigger.
Euro Garages works with a number of national fuel brands and has developed strong relationships on the retail side with Spar, Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and Greggs. Its website states that Euro Garages is "committed to providing excellent customer service, good value products and a wide range of facilities, and customers can expect high standards from all our forecourts and retail sites". Great stuff but a challenge as their empire grows.
To fulfil their commitment, store staff and their training and motivation are key. Euro Garages challenges and incentivises its staff with an Extra Mile scheme.
I guess that the majority of Micheldever Service Station customers are transient, but I wonder if customers needing to refuel found the premium price off-putting? At the time of my visit the major supermarkets had cut their petrol prices to below £1pl. It’s okay to expect a small premium in fuel prices on motorways and main trunk roads but the Euro Garages price was approaching insult levels.
The offer of Starbucks, Subway and Greggs is compelling and I imagine that as the news spreads about this redeveloped unit, more and more drivers will stop for food. But what a shame the site facilities are not more visible to traffic on the A303. If any retailers are thinking about developing a food-to-go service this Micheldever site is worth a visit, to see how well all the different types of offers sit together.