LOCATION: I approached my target the new Budgens at Shell Farnborough site which opened on September 1 from the M3 (Junction 4) via the Blackwater Way (A331) and on to the A325 Farnborough Road.

FORECOURT: It was highly visible due to its prominent illuminated Shell-branded pole and large canopy. The profusion of feather flags along the front also caught my attention.

My first impressions were very good. The new pump islands promoting Shell V-Power fuels were all in first-class condition. Fuel prices were competitive.

During my visit (a weekday lunch time) a steady stream of drivers refuelled.

Air, water and vacuum services (not in working order) are to the left of the shop, as is an area of designated parking spaces. The parking spaces in front of the shop were partly occupied by contractors completing a new shop fascia. Each of the safety posts at the parking bays was covered in a sleeve stating: ’deli2go Feel Good for the road ahead’.

SHOP: The shop fascia was only half completed and that section simply stated ’Budgens’. I assume the second section will refer to Shell and perhaps ’deli2go’? It will be interesting to see.

Wow, the shop looked good on entry and it was immediately clear that refrigerated cabinets rule the day. There is an interesting array of different sizes and types the selection (multideck fridges, coolers and freezers most with eco-friendly elements) dictated by the products they displayed.

A Shell deli2go serve-over counter and heated display cabinet (including a dried-up breakfast savoury not attractive for the lunchtime trade!) was situated right by two Costa Express self-serve coffee bars. Both were being well used by local sixth form college students.

A basic range of grocery, bread, greeting cards and car care products are available. Some Budgen brand products and a selection of lines on promotion were available. Also in-store are Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cook frozen foods.

There was a short queue for the spacious unisex toilet that allowed me time to study the inspection rota. Each section was completed for the previous week but nothing during the weekend or for the new week thus far. A shame, however the facility was reasonably clean.

Probably because it’s a new store and the fascia work was being completed, there seemed to be a lot of staff around. They all looked very smart in their Shell- branded uniforms. Are Budgens- branded uniforms also available?

PROGNOSIS: Shell UK is a major player in the fuel market with over 1,000 sites. Over half have shops branded Select that offer a deli2go service. Shell has a restricted relationship with Waitrose (around 30 sites). Shell is now rolling out a 20-site partnership with Budgens and Shell Farnborough is the first new site launched.

DIAGNOSIS: Consumers continue to seek convenience, value for money, quality and choice. Budgens at Shell Farnborough certainly goes a long way towards meeting these requirements.

PRESCRIPTION: Budgens has a great, award-winning reputation for its fresh and chilled offer and for encouraging its retailers to make arrangements with local suppliers. But the Farnborough site’s fresh and chilled range was, for me, partly lost behind the doors of the wide range of chillers. I am not sure that signage was clear enough to help locate various product ranges.

The main food-to-go offering is the deli2go counter and Costa Express bars that potentially dilute the Budgens fresh message.

To further take advantage of consumer trends and to develop a point of difference, a range of locally produced craft food and drinks products should be introduced. A great range to start with is artisan bread.