LOCATION: Northbound on the M5 and wanting refreshment and to refuel, I just had to head for Gloucester Services (located between junctions 12 and 11a), the 2015 Forecourt Trader of the Year winner. I had heard so many good things about it I was determined to see it for myself.
First I visited the restaurant and farmshop. The car park is large with good size designated spaces and a number of electric charging points. The building is simply beautiful circular, low with honey-coloured stone and the roof is a wild flower meadow! Unusually, there is no fascia or discordant advertising just a large glass frontage that welcomes visitors in. The interior is wood, light and airy with plenty of space. Services include spacious toilet areas that were immaculate (I’ve never seen such an extensive bank of jet hand dryers), baby changing and shower facilities, a free-to-use ATM. A large rack of leaflets promoting local attractions was creating a lot of interest as was a gallery of local wildlife pictures.
The seating area had a great view of outside tables overlooking a lake.
The Gloucester Services Farmshop is all that is promised. I easily spent the £30 required to obtain a voucher for 10ppl off fuel at the forecourt.
FORECOURT: The forecourt and shop are located in another building in the same style again with a dry-stone facing and grass and wild flower roof. The pole and pumps are branded Texaco but the canopy is unbranded. Unlike most motorway service stations, fuel was competitively priced and is available from 14 islands and three HGV diesel and AdBlue positions.
All the pumps looked clean and in very good order. The fuelling lanes are exceptionally wide and set at an angle which must be a boon to towing vehicles.
The only additional services available on the forecourt were an air-line and water.
SHOP: The shop does not have a traditional fascia and is unbranded but it has a very attractive glass frontage and entrance. But, after the light and space of the main restaurant and farmshop, the forecourt convenience store seemed rather dark the shelving and chiller cabinets are black and the ceiling low. However, right in front of the entrance was a country-style table with a tempting display of cakes and brownies bringing some of the quality of the restaurant and farmshop to the forecourt shop.
There were a surprising number of empty shelves in the chiller cabinets and no produce. Most products on display were locally sourced or made on site and were thus rather expensive.
The only milk available was locally produced organic and there were also some artisan-produced breads.
For customers wanting to quickly refuel themselves a serviced counter has a variety of food and hot drink options available.
An interesting looking range of ’We Made This’ sandwiches was available but selection was difficult as the details of the filling were only visible on the bottom of the packs. The shelf-edge tickets were scruffy, difficult to read and need replacing.
The customer toilets were excellent and totally clean. The two members of staff at the till area were friendly and professional.
PROGNOSIS: The owners’ the Dunning family’s passion for the environment, the landscape, local people and products has resulted in sensitive building designs and with much of the food and products on offer sourced from local suppliers
DIAGNOSIS: Most motorway service stations are rather similar; Gloucester Services is definitely very different.
PRESCRIPTION: It was a pleasure to visit, especially when compared to many other corporately owned motorway service stations. I like the approach to design and, on the evidence of what I saw, they are meeting the needs of most drivers and passengers.
However, some doubts developed. I came away feeling that the forecourt shop needed a bit more attention, particularly to meet the needs and wants of fuel and forecourt shop-only customers.
A specific research survey would identify their needs and the shop range could then be tailored to meet them.