For some time I’d wanted to visit a Snax 24 and while driving from Bath to Bristol on the A431 recently, I was able to make a ’stealthcheck’ at a site in Willsbridge.

General Appearance: The Snax 24/BP branded site is large and has a clearly-signed entrance and exit.

To one side the site is dominated by a 4x4/MPV/used car centre, at one end there’s a car/jet wash and the other the Snax 24 shop.

Forecourt: The site has a pole giving the usual information and there are four pumps under a large canopy. The BP brand identification is, as you would expect, clear and unambiguous.

Access to the pumps was easy (although two were out of action) and there was a steady flow of cars refuelling. Each pump displayed the current non-food offers and there was a poster advertising ’fresh sandwiches in store’. The car wash and jet wash facilities were well positioned and promoted. If drivers had wanted to give their vehicles a full valeting it was not possible as cars parked along the front of the 4x4 centre blocked off the vacuum, air and water services.

The forecourt was tidy and free from litter but parking spaces (around the perimeter of the site and in front of the shop) were not designated. However as I was leaving I did spy some marked spaces at behind the shop. There were newspapers, flowers, BBQ supplies and an ATM at the front of the store. There was also a large display of Volvic water. The shop windows had signs promoting various categories of product available inside.

Shop: The main entrance door is no longer used and the use of a rather shabby side door did not impress me. Inside it was immediately clear that the store had recently had a grocery delivery because the stock was everywhere. Piles of it filled most of the aisles making it impossible to shop the store. The shop included most of the main c-store categories including a beer, wines and spirits section. It offered hot drinks but as far as I could see no bake off or produce offering.

The toilet was clean but the automatic hand dryer was not working and no alternative was offered.

The refrigerated displays around the rear of the store included sandwiches and soft drinks but it was difficult to get to them because of all the stock blocking my way.

There was one member of staff who may well have been the manager dealing with the boxes and stacking the stock but it was a long slow process. And he was not to be distracted - not even when five customers were waiting in line at the till. The one member of staff on the till was also slow and he seemed to me sadly disinterested in the customers.

Prognosis: To me the brand ’Snax 24’ is full of promise. For example, I expected it to be open 24/7. Well not this Bristol shop. In fairness it is open weekdays from 7am to 11pm, which are certainly long hours but not the 24 implied in the name. The Snax 24 web site offers a service ’For your convenience’, ’What you want - when you need it!’ and ’There’s more in store at Snax 24’.

The website copy under the heading ’Retail Concept’ is great with sentiments like - ’Shelves are continually replenished... with particular attention being paid to items people buy daily such as fresh produce’. And ’Snax 24 takes pride in the standards of cleanliness and housekeeping within its network’. ’Employee selection is a key element’...and so on. Wonderful marketing theory but what a shame it is not all put into practice at the Bristol site.

Diagnosis: If any business - but particularly a retail business - does not put the customer first, middle and last then it may have problems. Words are important and I very much liked what I read about Snax 24.

Prescription: But surely saying is the precursor to doing? Snax 24 certainly in theory offers much and what it now needs is a review of what it is doing.

Managers and staff should be trained (or retrained) and encouraged to focus on delivering a first class value service to customers and then their challenge "What you want - when you need it!" will become more of a reality.