JUST BEFORE Christmas Julie Wilson opened the 900th JD Wetherspoon pub – the Poulton Elk in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. It didn’t get much press. That was reserved for the Hope and Champion, managed by Steve Baldwin 224 miles away in Beaconsfield, a month later. Julie’s might have been the numerical milestone, but Steve’s marked the social one. Steve’s pub is on the M40.
Service stations are an arm of foodservice that continually frustrate me. It’s not the overpriced fuel. No, it’s the food: if you have times to keep you are shackled by these branded beasts of bad, beige food. So I’m all for a little innovation by the roadside; perhaps Steve and Wetherspoons can deliver that?
However, campaigners suggest the £1.2m site is “deeply concerning” and will deliver one thing: drink-drivers.
It comes down to responsibility – a theme we will be covering in some detail this year, not least in our Pubs and Bars section. Drinking responsibly, eating responsibly, doing business responsibly. And, critically, where the lines of responsibility are drawn. John Torode (page 9) believes the nation’s poor health is (in no small part) down to the nation. Not the chefs, the marketers or the supermarkets. I can see his point but industry – foodservice, food manufacture and food retail – have a responsibility too. Are they living up to it? Three years into the Public Health Responsibility Deal and the jury is still out (page 12).
Responding to the Hope and Champion’s opening, the RAC pointed to a survey of 2,000 people that found 12% supported putting pubs into motorway service stations. I wonder how many would support putting better food into them?
There’s a captive market of road users to educate, entertain and excite with UK food. Why not make it organic, or sustainable, or healthy – or all three? We’ve seen that people will pay for bad food, so why not for good food? Westmorland Farm Shops on the M6 (and soon arriving on the M5) provides a fitting template of what can be done – indeed, what should be done – with our service stations.