Operators Past & Present

Current operators:

Moto The Largest UK operator with 47 sites. Owned since mid 2006 by a consortium led by Australian investment bank Macquarrie

Started life as new interest for Granada- the Cinema/Bingo & ITV companycompany and slowly built new sites and aquired other smaller chains. Granada merged with Compass in 2000, then demerged, but the hospitality parts of Granadas business went to Compass Group, So the sites rebranded as MOTO. Travelodge and Little Chef brands also became part of Compass PLC.
Has purchased many sites and other chains, and been instructed by the government to “shrink” several times!
Won “Tommys Parent Friendly Awards” 2004.
In 2003 built upon its existing deal with Marks & Spencer to provide food to Compass run railway stations by putting Marks And Spencer Food outlets into several Moto sites.
In Dec 2002, Compass sold Little Chef (all 328 of them) and Travelodge to Permira of Canada for £712m.
September 2005: Compass starts to struggle and wants to sell off Moto
10 April 2006: Compass sells off Moto to consortium lead by Macquarrie for £1,.882 million
Web site: www.moto-way.com & www.compass-group.co.uk

Welcome Break Initally part of the Hanson Group (through Imperial Group PLC), (who incidentally owned the Happy Eater range of restaurants). Welcome break was purchased by Trusthouse Forte in 1986. Existing Forte/ THF MSA’s were then re-branded as Welcome Break
With 27 UK sites, Welcome Break have recently spent a huge amount of money upgrade their sites. They also have meeting rooms at various services.
Fortes (the Hotel Chain) Diversified into the “new” business of running a MSA, branded as Forte (Later Trusthouse Forte) opening the countries second MSA. Taken over by Granada in 1995 for 3.9 Billion pounds. Monopolies and Mergers commission didn’t like the size of the resulting company, so most Welcome break sites sold in Feb 97 to Investcorp of Bahrain.
Financial problems in the Finance company (not MSA) in 2004 meant that welcome break had to raise money, which it did by selling 9 service areas to the Rotch Group on a Sale and Leaseback arrangement (more) raising £240M
As off Summer 2006, seems to be experimenting with a new look at Fleetwhich was rolled out to all sites.
In March 2008, it was sold for £500 million to Appia Investments. The Chief executive kept his role.
Web site: www.welcomebreak.co.uk
RoadChef Operates 21 sites, including the newest in the UK on the M6 Toll. Acquired several sites and upgraded many others sites almost continuously since late 90’s.
Started by Linley Catering in 1972, Sold to a management Buyout in 1983 Acquired by Nikko Europe Plc in 1998 for £240 million.
Nikko sold RoadChef to Israel property firm Delek for £375 Million in 2007
Web Site: www.roadchef.com
Westmoorland Own two all purpose sites, and a truck stop, along with other local businesses. Dedicated to local products and local style, a very unique stop. Westmorland was founded by the Dunning family (who owned the land the motorway was built through) and also by 2 directors of Penrith based bakers Birketts who had shops all over Cumbria, North Lancs and southern Scotland. Certain head office functions for Westmoorland were done at Birketts HQ eg- Accounts, Payroll but after the sale of Birketts to Greggs PLC all head office matters were moved to to a newly built office block behind the forecourt building at Tebay West. This office block is known as Westmoorland Place- although some such as Marketing are now handled at Rheged
Built the Rheged Discovery Centre or Rheged Village in The Hill was opened off the A66 near Penrith. This is the largest grass covered building in the UK and comprises a 260 seater cinema, restaurants, bar, local specialty shops, tourist information center, children’s play area, The National Mountaineering Exhibition and Texaco petrol station.
Web site: www.westmorland.com
First Has 2 sites, Bolton West on the M61, and Magor on the M4, which were purchased from Granada in 1996 for 8.6 million pounds, after Granada purchased Pavilion.
Cairn Lodge Owns 1 site – Happendon on the M74. See the story on the Happendon Page
Poplar 2000 Run a large truckstop at J20 on the M6

Currently, more than half the roadside services market is owned by overseas investors

Whatever Happened to:
Past Operators:

Granada Granada entered the Motorway Business in 1965, seeing it as a possible extension to their leisure and hospitality interests, which included the ITV Contract for North West, TV production including Coronation Street, Cinemas, Bingo Halls, etc. Merged with Compass in 2000, changed name of motorway services to MOTO on 29th August 2000. Compass then demerged from Granada, but took Granada’s Hospitality business with it, including the Motorway services Business. Granada now concentrates on Media
Web site: www.granada.co.uk
Forte/ Trusthouse Forte & Trust Houses Forte
and Motorchef
Fortes became involved early in MSA history, and already had a track record- they created the Little Chef brand, opening the first Little Chef in Reading in 1959. Naturally they moved into the MSA business. They also purchased many hotels in the 1960’s onwards, becoming a dominant owner in the UK.
Fortes merged with Trust House group in 1970. The Trust House group started in Hertfordshire in 1903 to revive the standards of old coaching Inns. So the history of road side service goes back a long way!

They bought Welcome Break From Hanson Trust in 1987 and was investigated by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, who cleared the Merger. Eventually renamed the whole chain as Welcome Break. Acquired by Granada in 1995. This would put made Granada subject to inquiry by the Monopolies and mergers committee, so they agreed to divest 21 of the Welcome Break sites, which they sold for £476 million in 1997 to InvestCorp – who continue to use the name Welcome Break.
Orginainated as the hotel chain “Forte”, which merged with Trust Houses to become “Trust Houses Forte”. They then breifly rebranded the MSAs as Motorchef, but then later rebranded them back, when the parent company abreviated its own name to “Trusthouse Forte”

Kenning Motor Group A Car dealership that had been running since 1878 and still going today (under the name GK Ford) They also hired vehicles and ran over 100 petrol forecourts so moving into the MSA business seemed natural. They built Strensham and Anderton MSA’s (Strensham for many years was one of the most profitable MSA’s on the network) (more)
Ross Main business was Fresh Fish, and Frozen Foods and sold fish at “Captains Table” at its services. Sold interests to Welcome Break to concentrate on Frozen Foods.
Esso/Taverna Entered the market in 1970, and built 5 new sites between 1970 and 1972. However government restrictions were too prohibitive for to make the sites pay. Sold all 5 sites to Granada in 1973
Blue Boar Taken over by Roadchef in 1998. Ran the first Motorways services on the M1 which they were offered in compensation for loss to their existing business, which was a chain of stops on the A5
A single Blue Boar services remained on the A74(M) but is now a RoadChef
Take A Break Started by a Motor dealer (TKM). Only ever ran one site: Strensham on the M5- but one of the more profitable sites on the motorway network.
Inchcape purchased TKM in 1992, then in 1994, a management buyout purchased the site from Inchcape and renamed the brand to “take-a-break” Taken over by Roadchef in 1998.
Pavilion Formed in Dec 1993 from a £89m management buy out of certain Rank Service stations
Sold in April 1995 to Granada, who were getting to big by this time, so condition of the sale was they had to sell off some sites.

Additional Information contributed by :
Carl Ryding
“Jam Sandwich”
Richard Lord
Andrew Leatham


  1. FIRST have been brought by RoadChef, Bolton West is now known as Rivington and is run by Euro Garages and Magor is now run by RoadChef

  2. Fortes did not create the Little Chef brand. Trust Houses created the brand but the merger with Forte in 1970 (by which time there were 44 LC sites) allowed for Fortes expertise to expand the brand rapidly through the 70’s and 80’s

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