Friday, January 23, 2009

Costa lot too much

I was travelling yesterday and called in on a motorway service area on the A27 in Hampshire. In terms of food outlets, it had a Wimpy, a cafeteria serving all day breakfasts and similar food, and a Costa Coffee. I needed a caffeine hit, so went for the Costa.

The first thing I noticed was that the prices seemed high. Costa is not, admittedly my favourite high street coffee shop, but I use it fairly often. I made a note of what I had to eat and drink for future reference.

Later in the day I went into the Costa in Dorchester, South Street. Regrettably I was right. The price for my pain au raisin pastry in there was less than £1.50 vs £2.00 at Rownhams Services. I chose a different coffee in Dorchester to my morning stop, but a glance thru the bevy of old receipts in my purse says that at Clacket Lane Services Costa Coffee on the M25, a cappucino primo is £2.40 whereas I paid £2.

This morning I wrote to Costa's Customer Relations department via email, asking how they could justify this difference.

Now, the services do have to employ staff for more hours per day. But on the other side, their costs of heating, cleaning etc. are shared and I pointed this out. I wonder how detailed an answer I will get.

BBC Radio 4's Food Programme recently featured an item on motorway food. Many years ago, Egon Ronay, a well known food writer, and restaurant reviewer/critic was absolutely scathing about the standard of motorway service catering.

In the intervening period, it has improved, but has also got disproportionately expensive. You can get a breakfast in a J. D. Wetherspoon pub for less than £3.00. The cheapest breakfast on offer yesterday was over £4.00 for a similar plateful. JDW is not the best, but at least I know it has been cooked freshly and not been sitting under hot lights for who knows how long. I should imagine their overheads and ingredient costs were about the same.

The cost of a simple egg sandwich in a motorway service shop can be expected to exceed supermarket or off-motorway petrol station by at least 25%.

I don't see why the travelling public should be exploited so relentlessly when very often we have little choice about where to take a break. They'll be charging for the use of toilets next. Leave your penny on the seat please.

Now - for a change - a thank you and a bouquet.

In my local Waitrose supermarket in Havant today, the checkout op. took the trouble to open up the box of eggs I was buying. I was fairly sure it was the last box of medium organic eggs at a special offer price. I hadn't checked the eggs myself and two eggs were cracked and stuck to the box.

She rang for another assistant who went and looked for some more. She came back with extra large ones, apologised for running out of the smaller size, and said I could have the bigger ones at the same price. Excellent customer service and my grateful thanks to Waitrose for a little help with the food bills.


lizzie said...

As a general rule I never eat anything at a motorway services that anyone in there has touched! I stick to things that come pre-packed then I know they have not been standing around attracting flies (and worse) all day.