Welcome Break Limited
Company typePrivate company
IndustryMotorway Services
HeadquartersNewport Pagnell, England, UK
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
John Diviney (CEO)
Number of employees

Welcome Break Limited[1] is a British motorway service station operator that operates 35 motorway service stations in England, Scotland and Wales. It is the second-largest motorway service area operator behind Moto. It also operates hotels and motels. It is a subsidiary of Applegreen.

In Northern Ireland, the company operates 5 motorway services under the Applegreen brand.[2]


The Welcome Break facility at Birchanger services, Essex, 2006.

Opened in 1959, the service area at Newport Pagnell on the M1 motorway near Milton Keynes by Motorway Services Ltd was the company's first service area under the Forte name and was the second service area to be constructed on the fledgling UK motorway network, however it was still the first to open.[3] The name "Welcome Break" came from a chain of rival restaurants to Little Chef, created by Allen Jones. These restaurants eventually either became Happy Eaters or closed. The name was brought back when Hanson Trust renamed Ross Food's service stations. The company's portfolio was expanded to five motorway service areas during periods under the ownership of the Imperial Group and subsequently the Hanson Trust before being purchased by Trusthouse Forte in 1986. Under this deal, the Welcome Break name was adopted across the entire estate, with Trusthouse Forte's sixteen existing service areas re-branded.

Split from Trusthouse Forte

In January 1996, the Forte Group was the subject of a £3.9 billion hostile takeover by the British media group Granada. Due to Granada's existing major presence in the motorway services market, a subsequent investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission ordered Granada to sell 27 of the Welcome Break sites. The company was eventually bought by Investcorp in 1997 for £476M.[4] Investcorp then sold Welcome Break to Appia Investments in March 2008 for £500M.[4]

Applegreen ownership

In August 2018 Applegreen agreed to purchase the majority of Welcome Break for €361.8M.[5]


The main building at Welcome Break's Telford services

The facilities available at Welcome Break service areas varies at each site, with most sites open 24 hours a day throughout the year. Typically, each service area comprises a café or restaurant, a retail outlet, a hotel and a petrol station. Some sites have WHSmith, Burger King, an eat-in restaurant, a coffee shop (Starbucks Coffee), and a petrol station (Shell or BP).


The majority of hotels at Welcome Break service areas are franchises of Days Inn or Ramada; many of these were once branded under Welcome Break's own brand, "Welcome Lodge"; the last of these, at Newport Pagnell and Charnock Richard, were rebranded to Days Inns in May 2009 and also took over operation of three former PURPLE hotels at Cambridge, Peterborough, and Stevenage in July 2009, each three have reopened as Days Inn taking its total to 26. In September 2012, Welcome Break opened a Days Inn at the new Cobham Service area on the M25, and 2013 saw a rebrand of Days Hotel London North and Days Inn London Stansted into Ramada hotels. In December 2014, Welcome Break purchased Days Hotel Wakefield, and after a full refurbishment it was reopened as Ramada Wakefield in January 2015.


When Welcome Break chain was sold by Granada, branches of Little Chef at those sites were replaced a similar table service restaurant, Red Hen. High prices earned the chain the nickname "Little Thief".[6]

Eat In became Welcome Break's own brand self-service restaurant. However, these have since been replaced with food courts, featuring a selection of brands varying from location to location:


Recently, Welcome Break service areas have followed the industry-wide trend towards partnership with High Street brands. W H Smith stores have been introduced at the majority of Welcome Break sites as a replacement for the traditional unbranded retail outlets.[10] Initially launched as a trial store at the Newport Pagnell site in February 2007, W H Smith stores have now been rolled out across the Welcome Break portfolio.[10]

Fone Bitz

Fone Bitz sell electronics across the motorway network and operate at most Welcome Break sites. Fone Bitz sell a range of Mobile Phone, iPad, iPod, Laptop, electronic and car accessories in general.

Welcome Break Gaming

Welcome Break Gaming is a self branded betting arcade located at all Welcome Break sites, except the Welcome Break operated Days Inn hotels and motels.

Gridserve (previously Ecotricity)

In July 2011 it was announced that the green energy provider Ecotricity will be providing fast and normal electric vehicle charging stations at Welcome Break service stations as part of its 'Electric highway' network, linking London in the south with Exeter in the west and Edinburgh in the north.[11]

In July 2021, it was announced that Gridserve had purchased Ecotricity's "Electric Highway" charging network. Gridserve agreed to maintain the network's relationship with Welcome Break, and will start updating charge points to include contactless payment and faster chargers[12]

However, whilst other MSAs were rapidly upgraded, by Christmas of 2021 Gridserve had been unable to upgrade any of the Welcome Break sites. Speculation online that Welcome Break were blocking them from doing so was given credence by the installation at South Mimms of EV chargers bearing the Welcome Break brand. [13]


England, Scotland and Wales

Northern Ireland (branded as Applegreen)

See also


  1. ^ "WELCOME BREAK LIMITED overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". Companies House. 30 June 1983. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  2. ^ "Our Locations | Motorway Service Stations | Welcome Break". www.welcomebreak.co.uk. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  3. ^ "Newport Pagnell - motorway services".
  4. ^ a b "Motorway services provider Welcome Break sold". Caterer Search. Retrieved 11 July 2006.
  5. ^ Hipwell, Deirdre (3 August 2018). "Applegreen reverses into motorway service area" – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  6. ^ Duncan Angwin; Stephen Cummings; Chris Smith (12 December 2011). The Strategy Pathfinder: Core Concepts and Live Cases. John Wiley & Sons. p. 307. ISBN 978-1-119-99588-3.
  7. ^ KFC Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Welcome Break, UK.
  8. ^ Welcome Break joins KFC to bypass ad ban, CatererSearch, 26 May 2005.
  9. ^ Staff, Generation95 (31 December 2020). "Why Did the McDonald's at Fleet Services Close?". Generation95. Retrieved 18 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b WH Smith to open 33 travel stores at Welcome Break motorway service areas[dead link], Forbes.com, 05/02/07.
  11. ^ "ConnEVted: UK's 'first electric highway' announced". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  12. ^ grid-editor (8 June 2021). "GRIDSERVE | Ecotricity completes Electric Highway sale to GRIDSERVE". Retrieved 19 December 2021. ((cite web)): |last= has generic name (help)
  13. ^ SpeakEV forum
  14. ^ In 2020 the logo was remade with a new font and is no longer in all capital letters.David Fisher — Somerset Artist Archived 25 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading