Roadchef; from serving 52 million customers over the counter, to serving over £4 million to customers in need

Here to serve

Roadside service staff are always there for people in their hour of need. We have all breathed a sigh of relief on seeing a sign mapping the way to the next available services. Whether you’re tired, hungry or thirsty, these guardians of the motorway can be relied on, all over the country, around the clock. It’s truly a blessing that companies, such as Roadchef, manage posts across the UK, to provide us with what we need when we’re far away from home.

Roadchef was founded in 1973, as a joint venture between Lindley Catering Investments and Galleon World Travel, in the form of a single rest stop. This break into the industry has carried the company to the present day, where it holds 30 locations across the UK and has seen its most exciting development, earlier this year. In April, the company was acquired by the asset-managing arm of Macquarie Group, under its European infrastructure fund – a move heralded by Mike Jackson, Director of Supply Chain and Head of Charity: “It’s the biggest news, without a doubt,” Mike opens. “Macquarie is an internationally renowned company. It’s going to make a huge difference to Roadchef’s growth and potential projects. It’s all very exciting.”

Dream team
The takeover swept through as the savior to bring some calm to the second half of a tumultuous period for the industry. Despite Roadchef being listed as the third largest Motorway Service Area (MSA) provider and holding 22 percent market share at the time of sale, the company has felt the squeeze between the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Mike details, “We were all impacted by Covid personally, as the business was too. It was challenging: maintaining, rebuilding and then growing the company throughout the pandemic, but we pulled together as a team and worked through the last year. We more or less managed to get things back to where they were, until 2022 hit and we were faced with another tragedy.” He pauses: “God bless them, our friends in Ukraine. They are still going through it.”

The resultant effects have led to increases in costs throughout the industry, and have combined with the energy crisis and other supply chain challenges. However, Roadchef’s future is bright, as Mike adds: “We are being well-supported by our new owners. Thankfully, this is allowing us to do everything we can to work together with our suppliers, distributors and franchise-partners, and collaboratively, we are managing these new costs.”

Charity partnerships
Throughout Mike’s career with Roadchef, there has been a surge in one of the company’s less obvious sectors – charity work. With Mike standing as the Head of Charity, he marvels at everything the team has achieved in raising millions for a number of noteworthy causes: “It still confounds me how we go from strength-to-strength with our fundraising. I can’t explain why it’s become so successful. I have worked for Roadchef for 13 years and been involved in all of the charity work for the last 11. I remember the NSPCC was the first charity partner we worked with, over an 18 month period, and in that time we managed to raise around £150,000. Ever since then, things have continued to grow. I’m sure that the experience we have gained in terms of ticking the correct boxes and getting people involved with the fundraisers has been a part of the success, however it also depends on the partners we are working with – its not all down to Roadchef. We have also formed partnerships with Marie Curie, the National Air Ambulance for whom we collected £600,000, a joint mission with the breast and prostate cancer appeals and finally, Cancer Research UK.

Ahead of the curve
“Without stating the obvious, Cancer Research is amazing at what it does,” he continues. “Although we’ve honed our approach to raising the most we can for these partnerships, it’s not all down to us or the participation of our fantastic colleagues. A huge power behind the wealth of support this duo receives is the combination of the charity’s experience with the relatable nature of its subject. We will soon be announcing our next huge milestone in our targets – we have hit £4 million in what is our fifth year of working with Cancer Research, despite the two years of lull that Covid, and now the cost-of-living crisis, has created. We raised £2 million in the first two years supporting the cause alone, so we’re aiming to hit £5 million by the end of our sixth.”

As well as charity work, Mike is responsible for managing Roadchef’s sustainability initiatives and its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies. Macquarie holds both elements high on its agenda, which will allow Mike to continue building upon everything Roadchef has already done towards reducing its carbon footprint. He states: “I am becoming more involved with Macquarie on everything relating to sustainability. Over the years we have carried out a number of projects, including investing in green energy, recycling and working towards zero to landfill, and I am confident in our current predictions in continuing to be ahead of the curve in years to come.”

The highway to success is wide-open for Roadchef. It already had the mission but now with even greater means at its disposal, there’s no measure as to how far the company will be able to continue in serving the community, whether raising money for those in need, working towards making our motorways greener or providing somewhere for drivers to rest and recuperate.