On the way to vacation: fuel, drinks, snacks… why is everything so expensive at motorway service stations?
On the way to vacation, many drivers stop at motorway service stations in search of a sandwich, a cold drink or a few liters of petrol. And the note is often salty. We explain why.
You’ve probably already noticed that shopping at a motorway rest area is expensive and that a sandwich for less than 5 euros is a challenge.
Our colleagues from France Television have calculated the price of a basket made up of a bottle of water, a sandwich and a packet of cakes bought on the motorway: the result is that the bill at a rest stop is twice as salty as at a conventional supermarket.
And at the pump it’s no better, where the prices of each fuel are increased by about 10 cts.
Significant operating costs
How can these differences be explained? As we wrote last summer, the first explanation lies in the economic model implemented by the state on the highways with the principle of concession.
The latter entrusts private groups such as Vinci, Sanef, APRR with the management of the motorways for a period of 10 to 15 years. It’s up to them to place oil tankers there, but also companies in charge of managing catering at rest stops, such as Autogrill or Areas, who decide to host the different catering brands.
The operators selected to manage the rest areas pay a set-up fee and a sales commission.
It is also necessary to take into account the logistical costs inherent in the companies located at the motorway service areas. The rest areas scattered across the motorway network are sometimes far away from the camps, which causes additional costs for delivery.
Restrictions affecting invoices
Finally, the areas must be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but also provide free toilets and showers for drivers. So many services that incur costs that traders pass on to the prices they charge.
So, to avoid skyrocketing the bill, several solutions are possible. Anticipate first by preparing your cooler for sandwiches and cold drinks, but also your thermos of coffee before you leave. Or take the time to get off the freeway for something cheaper to eat.
Heading into a new era for territories?
According to Le Parisien, some retailers are trying to change their image by also offering cheaper rest stops.
This is the case of Sanef, which manages the motorways of northern and eastern France. Vincent Fanguet, one of his leaders interviewed by our colleagues, affirms that “we are working to moderate tariffs”.
Since the beginning of summer, seven of his areas have offered “coffee for a maximum of 1 euro, a 1.5-liter bottle of water for a maximum of 0.90 euros and light catering for a maximum of 5 euros,” he says. “We intend to develop this system as our contracts with sub-concessionaires are renewed in early 2023.”
Similar devices were installed at APRR, which told Le Parisien that they wanted to “break that image of high costs on the Autobahn”.
And the observation is obviously definitive, since the areas affected by these cheaper prices are logically much more frequented than before. How do you drive the era change for motorway service stations?