On the way to vacation, many motorists stop at highway service areas in search of a sandwich, a cold drink or a few liters of fuel. The note is often salty. We explain why.
I’ve definitely noticed that shopping in the comfort zone on the highway is expensive and finding a sandwich for under €5 is a challenge.
Our colleagues from France Television evaluated the price of a basket bought on the highway, consisting of a bottle of water, a sandwich and a box of cake: as a result, the bill is twice as salty in the service area as in traditional shops.
And no better at the pump where, whatever the fuel, prices go up by about 10p.
Big running costs
How do we explain these differences? As we wrote last summer, the first explanation lies in the economic model that the state applies to highways with the principle of privilege.
Thus, the latter entrusts private groups such as Vinci, Sanef and APRR, the management of highways for 10 to 15 years. It is up to them to place the oil tankers there as well as the companies responsible for managing the catering in rest areas such as Autogrill or areas, which will decide to accommodate the various catering brands.
The operators selected to manage the remaining areas pay a fee to set up there, as well as a commission on the turnover.
It is also necessary to take into account the logistical costs inherent to companies located in highway service areas. The remaining areas scattered on the highway network are sometimes far from the warehouses, which leads to additional costs on delivery.
Restrictions that affect billing
Finally, areas should be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but also to provide free restrooms and showers to drivers. Lots of services have a cost that merchants pay to the prices they charge.
So, to avoid seeing the bill go up, there are several possible solutions. Expect first, by preparing before leaving the cooler for sandwiches and cold drinks, but also for preparing your coffee. Or take the time to get off the highway to grab a snack for less.
Towards a new era for the regions?
According to Le Parisien, in an effort to change their image, some merchants are also trying to offer cheaper service areas.
Such is the case of Sanef, which operates motorways in northern and eastern France. Vincent Vanget, one of its leaders interviewed by our colleagues, ensures “work on adjusting tariffs”.
Since the beginning of summer, in seven of its regions, “coffee costs a maximum of 1 euro, a 1.5-liter bottle of water at a maximum of 0.90 euros, and a light food offer at a maximum of 5 euros,” he says. “We intend to develop this system as our contracts with sub-franchisees are renewed at the beginning of 2023.”
Similar devices have been placed in APRR, which told Le Parisien it wanted to “break this high-cost picture on the highway”.
The note is obviously final because the areas involved in these reasonable prices are logically more hesitant than before. How to change the era of rest areas on the highway?