Motorway service operator Welcome Break will not be relying on government support to help it through the upcoming months of uncertainty, CEO John Diviney has said.

Of the opinion that schemes put in place earlier in the year were “superb”, Diviney told MCA’s The Conversation that the business is now much better prepared to tackle whatever lies ahead, and it will henceforth be “looking to ourselves to provide the solutions for ourselves, rather than being reliant on government for every solution.

“We will endeavour to get a lot more efficient, to get through this next storm, and come out stronger, like we have done already,” he said. “We will batten down the hatches and get through the winter and get ready for the bright spring and summer to follow.”

More fortunate than most, by nature of the service it provides Welcome Break and other motorway operators are exempt from the 10pm curfew on hospitality, though he says this is something the sub-sector had to lobby for.

“It was a challenge that Welcome Break and other operators in the motorway industry came up against during the initial lockdown, where we were trying to provide seating areas and hot food and beverages to the key workers who travelled the roads in the evening,” he said.

“So, when [the curfew] became apparent, we were very quick to get in touch to say that we need the provision to be able to provide those services this time around.”

But despite being an exception to the rule, he was keen to add that it is only in order to grant a specific service for a specific customer base, and that the sites are “not there to take trade from the local village or the local town or local city.”

“We’re really to service those people who are travelling the motorway networks between 10pm and 5am,” he said. “And we haven’t experienced an uptick in trade in those hours because all our brands are available on delivery after 10pm anyway.”

With sites spanning Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, Diviney explained that keeping track of changing regulations across different jurisdictions is a “daily event,” presenting a never-ending challenge for its health and safety and operations teams.

“Dealing with the different regulations in the different territories can often present a challenge,” he said. “So, we’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money making sure our service areas are correctly laid out with one-way systems, PPE for our team members and customers, the right signage, sanitizer stations and so on.

“It’s really important that whilst our customers are taking their rest, they feel safe in the environment that they’re in.”

Looking ahead, whilst he expects the business to have a challenging Q4 2020 into Q1 2021, Diviney said that judging by its post-lockdown experience, Welcome Break should experience a strong spring and summer season next year.

“We had a very strong bounce back across the summer periods, and from April onwards I would see our business in particular picking up strongly again as we get back towards staycations,” he said.

“People will have been cooped up for a long time in their houses if it does continue that long, and will be keen to get out and to see the Great British countryside.

“I’m hopeful that trade will bounce back quickly once we get through this winter and get back towards a normalised trading environment, but it’s definitely going to be a slow start to the year.”