The UK’s motorway service station in Cumbria

Views of the Cumbrian countryside from Tebay Services on the M6 freeway in the U.K.

Westmorland Family

When John and Barbara Dunning were informed that a freeway would be built through their farm in a remote part of the U.K., they saw an opportunity.

They built a rest stop with a difference.

The freeway (known in the U.K. as a motorway) was to cut through the Dunnings’ land in the region of Cumbria, a county known for its Lake District National Park, a striking mountainous landscape.

And the Dunnings didn’t have much choice in the matter because the U.K. government issued them with a compulsory purchase order, meaning they had to sell their land for the road to be constructed.

It was the late 1960s and the Dunnings, then in their thirties, decided to put up a fight. They won their bid to lease back the land from the government and build and run a rest area — Tebay Services — that would be the first family-run motorway service stop in the U.K., and one that focused on providing local produce.

“My dad had done a lot of research because everything was at stake, and they had to get it right,” the Dunnings’ daughter Sarah Dunning said of Tebay’s opening, speaking to CNBC by video call. “They couldn’t afford for it not to work,” she said.

The Junction 38 Truckstop at Tebay Services provides showers and hot food for drivers.

Westmorland Family

The rest stop, on the northbound carriageway of the M6 motorway, started life in 1972 as a place for drivers to refuel their vehicles and themselves, serving homestyle food in a 30-seat cafe alongside a small craft shop selling local goods. The Dunnings went into business with family bakery Birketts, a partnership that lasted more than 30 years.

Now, Tebay also has a rest area on the southbound carriageway, as well as a hotel and caravan park, and two shops that sell lamb and beef reared on the family’s farmland. It’s part of the Westmorland Family, a group run by Sarah Dunning, its chair, which operates two further rest areas — in the counties of Gloucestershire and Lanarkshire — as well as a community center with a cinema and cafe in Rheged, also in the Lake District.

The business employs around 1,200 people, has won numerous food awards and made revenue of £127 million ($162 million) in 2022, per its most recent annual report. In April 2022, King Charles III (then the Prince of Wales) visited Tebay Services farm shop to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

Most motorway rest areas in the U.K. are populated by big-name outlets such as Burger King, Krispy Kreme and coffee chain Costa and are run by operators like Welcome Break or Moto, but Tebay and the company’s other locations take a novel approach, Sarah Dunning said.

Tebay Services sells food from around 70 producers within a 30-mile radius.

Westmorland Family

“We are a very different model to other motorway service areas. Where they partner with franchisors … popular brands that I suppose cover all customer needs, we don’t have any brands in our business,” she…

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