If you’re hitting British roads, you might find yourself at a motorway service station for a bite to eat at some point. Perhaps you’ll find a meal from an array of fast-food chains like Starbucks, Papa John’s, and Burger King. The Economist recalls the eras prior when the motorway service station was a destination and not a pit stop.

British motorists were introduced to the motorway service station when the first one opened at Watford Gap in November 1959. Back then, they were novel and even glamorous. One station restaurant, Pennine Tower, was “excitingly modern,” providing diners a view of the roads and Lancashire countryside. Bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were known to stop at stations and “youngsters would hang out in them because they were some of the few places open 24 hours a day.” But a decade later, they came to be seen as “a national, even front-page, joke.”

The culture of motorway rest stops began to shift when former prime minister Sir John Major loosened state ownership of these facilities, opening the door to a new era of “high-street food brands.”

[via The Economist]