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15 October, 2021

Ol’ fashion service

REMEMBER when you could pull up to a service station and actually receive real ‘service’? That is, a fuel attendant would not only fill up for you, but also check your car’s oil, water and tyre pressure?

By David Gardiner

In a couple of places in Cairns, this rare, personalised attention still exists, and these servos are filling what has become a niche market, once an everyday norm in the retail fuel industry.

Stratford Service Station in Rinks Close, Stratford is enjoying strong local support for its full driveway service, its customers happy to keep coming back even if their local doesn’t always offer the cheapest fuel in town.

‘Strattie Servo’ owner Michael Salerno has had the business for three and a half years. He bought it off the Trinity Petroleum group, from where his business continues to source its fuel wholesale.

Michael says there are customers who return to his driveway from all over, not just the local area, because they love the service.

“We get people who drive from the northern beaches, from the south, they really appreciate it,” he says.

Earlier this week, we compared the Stratford Servo’s unleaded regular price per litre with several others in and around the Cairns area. On average, Stratford’s was slightly higher at a little over $1.57   – two or three cents per litre difference, but in many cases lower than some of the ‘big’ brands, one of which had their unleaded at almost $1.62 on the same day.

“We’ve got a very good following, very loyal customers, particularly in our local community here who want to support local and I think since COVID, people want to keep their money in Cairns and support local,” Michael says, “rather than giving it to the ‘big boys’. I think they get enough as it is.”

Even though motorists know Stratford Service Station’s fuel prices are never going to be as low as the big petroleum names’ outlets, Michael says when it comes down to a $2-$2.50 difference on a fill-up, his customers are “happy to pay that little bit extra because they are supporting a small local business.”

“One thing we pride ourselves on is service, and I’d like to think that we set the bar high there.”

There is another aspect of the personalised service – the social contact that it also brings, and the chance to have a “chin-wag,” as he puts it, with a regular opportunity to connect with their customers.

Strattie Servo’s driveway service and attention works well for families, senior citizens and people with mobility issues, who don’t have to get out of their cars. The attendant, in many cases Michael himself, comes right to the driver’s window.

“We even bring the EFTPOS out to the car for families that’ve got kids in the car, a few people with disabilities, a service that you don’t see in service stations these days.”

Like so many other small business owners in the region, Michael is also looking forward to the day when both international and domestic tourism levels get back to somewhere near pre-COVID times. In the meantime, he is thankful for the local support for his decision to bring back the service to the service station.


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