The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is considering a proposal to relax the law which bans alcohol from being sold at motorway service stations and allow operators to open bars at on-site motels.
The move has come after last year's damning OFT inquiry into motorway catering which found that complaints by motorists about the lack of value for money in restaurants were justified.
The OFT has promised to press for improvements to the service customers receive at service areas but the operators say the strict rules that govern what can be sold on the motorway must be relaxed before they can meet customers' demands.
Stringent rules mean service areas are not allowed to be turned into "retail destinations" but operators are pushing for controlled access to alcohol as well as other improvements such as a dry cleaners or supermarket.
Paul Kelly, the Compass Group executive responsible for the Moto chain which was formerly Granada Motorway Services, said there is to be extensive research carried out into consumers' views of the service areas.
"I think in the next 18 months to two years we might see some progress," he said.
He added that even a partial relaxation of the alcohol ban would bring the UK's 76 service areas into line with those on the Continent which can offer wine and beer with meals.