My family spent the past couple of days at the Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, UK and finished it all off with a meal at the brand new (we’re talking less than a week old) Rollercoaster Restaurant in the Forbidden Valley area of the Alton Towers theme park. So how does the concept and food stack up?
The Rollercoaster Restaurant Concept
The Rollercoaster Restaurant features a unique concept in delivering food to your table. Once you’re taken over to your table by the very polite staff, you’re presented with a tablet computer which becomes your server for the experience. Select your numbered seat (each central table has four semi circular tables attached with four seats each) and choose your food. We ate at about 3:30pm so we were selecting from the lunch menu which offers a range of beef, chicken and veggie burgers, steak, salads and the usual fare while the evening menu from 5pm-10pm (after the park’s closing but ideal for those staying at the resort) adds options such as the Super Looper dish of steak and buttered lobster tail, lemon & thyme chicken, and much more.
So once your order is placed from the tablet, you only need to wait a couple of minutes and your order will start rolling down from the kitchen on the first floor through over 400m of track at up to 20mph (thankfully in specially designed sealed pans) overhead to the spiral of track in the centre of each table. Each dish is labeled with the seat number so they can easily be dished out to the right person. Its a great experience watching your food on its journey across the restaurant to your table, and I was surprised how quickly the order started to arrive with us.
The event of your food arriving is pretty magical! It would be great if there was some kind of alert on the tablet or a flashing light on the table so you knew your food was on the way and could watch its whole journey. We were surprised how fast the first dishes arrived and missed most of their fun trip to the table.
It should be pointed out that right now you will absolutely need a reservation to eat at the Rollercoaster Restaurant, we tried to move ours earlier in the day and although the restaurant didn’t look too busy, we were told they were fully booked. I’m not sure if that’s because they’re not quite running at full capacity just yet or if there was simply a lot of tables on their way.
With a burger and fries coming in between £11.95 and £14.95 regardless of the time of day and steaks starting from £15.95 at lunch time or £21.95 in the evening, the pricing is somewhere between casual dining and a normal restaurant.
The food itself was a little inconsistent, while the burger was certainly tasty and served on a very cool brioche bun with a Rollercoaster loop on the top, the seasoned fries were a mix of fairly cold and pretty hot, suggesting it was a mix of old and new.
The side salad was a good size but didn’t seem massively fresh with some browned lettuce creeping in. The kids fish and chips ordered for my son was HUGE and tasty, though having a single portion size for all kids is a problem across many restaurants. A 2 year old toddler doesn’t eat the same as a 12 year old, which seems to be the target audience for these portions.
Don’t get me wrong – the food was really tasty and arrived really quickly, we’re talking a matter of 2-3 minutes from sending the order to the kitchen which is great, especially in the daytime when you just want to grab a bite to eat and get right back to the main attraction, the rides in the park.
Now, I fully understand the Rollercoaster Restaurant is brand new and probably not in full operation just yet, but there are a few things that could really do with tweaking. This is just a few thoughts from one quick visit. These are all easy fixes!
Confusing ordering system
The tablet ordering is pretty cool, but it wasn’t explained very clearly and took us a couple of attempts at trial and error to get it right. You have to place the order for each seat and send it to the kitchen before going back to the main menu to choose another seat and sending that order to the kitchen. Surely it would be easier to simply allow guests to order for all the seats in their group and send to the kitchen together?
There also seems to be no way to stop someone using the tablet to order something for a person in a seat not in their group, though we didn’t try this. Maybe there could be a better introduction from the staff who seat you or a quick (and skippable for those who aren’t dining there for the first time) guide or video on how to order?
The tablet system allows guests to order beers to their table delivered by the Rollercoaster system just like the food, but without an in person server I’m confused about how the restaurant controls whether anyone underage is ordering themselves alcohol, or having alcohol ordered for them in what is after all a family venue in a family theme park. There may be systems in place but I didn’t see any evidence of that.
We were instructed to order our starters first and only order our mains when we were finished with starters, which made a lot of sense when we saw how fast the food was delivered after ordering, as clearly the food is cooked fast food style and held, simply being added to the capsules when ordered and dispatched, but that makes the steaks which you order cooked to your preference confusing for me. Do they hold back the rest of the order when a steak is ordered, and if so how does that work with sending the individual seat orders to the kitchen one at a time. The team at the Rollercoaster Restaurant may have a solution in place for this already, but I would have been tempted to just leave the steak off of the lunch menu and keep the tables turning quicker.
Kids Plates and Cutlery
This can be a bug bear at a lot of restaurants, but there was no provision of smaller, less fragile flatware or cutlery for kids. When the capsules of food arrive at your table you grab your own plates, cutlery, glasses and condiments from the Lazy Susan rotating table under the Rollercoaster spiral, but the plates are so big they don’t fit on the trays of the high chairs. It may be a case of just realising a couple of days before the opening “Guys, we don’t have any high chairs…” and having to pick them up last minute before the first guests had arrived, but going into an restaurant with a young family gives a completely different perspective on how the industry runs (and if you’re reading this Alton Towers, we’d be delighted to have a chat about how to make life easier for those with young children!)
The Rollercoaster Restaurant is GREAT! Please don’t let those little things above make you think we didn’t love it, it was a fantastic experience, but there are a few tweaks that could make it even more amazing, and I only list them here as they might just make you think, if you’re in the bar and restaurant industry about those little things that you might have overlooked in your own business. See the experience from a guest’s point of view and you might take out a couple of minor pain points and make their visit even more amazing!
We’re looking forward to eating there again, perhaps on our next visit from the full evening menu to see how the night time experience differs from the lunch service. Overall, the restaurant has great potential and its a great experience dining there!
This post is in collaboration with MommaBoss.co.uk, my lovely wife who’s written more about our son Ollie’s adventures at Alton Towers and CBeebies land here.
Find the official page for the Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers Here