The Great ATR Waste of Space

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
In recent years, we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of mothballed sites at Aton Towers. That is to say, sites that were formerly used for a ride, F&B or retail. When comparing the number of said sites at Alton Towers, it dwarfs the number of equivalents at any other UK Merlin Park and ultimately results in less choice for guests whether in terms of retail or food/beverage. It seems as though once an outlet is lost, Alton struggle to then re-open it.

Let's take a look at the non-ride spaces (so, for example, no mention of Nemesis Sub Terra nor the temporary ride locations for 2021 as this appears to be something the resort are actively seeking to sort):

  • Galactica Store - only opened recently and tastefully decorated within the theme of the ride. This outlet is now boarded up, bringing an end to any retail store in the entire Forbidden Valley area of the park
  • [email protected] - this outlet has been mothballed for some years now, removing a former healthy food and beverage offer from the park
  • Burger Kitchen (FV) - this outlet has opened although has been substantially downsized. Now offering hot dogs and fries rather than the more expansive Burger Kitchen menu
  • UNIT-NST - OK, so this is less of an issue but, irrespective, this 'mini shop' barely lasted a few months before it was consigned to the past and now holds a few vending machines
  • Gloomy Wood Kiosk - this is closed and had vinyl posters blocking off where guests would formerly have made a purchase
  • Nitrogenie - currently closed and boarded up with vinyls/signs
  • Caricature Stand - closed
  • Katanga Cabin - this kiosk has been removed and replaced with drinks machines for capsules
  • Towers Street Bar & Grill - this venue is now unused. The foyer area is now home to drinks machines
  • Towers Street Photo Booth - now closed, boarded up
  • Courtyard BBQ - although it has been used as a bar briefly, this outlet has been gone for some years. Rumours of a Smokehouse were rife a few years ago, but this has never seen the light of day
  • Sepia Photography / Lego Store - this venue is now home to drinks machines
  • Th13teen Store - this retail space remains closed off
  • Rita Shop - this retail space remains unusued. It was briefly used as an information point but today stands mothballed
  • X-Sell - the Oblivion store was tastefully themed and enhanced... but closed barely two years later. It's been mothballed since
  • Spinball Noodles - the former [email protected] outlet has not seen any use for nearly ten years now
  • Corkscrew / Cave Games - this outlet is out of use
  • The Toy Store / Ice Age Shop - this venue is unused. There is a new, smaller shop in Walliams World on the site of the former café.
  • Queue line shops - a significant number were added but closed almost immediately. Total waste of investments across rides including the Rapids, Th13teen, Smiler, Galactica and more.
We can also count many removed venues such as Mexican Cantina, Wobble World Café, Pie & Mash, Pasties, Wraps and others that have been gone over the years. Others, have seen their menus reduced (such as Rehydrator Nachos becoming Donuts or Fish & Chips becoming a coffee lounge) or being offloaded to franchisees (such as Eastern Express in Dark Forest, which is always PACKED - why the hell Alton don't feel they can operate this outlet is insane). Even HB Leisure's presence in the park has diminished massively.

The list, as you can see above, is vast in scale.

Should the park now turn back to franchisees to run outlets again?
 
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Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
It is strange. Most theme parks have an abundance of F&B and retail outlets as this is where they make money once guests are in the park. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that the more good quality and varied choice there is, the more guests will spend. That is especially true when it comes to F&B.

When visiting Disneyland Resort in 2019 I was stopping to try all sort of different food and drinks options around both parks. Did I really need everything I had? Nope. But they enhanced the experience no end. It's the same at Europa-Park, where you are always tempted by a drink or perhaps a Marios pizza.

I can only assume that Alton Towers have determined that there are too many F&B and retail outlets that simply do not make enough money. And it is easier to simply get rid of them than it is to increase quality and add more variation to what is on offer.

Also, since when did wraps go from Mutinty Bay!? That's a shame as they were a decent lunch option.

Rollover hot dogs also need to be ditched!
 

Matt.GC

TS Member
I wouldn't personally go for franchised outlets. With the franchise fees involved, they'd just be giving away margin. I'd understand why a franchisee would want to open a McDonald's Drive Through on a busy road or open a Burger King in a shopping centre rather than just go it alone as Bob's Burgers because it's a recognised brand that would be worth the the franchise fee for the extra patronage. But Towers have a captive audience in a theme park.

I understand why some of those units no longer exist. I also understand a move towards self service to keep costs down. But there's a massive lack of retail and food and bev now on park, particularly concentrated in certain areas.

With longer opening hours, people will have more time to shop, eat and drink. There's tonnes of margin in prepared food and merch as well. If costs are a problem, I don't see why they can't combine retail with photography sales. This would work well in XSell and Galactica shop for example.

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Thameslink Rail

TS Member
Favourite Ride
The Smiler
Eastern Express and Pizza Pasta I think could do with larger spaces whereas Burger Kitchen near the Dungeons is always half empty (although I expect that to change when David Walliams opens)
 

Jonathan

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Helix <3
Mexican Cantina between about 2011 and 2013 was excellent, and my go-to eatery when on park. Such a shame that the product was diluted so badly and then ended up closing with no replacement.
 

Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
Mexican Cantina between about 2011 and 2013 was excellent, and my go-to eatery when on park. Such a shame that the product was diluted so badly and then ended up closing with no replacement.

Indeed. Mexincan Cantina used to be excellent! I think 2010/11 was the prime for me, and then every year thereafter it go ever so slightly worse.
 

Connor98

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Zadra
It is strange. Most theme parks have an abundance of F&B and retail outlets as this is where they make money once guests are in the park. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that the more good quality and varied choice there is, the more guests will spend. That is especially true when it comes to F&B.

When visiting Disneyland Resort in 2019 I was stopping to try all sort of different food and drinks options around both parks. Did I really need everything I had? Nope. But they enhanced the experience no end. It's the same at Europa-Park, where you are always tempted by a drink or perhaps a Marios pizza.

I can only assume that Alton Towers have determined that there are too many F&B and retail outlets that simply do not make enough money. And it is easier to simply get rid of them than it is to increase quality and add more variation to what is on offer.

Also, since when did wraps go from Mutinty Bay!? That's a shame as they were a decent lunch option.

Rollover hot dogs also need to be ditched!

I’ll second this... Rollover hotdogs are like the derby county of F&B at theme parks :rolleyes:;)
 

jmc

TS Member
The mothballing of F&B, shops, and other little bits and pieces (take the KC Caricature stand - now shuttered and had phone charging points placed in front) really not only vastly limit guest options throughout the day, they just generally make the park look abandoned.

It seems the approach with anything at Towers these days is to just plaster a vinyl over it and hope that disguises whatever was once there. Slightly off topic but I noticed the 13 baggage hold window now has quite literally 3 or 4 different botched covers and signs all over it now - but this is reflective of the entire park. All areas that once housed something are just botched and left to fall apart.

It does appear that in their attempt to monopolise F&B several years ago, they have bitten off more than they can chew. I for one would welcome the return of familiar brands.

In fairness to Towers, the vast scale of the park and how everything is spread out across it really does amplify the problem through no fault of their own.



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Connor98

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Zadra
Myself I’m all for bringing in some franchise names, such as the KFC that used to occupy a spot next to the rapids. Yes, I would much prefer something unique to Alton towers, with a high quality product. But at the end of the day It’s got to the stage now I’d take anything just to increase the options available to me on the day! It says something when a burger van on the lawns has just as high or even better quality fast food than the fast food outlets across the resort.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
There's no need to bring in a Burger King, KFC or Pizza Hut offer - because these are about the only things that ATR seem like they want to operate.

Variety is the spice of life, which is lacking at ATR.
 

jon81uk

TS Member
They are bringing in more external F&B, just in the form of vans on the lawns.
Last season it was part of Oktoberfest, this year I think some are in place already?

I kind of get the removal of retail if people aren't buying it anymore, but the removal of food makes no sense. Closing some kiosks (tuck shops) and replacing with self-service drinks cuts staff costs a little and probably improves satisfaction as those paying for refills will have shorter waits. But for people who just want a coffee or don't have a refill cup it means a longer walk to get something.

I think courtyard BBQ needs to return. The indoor burger kitchen next to the dungeon needs to be made more appealing to soak up crowds. There is a slight shortage of seating. Forbidden Valley really needs a proper fast food option. The coffee lounge should have stayed in the old refresh @ripsaw. The fish and chips should have re-opened as fish and chips. The BK in FV needs a decent amount of seating for it to be a viable option really.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
The lack of choice is more apparent when the park opens later, which seems to be the goal this year. Driving secondary spend is surely a massive part of extended hours - so why aren't Alton giving guests more choice?

It might be OK during event periods, but outside of those - it's very, very limited.

The idea that a guest at Galactica has to walk to Gloomy Wood for a retail outlet, and literally to the park entrance for any merchandise for the ride they just experienced is insane, too.
 
The decline isn’t sudden which is what upsets me. Take my former favourite F&B place. I used to start every visit with a trip to the coffee place at the bottom of Towers Street. nice cup of tea, bacon butty, friendly service and everything felt fresh.

early 2010’s drink replaced by horrid stale drinks reheated over and over again. Bacon buttys replaced by prepackaged waste and price sky rocketing even with MP discount.

this place used to offer plenty of food. Great seating. Just a place to chill. I don’t feel that any more.

other places are the same. 13 shop is missed greatly (by me at least) and it feels like it’s left to rot and is an eyesore or just confusing to guests who don’t know what it was.
I feel sad when I see the places boarded up. - the walk from gloomy woods to Katanga used to be pleasant with the shop, food place and caricature booth up to kfc (or pizza place) now it’s just another prolonged walk.

Point is I agree with OP sentiment. Come on Towers some love please
 

jon81uk

TS Member
The idea that a guest at Galactica has to walk to Gloomy Wood for a retail outlet, and literally to the park entrance for any merchandise for the ride they just experienced is insane, too.

Is "exit through the gift shop" really that common at other theme parks though? At Phantasialand I recall very few shops at all. Even Disneyland parks often only have one main shop per land (plus main street) and not as many rides as you think exit through gift shops.

I agree there probably should be a retail outlet in each land, but I'm not sure the demand is there for merchandise?

A unique snack stand in each land of the park and or fast food is needed though.
 

venny

TS Member
The Disney model has a minimum of one sizeable retail outlet per land, plus exit shops at the likes of POTC, Pooh, Splash Mountain etc. That is then supplemented by numerous smaller stall and stands. You’d be hard pressed to ever be more than 50 yards away from merchandise.

Contrast that to being stood in Dark Forest - I’m not even sure where the nearest merchandise location would be now. Perhaps the Garden Centre...
 

jon81uk

TS Member
The Disney model has a minimum of one sizeable retail outlet per land, plus exit shops at the likes of POTC, Pooh, Splash Mountain etc. That is then supplemented by numerous smaller stall and stands. You’d be hard pressed to ever be more than 50 yards away from merchandise.

Contrast that to being stood in Dark Forest - I’m not even sure where the nearest merchandise location would be now. Perhaps the Garden Centre...

But there is a greater demand for merchandise from Disney films, as well as their rides and other characters. I think the people who want a hoody with the Thirteen logo poorly printed onto it is much more limited.
I agree there isn't enough retail outlets in the park right now, but I don't think there is a huge need for them either, most people would probably rather pick something up on the way out of the park.

Phantasialand didn't have a huge amount of merchandise and I assume similar to AT there isn't a big market for items with ride logos on for them? I've not been to Europa Park, do they have a huge amount of shops?
 

venny

TS Member
Europa have a fair amount of shops - more than PL and AT, but less than Disney. Personally I’m not that bothered about the lack of merchandise shops, but it is shocking that there are now so few. There is something about a nicely themed retail experience that can add to an area.

I think the more pressing issue has got to be the F&B outlets though. As has been said, you can pick up your merch at the end of the day, but if you’re hungry then you don’t want to have to trudge to Towers Street to get a decent meal at lunchtime. I’m not sure you can even get a decent meal on Towers Street for that matter.
 

jon81uk

TS Member
Europa have a fair amount of shops - more than PL and AT, but less than Disney. Personally I’m not that bothered about the lack of merchandise shops, but it is shocking that there are now so few. There is something about a nicely themed retail experience that can add to an area.

I think the more pressing issue has got to be the F&B outlets though. As has been said, you can pick up your merch at the end of the day, but if you’re hungry then you don’t want to have to trudge to Towers Street to get a decent meal at lunchtime. I’m not sure you can even get a decent meal on Towers Street for that matter.

I think the only option on Towers St is whatever Corner Coffee has or maybe a rollover hotdog from a window.

Food options are roughly:
Towers St
Corner coffee
Hot Dogs
Drink refills

CBeebies
Lunch Box

X Sector
Fried Chicken
Snacks at rehydrator

Dark Forest
reheated kebabs, jacket potatoes etc by Eastern Express
snack kiosk
Woodcutters full service

Walliams/Towers/Cuckooland
Burger Kitchen (indoor seating)
kiosk outside the gateway

Mutiny Bay
Eastern Express curry
Eastern express kebab, sausage etc
Burger Kitchen
Hot Dogs
Donuts
Snack kiosk opposite battle galleons
drink refills
Other stuff opposite Wickerman?

Katanga Canyon
Pizza buffet
snack kiosk now self-service drinks

Gloomy wood
ice cream?
snack kiosk closed

Forbidden valley
Rollercoaster Restaurant
Coffee lounge
Nemices donuts
hotdogs from burger kitchen

That leaves two lands with no grab and go at all now!
 
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