The Great ATR Waste of Space

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AstroDan, 15th Apr 2021.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I am not particularly fussed about a lack of merchandise shops, but I think a retail shop should still exist in each area of the park - not just for merchandise. The biggest frustration is the fact that the park is just filled with these empty/mothballed units. When I typed up the list for the initial post, I really didn't think there would be SO many!
     
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  2. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    I think that is something that I also feel. Most of the buildings at Towers just seem like façades. Everything feels so baron and lifeless. Shops, f&b outlets, hell even the odd arcade give the areas some sort of liveliness. Just think how depressing CCL has felt these last few years. It wasn't just the lack of attractions that made the area feel like it did.

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    Last edited: 15th Apr 2021
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  3. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I don't think the resort's marketing division really help, either. With them, it's always about what's new. Never about what's old. When Air was converted into Galactica, some serious thought went into that shop, with a nice lighting package and some cool effects. But then, as soon as the ride is no longer flavour of the month in the marketing department, they move on to whatever is next. Literally, within a couple of years, an entire shop - which will have cost thousands to kit out, is just shuttered. Currently flavour of the month remains the Wicker Man shop, CBeebies Land shop and, probably, Raj's Shop. But for Raj's Shop, they aren't even using the actual large shop in the area - instead, just the corner of the building Gangsta Granny is in.

    I think marketing need to focus more widely on all attractions, rather than just whatever has had the most recent capex.

    Mothballed units - hardly a good look, is it?

    Do Chessington and Thorpe have the same number of shuttered outlets? Thorpe I know the Swarm shop is not listed on the website... but aside from that?
     
  4. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    I think they had fewer shops to start with. From memory the Saw shipping container shop has closed, but can’t think of many others.

    but yes opening an exit shop with the big new ride and then closing it a few years later is very short sighted. I wonder how many years the Wickerman store has.
     
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  5. Ian

    Ian TS Site Team Team Member

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    F&B has long been the weak link at the theme park. It’s a massively condensed and uninspiring offering. Hopefully if we are to see increased hours moving forward we may start to see the addition of more dining options. When you’re only opening for 6 hours a day I can understand the reluctance of many guests to want to sit down for a meal for an hour or so. True destination resorts like DLP and Europa have more chance to push these sorts of dining experiences as you have far more multi-day guests or people on holiday who are willing to take a chunk of time out of their day.

    With that said though, EP and Phantasialand both have a wide variety of takeaway outlets (for me personally DLP offers great table service but I do find the quick service outlets hit and miss), which proves that you don’t need all out table service to deliver a good mix of food. Towers’ offers a bland, beige selection of fast food which looks like it’s from a bygone era. Times have changed, as have attitudes to dining. Casual dining saw a huge surge in popularity with chains like Nando’s capitalising on this. Yes, it’s just chicken, but it feels like something more than a hot dog or burger.

    On retail, for me, the biggest shame is the mothballing of the Galactica shop (though it wasn’t a patch on the Air shop) and X-Sell. When X-Sell in particular reopened from its refurb it was clear to see they’d spent a fair bit of money on it, and it looked great as a result. Now the most you can see are the Oblivion logo lighting fixtures. It’s such a waste.
     
  6. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    To be fair they did try to get more casual dining by adding waited service meals to the park, first with Rita’s Ribs (now woodcutters), then the pizza buffet, followed by rollercoaster restaurant and the change at towers st grill from canteen style to waited service (even if that didn’t last). Chessington at one point served peri peri chicken but that changed to smoked bbq.
    What’s lacking again now is good variety of fast food.
     
  7. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Wouldn't Fountain Square be great with some food trucks around the edge? Walibi Holland have a few in a grassed area serving a variety of foods. They are all run in house:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    It's a UK park, the first thing they need to do is get Fish and Chips back. How can you not serve Fish and Chips in a British theme park? Would be like having an American park without hamburgers and a German one without Hotdogs.

    Imagine if you just opened a chip shop, themed to a chip shop in this Walliams area. It would fit with the theme and use an existing building.

    Towers Street Bar and Grill also. Nothing says Victorian Street like a good old English boozer serving roast dinners, ham egg and chips etc.

    If seems the strategy with retail, currently, is consolidation. Chuck everything into one big shop because it's cheaper to run. But I don't see why you can't have someone in Dark Forest, FV and X Sector flogging photo's, merch, snacks etc all at the same time. These assets are already there to be used, they just need to be spruced up and used. I get that there's a quality and ranging issue to consider also. But flogging to someone after they've just come off a ride they've loved is striking whilst the iron is hot, whilst they're emotionally attached to the brand. Funnelling them all in to a packed shop on the way out the park at the end of the day isn't the way to do it.

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  9. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    Donuts and Chocolate Fountain were also there as I recall.

    If it was making money, I am not sure it would ever have gone away?
     
  10. MaxPower

    MaxPower TowersStreet Member

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    If they actually gave people the time to stop and eat in the restaurants it would be a start.

    The opening hours have been so poor in recent years you don't really have the hour or so to waste stopping to eat, normally eating on the go is necessary.

    The shocking quality and value of the food on site doesn't help either.
     
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  11. Benzin

    Benzin TowersStreet Member

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    Huh, didn't realise those were permanent food trucks. Suits the park's remit though and if I recall the food I had from there was filling and not too pricey.

    At Towers I only tend to have lunch at Woodcutters after Courtyard BBQ went. But that's purely down to the very limited options elsewhere. Tried Coaster Restaurant but had a terrible experience with mediocre food so won't bother again (especially as it's alway exceptionally busy).

    Without much option of places to go it leaves everywhere else struggling with demand. And that's the biggest problem when people are waiting over an hour to get food let alone eat it.
     
  12. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    I assumed following the fire it was a combination of not wanting to risk the fire, coffee and sandwiches aren’t a risk, as well as coffee being a higher margin product. Whereas what would have served guests better is re-opening [email protected] with he new premium coffee and re-opening fish and chips to give a further hot food option.
    It must have been selling well enough?
     
  13. venny

    venny TowersStreet Member

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    RCR is the proof that people will visit and spend time in restaurants if they are enticing enough, be that via their gimmick or quality of offer; RCR clearly being the former.

    I understand the reason for perhaps not locating a restaurant on Towers Street, since it is one of the quietest areas of the park around lunchtime. That said though, with CBeebies Land being ever popular and the addition of what appears to be a semi-permanent stage, that area is now likely to be busier than perhaps it would have been a few years ago. Would a full refurb of Towers St Restaurant be popular, if it offered similar enticement as RCR? Perhaps a Sir Algenon restaurant, which perfectly overlooks the Towers and with the addition of a few characters could work. Darwin has made a spectacular comeback, so him and Sir Alg walking around the restaurant might be a nice USP, with no need for an IP licence.

    You could sell it to people with the characters as they wander in or offer a bolt-on to ticket purchases perhaps. Later opening hours also offers the opportunity to cover both lunch and dinner time services.
     
  14. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    I don't think this is the case. Your local chippy would probably have 2 or 3 people running it, charging competitive prices with other outlets in the area and would have to have bought or be renting the premises. I've never seen a local chippy trade the way venue would at Towers. We don't know the commercial reasons behind Towers closing these outlets, so you've raised a good point. For all we know, Merlin could've slapped an unreasonable operating budget on the park and left the park to decide how to spend it. Park management could have decided they would cut back on these things rather than ride operations etc.

    For all we know, this could've been a detachment between the park having to deliver the best experience within the budget they have, with the parent company looking after the P&L. Seems the epitome of the disconnect between top down central management and actual operations locally on the ground but I've been in this situation many times at work and have made such decisions myself. Damaging the brand and profitability of the business, but they said I had to deliver that budget or else, so I did.

    Also, it's quite conceivable that money being made from some of these outlets was limited when you only 1.7m guests visiting and the park closes at 4pm. If we're going to have longer opening hours and a better park experience going forward, it would be wise to look at making as much money out of people as they can.

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  15. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    If the park is planning to do more and more 8PM closes, then surely a refurbed and re-opened Towers St. Restaurant makes perfect sense, especially if you can advertise it to people on the way in to the park? With a USP or just a decent menu, guests will clock it and think, "We can eat there before heading home." Would also take the pressure off some of the hotel dining options (also limited)

    'Pop-up' food trucks and dining experiences, quality with a bit of novelty, are now more part-and-parcel of life in the UK, arguably in the same way that KFC and McDonalds were back in the late-nineties. I don't see why they can't fold that in?
     
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  16. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    They did a partial refurb to Towers St a few years ago, removing the canteen counters and adding a bar so operations became more like Woodcutters. But I think it was one of the first victims of the cuts following the Smiler incident. They now have RCR and Woodcutters offering sit down meals and the pizza buffet.

    I actually think pushing RCR as the "exit" restaurant into the evening makes a bit more sense as it offers a gimmick. But I would like to see Towers St return for 2022. But it needs a new menu. Woodcutters and RCR both do the burgers/chicken/ribs type menu. They need something different.

    Oh and character dining would make sense. I am surprised they haven't done "dine with your favourite CBeebies characters".
    A buffet is often good for character meals, but they could do what Disney offer at some places, but isn't so common here with "family style" dining, where a platter to share is brought to the table, so its unlimited like a buffet but served to you.
     
  17. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    I think Towers Street Pub and Carvery would work. All day breakfast and Carvery from lunch time. All hot plate stuff that can be batch cooked so isn't labour intensive. Nothing says British more than an all day fry up and roast dinner. Some traditional pub signage on Towers Street and by the patio, some posh looking barrier banners and a big ass menu board outside. They'd need to sort the inside though and cover up that 1970's public toilet tiled floor they have in there with a carpet and make it feel homely.

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  18. Alsty

    Alsty TowersStreet Member

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    I always get the impression that the Merlin parks just treat food as subsistence. The assumption that anything quick and vaguely edible will do, and that's all that people want.

    There's a whole missed opportunity with different offerings. If the food is decent then people will spend more money on it and actually enjoy it too, which adds up the overall quality of the day you have.
     
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  19. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Shame they got rid of the canteen style buffet counters! I think they did try carvery one of the last seasons before the counter was removed. I agree it should be a good option. Can offer full carvery, or just hot meat sandwiches for a lighter option.

    Yep. I think the other evidence of this is when they removed the British meals offered at Warwick Castle in the Undercroft (I used to love the giant yorkshire with the giant sausage wheel!) and replaced it with the same pizza buffet the theme parks offer. The pizza isn't on "theme" with Warwick Castle at all and wouldn't be something an international guest expects to see in a British castle. Its just a way of offering cheap mass food to annual passholders.
     
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  20. rob666

    rob666 TowersStreet Member

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    Do you think they would up their food standards if 'spoons built a three storey two hundred table pub just over the boundary.
    And I know it ain't likely.
     

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