Alton Towers, the theme park resort owned by Merlin Entertainments, will offer a novel twist on dining when its unique ‘rollercoaster’ restaurant launches this May. With dishes set to loop-the-loop their way to diners’ tables, FEJ buckled itself in and spoke to Christophe Thuriot, head of food and beverage at Alton Towers Resort, about the sort of kitchen set-up required to make the concept fly.
There are ‘rollercoaster’ restaurants currently operating in Europe and Abu Dhabi. Who did you work with for the design and installation of the special tracks?
The Rollercoaster Restaurant is a concept from the company Heinemack, which developed the existing restaurants in Europe and Abu Dhabi. The Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers Resort will be the UK’s first.
The location of the kitchen was a key consideration for the design to ensure efficient deliveries and waste disposal.
How will the food actually be delivered to the table? Will it be sent in special sealed pans?
The food will be delivered on the spiralling rollercoaster track by sealed dishes which are supplied by Heinemack.
What sort of kitchen has been built to support the Rollercoaster Restaurant?
The Rollercoaster Restaurant required a brand new suspended kitchen on two floors and above part of a rollercoaster. The kitchen is at a height to enable food to be sent down the tracks and spiral onto the tables.
How will the kitchen be staffed?
We will have approximately eight chefs and 30 employees (between 12 and 15 on a daily basis). The restaurant will be open from 11am till 10pm with a different and more premium evening menu available for guests staying over as part of a short break.
All dishes will be delivered on the rollercoaster track in specific pans — the menu was designed with this in mind due to restrictions on height and overall weight of the dish. The food also needs to be able to tackle the loop-the-loops!
Does the kitchen contain any specialist foodservice equipment to account for the unique design of the restaurant?
The kitchen is operated and designed as per a normal working kitchen; the difference is that the food is sent in a dish on a track instead of a waiter coming to collect it, therefore creating a dining experience with a twist!
What happens once the food is cooked and ready to be served? Do the kitchen staff simply place it onto the track?
Our guests will order the food themselves on special tablets. These orders are then sent directly to the kitchen and will be collated on screens where the food will be freshly prepared by the kitchen team and then sent to the dispatch area ready to spiral down the tracks to the correct tables. There will be 13 tracks delivering to 156 covers and encompassing two gravity-defying loop-the-loops!
One of the biggest challenges has been developing the ordering system to allow guests to make their own order and this is currently under development. Ensuring a high quality menu has also been a challenge with the service restrictions, however each of the dishes will be put through its paces at the resort’s extensive test centre to guarantee that each one can withstand the force.
400m: The length of the track
8 metres: The steepest part of the drop
13: Number of tables served by the track
173 miles: The average distance that each dish will travel each week