At-seat refreshments ordering: My first thoughts

At seat ordering for food and drink is slowly becoming more common. LNER was the first UK rail operator to do so, offering it on board their trains from July 2020. And British Airways launched it on their Euro Traveller routes from London Heathrow in July 2021. For this article I’m looking at Avanti West Coast, who commenced their offering on trains from May 2021. But is it any good?

In short: yes, for a number of reasons. Firstly I think it makes on board food and drink more accessible to passengers with disabilities. There are many different reasons that someone might find it difficult to walk down a moving train to get refreshments, and being able to order them to their seat is a game changer. Secondly, I think I can speak on behalf of many passengers travelling alone when I say I don’t really want to leave my personal belongings unattended whilst I walk to Coach C.

It’s really simple to do as well. Just connect to the free onboard WiFi, then go to atseatorder.co.uk or scan the QR code on the seat in front of you. The system knows which train you’re on automatically, then allows you to enter your seat number and select your items. You can order hot and cold sandwiches, bakery items, hot and cold drinks, etc. You pay on your device and your food is normally delivered within ten minutes.

The prices aren’t too bad, not cheap like a supermarket of course but still fairly reasonable – my bacon butty, hot chocolate and 4-finger KitKat came to ¬£6.10. You can also save 20% by buying a voucher ahead of time.

The system isn’t perfect though. It seems to remember the seat number you sat in last time – good if you want to place a second order, but not so good if like me its remembered it from the previous day. Had I not noticed and changed it, my items would’ve been delivered to someone else.

Also, I didn’t actually order a KitKat, but one arrived – maybe it was part of a meal deal I’d qualified for with the other items? If so, it wasn’t clearly shown.

And lastly, the system asks what sauces you want with your butty, and what sugarys / milks / toppings you want with your hot drinks. But both times I used At Seat Order, everything came regardless of what I chose – this seems a little wasteful.

All things considered though, I think it’s fantastic! It opens up onboard catering to people who would’ve found it difficult to access before, and that can only be a good thing! I’d like to see more operators consider rolling this out, as I can see benefits over the traditional trolley service as well.

I also want to give a brief nod to Lumo. You can’t order from your seat, but you can pre-order food and drink to be delivered up to six hours before you depart. And this includes items from M&S, Upper Crust and The Pasty Shop, which is pretty cool! Check out LumoEats.