If you like, or would like to try, the Virgin Trains East Coast Hop on Board ale, it's worthwhile purchasing catering vouchers. The catering vouchers cost £4 each and are worth £5 on board. There's no limit to the amount of vouchers you can use in a single transaction. All vouchers are valid for three months from their start date (which is the date of travel if booked online). The vouchers can be used in the Foodbar or standard class trolley. They can't be used in first class as all service offered there is complimentary and if you want something that's not on the first class menu you need to visit the Foodbar (coach H or J).
On the Virgin Trains East Coast website the catering vouchers are offered online when making a booking if your journey involves one of their trains.
If you book your tickets elsewhere or didn't select these vouchers when booking you can buy them at ticket offices operated by Virgin Trains East Coast, however a lesser known way to purchase these is to use the ticket machines.
To purchase catering vouchers from ticket machines:
- Ensure that the ticket machine is operated by Virgin Trains East Coast, these will display their logo on the screen.
- Select the transaction to purchase tickets for today.
- Select the Other Stations (A-Z) option.
- Select 'E' as the starting letter
- Select 'EC Catering'
- You will see tickets showing for £4, these are the vouchers worth 5 pounds, select as many as you want.
- Complete the transaction like you would when purchasing a ticket.
- The catering vouchers are printed on normal National Rail ticket stock but the destination is listed as 'VTEC Catering' and ticket type is 'Value 5 Pounds'.
NOTE: currently the option to purchase catering vouchers shows up under 'EC Catering' on the machines, but this may be changed to 'VTEC Catering' in the future to match what is on the ticket. So if searching 'Other destinations' under 'E' isn't working, try under 'V' instead. Also this option sometimes disappears from the machines so if it's not available then purchase at a ticket office. As mentioned previously this will only work in ticket offices operated by Virgin Trains East Coast or machines operated by them. In Edinburgh the machines inside the travel centre are Virgin Trains East Coast, but the two machines in the waiting room outside of the travel centre branded Virgin Trains belong to Virgin Trains West Coast so it will not work with them.
- Hop on Board is £4 a bottle (500ml) so if you buy 4 catering vouchers costing £16 but worth £20 you can get five bottles for the price of four.
- You can ask the member of the staff at the Foodbar to leave some of the bottles closed if you want some to take home.
- If you spend more than the value of vouchers you have you can pay with any major credit card (including Amex) at the Foodbar. Contactless is not accepted yet.
- There's a number of catering stores on the route where they can stock up. So if you end up in a situation where there's insufficient stock ask if it's possible for them to restock along the route. This is not always possible, but they will do this if it's feasible.