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  1. #1

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    Mmmmmm....food ....

    Food.

    Important. Tasty. Life-sustaining.

    An integral part of a magical WDW vacation, right?

    Well, to see all those morbidly obese folks at the MK, it must be (even if all they eat is fried, greasy junk food).

    Here's a theory: WDW Dining is heading to an all-time low due to a pin-trading sized push for selling its dining plan to onsite guests.

    Much like DVC, Disney is using the dining plan as a guaranteed profit in the bank before you ever arrive at WDW. You've bought your meals in advance. So, please follow me, where's the incentive to provide the same level of quality ... and with the gratuity included, service too? Why not continue lowering quality and selections? Much like a DVCer who's paid for their vacations for decades to come, the meals are paid for and you aren't getting a refund if there suddenly are only four entrees on the menu.

    I can't help but notice this as menus shrink even more, favorite items are eliminated, prices go up, restaurants have every table booked weeks and months out ... and, oh yeah, one of the key execs involved in the marketing/selling of the dining plan got a major promotion based on short term gain he was able to help generate with the plan (the second of his very ordinary career, btw).

    In the meantime, things are cut, more of the Disney quality gets wittled away.

    Some examples of the lowering of quality across the board:

    Don't expect a bread service with any lunch across property because Disney has determined that they just can't afford to offer it. I watched a European family (on said dining plan) react with shock at Captain Jack's last week when told 'they took all our bread away ... all we have is the sandwich bread and we're not allowed to give that out.' I saw this coming months ago at Liberty Tree Tavern. Now, it's property-wide.

    A manager at a DD restaurant (an operating partner) that participates in the plan explained how his menu has changed three times recently because they can't afford to give away their higher quality items the way Disney (AKA ... WALTmart) can, so less choice, less quality for everyone.

    One of my fave locations for a drink at Epcot, the Matsunoma lounge in Japan is no longer open. No, it's been made into overflow seating for the restaurants at Japan destroying yet another location. Now, why are the pavillion's restauarants so popular in 2006 when for 24 years there's been no need to expand? I'm sure it has nothing to do with the WALTmart dining plan. When a group of us tried to have drinks there the other day, the manager at the podium (clearly a local, not Japanese) explained the situation to us. Then, afraid we were either execs in disguise or consultants (which of course we are, just the non-paid variety), came after us, noticing our disgust, and offered to get us the first table available and assured us that even if we had only drinks and no appetizer we'd still be served. We politely declined saying if the servers are now used to 18% gratuities on large food checks, they aren't going to be happy with four people (two of which don't drink alcohol) having a drink or two.

    You can now go to Wendy's and get a white-meat chicken breast sandwich for 99 cents. But don't expect to find any quality chicken (or beef) at Yakitori House (again, once one of my fave quick serve eateries).

    After two-plus decades of serving high quality breast meat, about 18 months ago YH switched to some kind of mystery, low quality, dark, disgusting chunks. I complained through intermediaries ... who were lied to that 'we only use the finest products.' So it must be just me, right? No one notices these things, right? People would eat cow turd if Disney served it, right?

    Apparently not. I've heard that Disney has received MANY complaints about the obviously lower quality (and yet higher priced, funny huh?) meat now used. But in an incredibly ballsy show, did Disney raise the quality back? Nah. They just now in big bold letters on the menu let you know that you are getting assorted THIGH meat. In other words, they proudly tell you they are serving crap that even McDonald's won't put in their Nuggets. Where's the OLC when you need them?

    Price gouging is in full force. $40 for salmon at Artist Point? Fish is expensive, what can you do? Or is it designed to simply let people on the plan THINK they are getting a deal, while encouraging those who aren't to think twice?

    Then there's the poor CMs. Apparently due to all the people getting the food plan for free from 8/13 through 9/30, all CM food discounts are suspended for this period. Yes. Again Disney shows just how much they value their cast.
    I actually had to break this news to a handful of frontliners who hadn't heard about it.

    Finally, at the risk of being called a hypocrite, I admit I'm going to be on the dining plan this fall too. Considering that I'm a fat guy that likes to eat, I thought it was worth trying out.

    I'm anxious to see just how much quality is taken out of the equation when everyone dining is on the plan. How many more items will disappear? How much fat will suddenly appear on my steaks? How the salads will shrink in size? How many of the creative desserts will disappear in favor of apple pie, chocolate cake and cheesecake? In advance, I picked up menus from all the places I'll be dining at this fall so look for a compare and contrast when the time comes.

    Anyone think I'm being too critical? (that's rhetorical, btw)

    Anyone want to argue how great this is for guests?




    Last edited by WDW1974; 07-13-2006 at 11:00 PM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Your not being critical...you are right on the mark. $40 for salmon! That seems a bit high (i own and run a restaurant and at market prices I am paying between $4.95 and $7 a pound. Sure you get a 'show' when eating at Disney, but the sides that accompany that kind of cost better be impressive to satisfy the price as far as I am concerned.) Yea, you have to be smart about food to really know what you are getting and maybe, as you point out, the high price of salmon is a Disney way of saying 'hey, look at the great deal you are getting.'

    I remember going to WDW in the late eighties and early nineties and hearing many other guest complaining about the lack of good food one could get in the parks. As the the nineties progressed, so did the food. I was impressed with the fare I had at Boma. Good meal, nice presentation, fare prices, good service. Shouldn't this be the rule and not the exception?
    And I too am a fan of Yakitori House and I unfortunately did not get a chance to eat there the last time I went to WDW. You are right...why are they serving thigh meat? Right now I am paying $1.40 a pound for chicken breast. If one is to cost out this for service...well, I am sure you could still charge $10 for the plate (I do not know what the cost is at the moment) and make back your money and also show a nice profit without having to use a 'blend' of chunk chicken 'meat's.'

    Food is such an important part of the 'theme' park equation. From the simple hot dog to a rack of lamb, food presented in a theme park should amuse and excite us.

    I, for one, hope that the dining program is not bringing down the culinary art of Disney. I think they have worked too hard to gain a good reputation to let it fall this way.

  3. #3

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Excellent yet depressing post. I look forward to reading your observations after your visit this fall. Thanks for bringing such articulate light to this situation.
    "The greatest expression of rebellion is joy." - Joss Whedon

  4. #4

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    $40 for salmon?! I got it earlier this week for $13.99 at Smokey Bones. And it was a big portion and damn good too.

  5. #5

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Disney is a business and if they tried to make everyone happy they would make no money and not be able to run their own company. Is that what we want?

  6. #6

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    it's disney's job to make their guests happy. and they want you to have a good time. I don't see anything wrong with meals being included in a travel package but I have to admit I don't like the dining package being sold by itself. That being said, it's probably what keeps epcots table restaurants afloat. places like cinderella's castle and chef mickeys and victoria and alberts would do fine without the package, but many of the little known places are finding a following because of it.

  7. #7

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    sorry double post

  8. #8

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Out of all the restaurants I went to this year, I didn't see one with a 'diluted' menu. Everything from The Garden Grill to Chef Mickeys to Les Chefs de France.... same great old food. And what I see in your post that some of your favorite places closed. Obviously if you have two restuarants side by side.... one is overly crowded (more people than room) and the other is very sparsly crowded, what should Disney do? Should they try and maximize the more popular, profittable place or keep it as is?

    And I think the next time I see you I am going to bring a giant bucket of assorted breads. If there are items that not many people eat (and I believe in Florida they must dispose of any extra bread not eaten by the customers), they should get rid of it (or at least keep it as an on-demand item).

    As for the dining plan, it has its benefits and drawbacks. When deciding if its for you, you have to try and think roughly what you are going to eat. If you are going to expensive restaurants every day (and plan to eat an appetizer, entree & desert) then by all means use the plan. If on the other hand you only want to go to cheaper restaurants (and don't plan to have dessert or an appetizer), don't use the plan. The plan basically forces you to eat (and by no means am I saying that in a bad way).

    In short, if you want to eat a lot & at more expensive places, use the plan. It is a great tool to try the restaurants that might not have been in your budget last time. I went to many different places this year because of the plan...so surely I can't be the only one.

    And the dining plan is so much more then just table restaurants. It covers counter services & snacks (for all the Mickey bars & water bottles you want). And what I feel is the best part of the Dining Plan is tips. If you usually tip big (especially in WDW), this is almost guaranteed to save you money.

    Now we did the DP for the 1st week & cancelled it for the 2nd week. It was definitely saving us money (especially with the tipping), but we just didn't want to eat as much as we were the 1st week.
    restaurants have every table booked weeks and months out
    Isn't that what Disney wants? Disney is a business & is going to want booked up restaurants & hotels. But on the other hand, that's not entirely true. I saw people walk up to places like Crystal Palace, Cindy's Royal Table & various WS restaurants this vacation & get a seat. So its not like they don't accept walk-ins anymore.


    And just to compare the prices, lets take a family of 3 (3rd is an 8-year-old).
    Adult 1
    $25 (dinner/entree @ Les Chefs de France)
    $6 (breakfast @ Comissary)
    $2.50 (bottle of water)

    Adult 2
    $25 (dinner/entree @ Les Chefs de France)
    $6 (breakfast @ Comissary)
    $2.50 (bottle of water)

    Child
    $7 (dinner/child's menu @ LCDF)
    $4 (breakfast/child's menu @ Comissary)
    $3 (soft-serve ice cream)

    Now let's add in an $15 tip for LCDF. Seperately, that comes to $96. With the plan, it is $87 (and it also includes an appetizer & dessert in LCDF).
    “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” - Walt Disney

  9. #9

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Quote Originally Posted by Cmash95
    it's disney's job to make their guests happy. and they want you to have a good time. I don't see anything wrong with meals being included in a travel package but I have to admit I don't like the dining package being sold by itself. That being said, it's probably what keeps epcots table restaurants afloat. places like cinderella's castle and chef mickeys and victoria and alberts would do fine without the package, but many of the little known places are finding a following because of it.

    Meals have been included in some Disney packages dating back at least to the late 1970s and likely earlier.

    It's this particular package and the effects it's having on Disney Dining in general that's the problem.

    And Epcot's restaurants have always been HIGHLY profitable. They don't need, at the price points they are at, any dining plan at all.

    I do agree, though, that some out of the way places likely see a jump due to the packages (especially during the 'free' periods) and the fact many of the better known places fill up quicker. For example, I'm sure it's a whole lot easier right now to book Captain Jack's, Boatwright's and the Maya Grill instead of say Chefs de France, Boma and Chef Mickey's.

  10. #10

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDisneyInquisitor
    Out of all the restaurants I went to this year, I didn't see one with a 'diluted' menu. Everything from The Garden Grill to Chef Mickeys to Les Chefs de France.... same great old food. And what I see in your post that some of your favorite places closed. Obviously if you have two restuarants side by side.... one is overly crowded (more people than room) and the other is very sparsly crowded, what should Disney do? Should they try and maximize the more popular, profittable place or keep it as is?)
    I haven't dined at the Garden Grill in forever so I can't comment on that. And Chef Mickey's, it's been a few years. I'm not into the whole character dining deal. But I can tell you Chefs de France has had its menu dumbed down over the past few years. The choices have shrunk. The quality has gone down. ... They had a wonderful pepercorn filet that has been taken off the menu. But, overall, the quality there is still pretty high.

    I think you read my post quickly. I only used one example of a place closing. The lounge in Japan. That has closed to open up extra seating for the two restaurants there. And that is a negative to some of us, who are old enough to drink (legally), and have always enjoyed a few beverages at Matsunoma.

    The extra seating is also awkward because the location is a bar. So the folks getting served their meals in there aren't exactly getting the same experience as those in the dining rooms.

    But the point I was making was the seating is only needed because so many people are booking the dining program and Disney wants to be able to serve more guests at Japan. So what if the whole experience is a lesser one?


    Quote Originally Posted by TheDisneyInquisitor
    And I think the next time I see you I am going to bring a giant bucket of assorted breads. If there are items that not many people eat (and I believe in Florida they must dispose of any extra bread not eaten by the customers), they should get rid of it (or at least keep it as an on-demand item).
    That would be nice. I like bread. Many other people like bread. If they didn't, no restaurant would have ever served it. It's typical in the US -- and many other countries -- to get some bread pre-meal.

    Disney is just nickel-and-diming its guests. Mike, sometimes it just comes down to money. And it come off as a cheap, petty decision by some food and beverage manager.

    And, FWIW, I have no problem with it being something you are asked if you want as I don't like to see food wasted. But that has zero to do with it being removed from restaurants.

    Travel more. You won't find any restaurants at resorts that won't put some type of bread on the table when you order.


    Quote Originally Posted by TheDisneyInquisitor
    As for the dining plan, it has its benefits and drawbacks. When deciding if its for you, you have to try and think roughly what you are going to eat. If you are going to expensive restaurants every day (and plan to eat an appetizer, entree & desert) then by all means use the plan. If on the other hand you only want to go to cheaper restaurants (and don't plan to have dessert or an appetizer), don't use the plan. The plan basically forces you to eat (and by no means am I saying that in a bad way).

    In short, if you want to eat a lot & at more expensive places, use the plan. It is a great tool to try the restaurants that might not have been in your budget last time. I went to many different places this year because of the plan...so surely I can't be the only one.
    No. That's part of my point. Disney is selling so many of these packages that it does get people eating where they wouldn't have. But, see, I don't believe that's a good thing. I don't want my quality watered down so Jim Bob Smith and family can all experience the California Grill ... and order fries with their tamarind BBQ filet ... oh, that they'll ask to be cooked plain!


    Quote Originally Posted by TheDisneyInquisitor
    And the dining plan is so much more then just table restaurants. It covers counter services & snacks (for all the Mickey bars & water bottles you want). And what I feel is the best part of the Dining Plan is tips. If you usually tip big (especially in WDW), this is almost guaranteed to save you money.

    Now we did the DP for the 1st week & cancelled it for the 2nd week. It was definitely saving us money (especially with the tipping), but we just didn't want to eat as much as we were the 1st week.
    Isn't that what Disney wants? Disney is a business & is going to want booked up restaurants & hotels. But on the other hand, that's not entirely true. I saw people walk up to places like Crystal Palace, Cindy's Royal Table & various WS restaurants this vacation & get a seat. So its not like they don't accept walk-ins anymore.
    I have never in the last decade seen a walk-in for a character meal at Cindy's get taken. You must have extremely fortunate timing. Not that it matters to me. Since they turned the castle into a princess whoring feast, I will never set foot in it.

    But it's just not accurate to say that it isn't having an effect on guests' ability to walk-in or make a day of PS. It is. They are now leaving no tables open. So if they are booked 100% three weeks in advance or three months, that's tough crap for everyone else who doesn't believe in planning meals absurdly prior to dining.

    The fact they had to have convention services cater added buffets last fall -- during the slowest month of the year but one with the Dining Plan offered for free as an incentive to fill resort rooms -- proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the plan is filling locations.

    You may argue it's good financial business for WDW. And you'd be right ... in the short term.

    But in the long term, it's going to be a disaster.

  11. #11

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    who are old enough to drink
    And........mark. It felt odd without an age insertion for so long.
    They had a wonderful pepercorn filet that has been taken off the menu.
    Again, maybe it's just the way you are wording it, but it sounds like some of the items that you liked are now gone. That doesn't mean dumbing down or anything else, it could just mean a change. For example lets say a restaurant offers NY Steak but soon changes it to some type of filet mignon. Some will view that as a bad change & some will see it as a good change. My opinion, it's just change.

    Quote Originally Posted by WDW1974
    And, FWIW, I have no problem with it being something you are asked if you want as I don't like to see food wasted. But that has zero to do with it being removed from restaurants.
    I can buy that. However, several of the restaurants (including Mama Melroses & a few others) did indeed give bread (and plenty of it) before dinner, so I just don't see this debreadification occuring.


    But it's just not accurate to say that it isn't having an effect on guests' ability to walk-in or make a day of PS. It is. They are now leaving no tables open. So if they are booked 100% three weeks in advance or three months, that's tough crap for everyone else who doesn't believe in planning meals absurdly prior to dining.
    Again, I am not buying that at all. While it may be somewhat harder now (especially for walk-ins), it is by no means hard. Many of the reservations I made were mere days in advance (I made one just 3 days before going there). And that was right around the 4th of July holiday. I can't imagine it being any worse in the off-seasons.

    -Michael
    “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” - Walt Disney

  12. #12

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    'Princess whoring feast'...

  13. #13

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    Quote Originally Posted by Hamlet Schmalzbach
    'Princess whoring feast'...
    HMMM...

    Yep, I'd buy that for a dollar.

  14. #14

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    It seems as though the dining plan has turned eating at WDW into a competition of who is going to eat where. Three months in advance...wow, that is crazy. We ate at Boma by just walking up to the door (this was in June of 2004.) I am not big into eating with the characters either (had lunch with Pooh one time...did not even know he was coming...I am a bit dense I guess, saw Piglet working the buffet line and...well, you get the idea), But it sure would be more relaxing if one staying at the resort would get a chance to do just that...relax. I love running the parks and I love a good meal, but I also like to keep a pace in which I let my stress go. Dining plans are not for me, but I see who would want them.
    As for Disney making money by 'skimping or overcharging' on the food...Please...I am not in favor of Disney losing money, but believe me, it is not happening because of food sales (better reason's are some of the choices they have made with past films that cost just as much to promote as it does to produce them.) I will pay $40 for salmon, just as I would $4 for a hot dog. My point is that if you sell me a $4 hot dog, put some quality into it for the price. Don't sell me a lesser product with lots of filling and water just because you want to make an extra dollar off me...I won't buy it again. Give me something worthy of the price and I will be back. Is this not want Disney or any company wants, a true satisfied customer who will return? I'm pretty sure this is the idea of anyone trying to make a business survive.

  15. #15

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    Re: Mmmmmm....food ....

    For anyone who questions how good the plan is for the people, just go on over to AllEarsNet and read the user reviews. All but one praises the plan.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hamlet Schmalzbach
    Three months in advance...wow, that is crazy.
    Like I said though, you can quite easily get reservations for restaurants just days in advanced. Mind you, you'll likely have to settle for either a fairly early time (before 5) or a fairly late time (after 7), but reservations are not booked solid.
    “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” - Walt Disney

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