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UKDEB
10-06-2009, 11:11 AM
From today's Sentinel:

By Jason Garcia
Sentinel Staff Writer
October 6, 2009

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/media/photo/2009-10/49684023.jpg

Walt Disney World is experimenting with new crowd-control methods in some of its busiest in-park restaurants, hoping to make the facilities more pleasant for guests and more profitable for the resort.

Inside four quick-service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, Disney has begun restricting access — but guaranteeing seating — during particularly busy lunch rushes. Managers say the approach helps smooth out traffic in part by eliminating the need for groups to split up and send someone to order food while another person holds an open table — something that can clog up as much as one-third of a restaurant's capacity at any given time.

"This has been very helpful for us from an efficiency standpoint, because everything's so well-organized," said Liz Clark, general manager of food and beverage in the Magic Kingdom.

The tinkering illustrates one of the small ways theme parks have sought to squeeze more money out of existing operations — beyond top-level cost cuts — in the midst of a recession that has sapped attendance and guest spending.

Disney does not break out how much restaurant sales contribute to the revenue of individual theme parks. But experts say it is substantial.

"The food-and-beverage operations are very significant in the overall bottom line," said Mary Jo Ross, a former multi-unit restaurant manager at Universal Orlando and an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

Disney says the restaurant changes are part of an internal initiative called "The Basics," in which employees have been urged to re-emphasize customer service.

Busy, in-park restaurants are an obvious target for improvements; around noon on a busy day, they can rival the longest ride queues in terms of crowds, noise and stress levels.

"It wasn't really a good way to decompress or relax. So we've been really focusing on how we can enhance the whole dining experience," Clark said.

Under the controlled-access and -seating program, guests in certain Magic Kingdom counter-service restaurants are steered through a single entrance so workers can keep tabs on how many people are inside.

A greeter hands menus and steers the entire group to cash registers to place their orders. After they get their food, they are guided by another employee to an empty table.

Implementing the change is trickier than it may sound. For example, the restaurants have multiple entrances, so Disney restaurant managers have had to work with the resort's "Imagineers" to work out new ways of guiding traffic through a single point.

Clark said the program has already evolved based on feedback from guests. The menus that greeters hand out were initially only available in English and were done entirely in text; they have since been changed to include multiple languages, pictures of the menu selections, and information about using a pre-purchased dining plan that Disney sells to resort guests.

Disney began testing the concept in the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café. But it has since been rolled out to three other busy counter-service restaurants: Columbia Harbour House, Pinocchio Village Haus and Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. Those restaurants range in size from about 400 seats to more than 1,000 at Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray's.

The controlled access is used only when that day's park attendance warrants.

Clark said the results have been overwhelmingly positive, both in terms of praise from guests who report a more-relaxed dining experience and in terms of reducing congestion inside the restaurants, where, like on a busy highway, small backups can cascade over the course of a day into lengthier delays.

Disney has also made other, subtler changes. At Pecos Bill, for instance, the resort has added self-service ordering kiosks, though guests can still opt to order from a human cashier.

Workers also recently replaced highly themed, high-backed chairs at Pecos Bill with smaller, less clunky stools. The switch, which Disney said was made on the suggestion of a restaurant worker, has allowed the restaurant to add an extra seat at many tables and improved the aisles between tables, helping alleviate further bottlenecks.

Jason Garcia can be reached at jrgarcia@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5414.

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

Dimplenose
10-06-2009, 11:23 AM
I can understand this having been frustrated at finding a seat but we have never had problems finding a seat at Colombia Harbour House.

On the other hand I find it excedingly stressful to queue up at a counter with the whole family who have wilted and just want to sit down. Much easier to send them off to scout for a table while I line up on my own.

loobylou44
10-06-2009, 11:30 AM
I can understand this having been frustrated at finding a seat but we have never had problems finding a seat at Colombia Harbour House.

On the other hand I find it excedingly stressful to queue up at a counter with the whole family who have wilted and just want to sit down. Much easier to send them off to scout for a table while I line up on my own.


I agree that its good to let the rest of the family sit down while one person queues.
But it is horrible when you have your food and can't find a table because they are all being saved, its also horrible sitting at a table eating food and having people hovering over you in the hope that you have nearly finished and consequently feeling rushed.

madmumof2
10-06-2009, 11:54 AM
This sounds like a good idea. Personally, I'm dreading some of the buffets we have planned, purely for the fact that I'm on my own, so cannot leave my children on their own at a table while I try to carry back 3 plates of food.

I would much rather queue up, make two plates myself (me and youngest) and eldest making his own and be able to sit down after, rather than all getting up and losing the table we had found.

Frances999
10-06-2009, 11:58 AM
I would much rather queue up, make two plates myself (me and youngest) and eldest making his own and be able to sit down after, rather than all getting up and losing the table we had found.
There are no counter-service buffets on WDW property, so you don't need to worry about losing your table. :)

Dimplenose
10-06-2009, 12:04 PM
There are no counter-service buffets on WDW property, so you don't need to worry about losing your table. :)

Absolutely, you will get shown to a table and your waiter will get your drinks, clear the table and make sure everything is OK.

UKDEB
10-06-2009, 12:05 PM
Personally, I'm dreading some of the buffets we have planned, purely for the fact that I'm on my own, so cannot leave my children on their own at a table while I try to carry back 3 plates of food.
At the buffets, you have a table assigned to you, so you can leave it with no fear of it being nabbed by someone else.

natalielongstaff
10-06-2009, 12:37 PM
I hope this works, seems like a good idea to me :thumbsup2

fireman17
10-06-2009, 01:13 PM
I think this is a great idea, thumbs up to Disney:thumbsup2. We are a family of six and at to find a table for six has been a nightmare and I too find it uncomfortable eating while someone is waiting for your table.
We are heading down at the end of October and have to see how it works.
It will be nice knowing we can relax and eat our meal.

madmumof2
10-06-2009, 01:38 PM
There are no counter-service buffets on WDW property, so you don't need to worry about losing your table. :)

Absolutely, you will get shown to a table and your waiter will get your drinks, clear the table and make sure everything is OK.

At the buffets, you have a table assigned to you, so you can leave it with no fear of it being nabbed by someone else.

Oh brilliant! I didn't know that, that's put a big smile on my face lol. :cheer2:

T16GEM
10-06-2009, 02:05 PM
I think this sounds like a good idea,:thumbsup2 on our last trip we were eating under the little tent structure outside Pinnochios Haus in MK and a rather large group of about 15 people came over and took the three tables surrounding us, the rest of the party then decided to hover next to us making us feel rushed and uncomfortable to finish quickly.

DD3 was eating her chicken strips very slowly and they were huffing etc as everyone else had finished, but TBH I took no notice and let her carry on at her own pace, at the end of the day,we bought her an entry ticket, we bought her meal, and she was entitled to eat at her own pace, so I think this will hopefully get rid of that scenario.

london75
10-06-2009, 02:24 PM
They must have been trialling this in May when we were there as Pecos Bill used this system most days.

The two big gripes are

1) It's a flippin nightmare with toddlers asking them to stand in queues with you while you wait, then getting to the table with two trays of food, bags and/or pushchair and impatient kids!

2) Having your table chosen for you is not ideal as we like a nice corner even preferring to wait rather than sit in the scrum as people barge past etc.

Hope it works a bit better than May this year when live.

Dimplenose
10-07-2009, 02:22 AM
I never feel rushed if someone is waiting for my table, quite the opposite. I'll make sure I take even longer to finish my meal. (And yes I'm that irritating so and so that does the same when someone is hovering for my car parking space too!)

2Tiggies
10-07-2009, 01:19 PM
I never feel rushed if someone is waiting for my table, quite the opposite. I'll make sure I take even longer to finish my meal. (And yes I'm that irritating so and so that does the same when someone is hovering for my car parking space too!)
:lmao::rotfl: You made me laugh. :flower3:

2Tiggies
10-07-2009, 01:25 PM
By the way, I see the British are, as always, ever polite. Pop over onto the main restaurants board and see how the rest of the world are discussing this. They are quite, er, enthusiastic:rotfl:

It is a good read though. Worth a visit. The discussion even extends to health problems and such things.... go have a peek!

Jets fan
10-07-2009, 01:40 PM
:thumbsup2 Great idea. I have been to the Magic Kingdom on numerous occasions and waited to find a table whilst our food is going cold. Mind you, we only go on holiday at peak times - unfortunately.

Tina

Tartan Tigger
10-07-2009, 02:12 PM
I think this is a great idea. :)