Biergarten - I disagree with Thommy

BriarRosie

<font color=blue>Creator of Tag Fairy Haiku:<br>Cl
Joined
Mar 7, 2002
I just listened to the podcast today, and I wanted to share my thoughts about Thommy's anecdote about a large party at Biergarten. If I understood Thommy correctly, a group of 25 had 5 people who wanted to sit with the party and not eat there due to dietary restrictions. Thommy said the Biergarten cast members were adamant that the non-eaters couldn't do so.

I have to say, after being a participant on the Restaurants forum over the years, Disney servers and managers will tell guests that eat at buffets that every guest (ages 3 and over) must pay if they are seated. Buffets are difficult to monitor, so the cast members wouldn't easily determine the "non-eaters" were really not eating. If you were eating at a restaurant ordering a la carte off a menu, the restaurants don't have a problem if a guest at the table doesn't order, but the others do.

Also, dietary restrictions are really a thing of the past at most Disney restaurants. Even vegans can get meals at just about any dining location, and Disney is terrific about accommodating just about any food allergy.

So no, I don't think Thommy's party should have disputed this. I don't know what the restrictions were, but I think the 5 non-eaters might have been able to eat with their friends.

And honestly, I don't think Disney really cares if they lose out on a large party. Since Disney has such a large captive audience, the guests that leave will just make room for the next group of guests waiting to be seated.
 

zulemara

<font color=royalblue>Oh Boy! I'm a WDW sailor!<br
Joined
Nov 28, 2007
We have been in there countless times before where 1 person of 5 was not eating, the same % of people. Heck I was the one not eating one year as I was exceptionally poor that year. The CM not only let me stay there, she gave me a free diet coke to drink!
Additionally, the place was far from busy due to the time we picked. When the conversation started out, I think 4 of the 5 were at one of 2 tables assigned to our group(or actually could have been 3 tables) and they said we couldn't have that many at one table, so we said fine, we'll spread them out among the 3. What does it matter? We're all in the same group! Then they decided that wasn't acceptable either and were adamant about it to the point where we left.

I can see how some of the other buffet restaurants would have a restriction, especially the ones known to be insanely busy. That was not the case here. What I didn't say on the show was that this manager who told us the 5 couldn't join us had only been at this location for a month and B) was a TA, which means temporary assignment.

This is a PLAGUE within Disney. They do these general leadership casting calls, then stick someone in a random location they really have no clue about. In an effort to get a statused manager position, they "drink the kool aid" in an attempt to impress the higher ups. She also wouldn't give us the name of her manager when we requested it, which is against company policy as far as I know. When the chef comes out and says not only that they can sit with us, but that they can go get food elsewhere and bring it in, that says something. It also says something that the chef specifically requested we copy him on the complaint email to guest services, promising to "help move it along."

Guest relations told us there is a flexible policy which clearly indicates to me that she does have the power to make this requirement when it makes sense. In this case, it did not make sense and she was choosing policy over the guest experience. There are times when policy should trump guest experience(no, I'm not waiting 5 min for your wife to go get her camera, you can get the next boat), but this was clearly not one of those cases. Our alcohol sales would have more than made up for the lost revenue. And Disney SHOULD care that they lost a huge chunk of revenue. We're not talking about 2 people here, we're talking 20 people plus alcohol. That money walked out the door and into a 3rd party restaurant. After being a very loyal patron of that place, I'm very hesitant to go back.
 

BriarRosie

<font color=blue>Creator of Tag Fairy Haiku:<br>Cl
Joined
Mar 7, 2002
I'm just surprised that you were allowed to do this in the past, because it's always been indoctrinated in us on the forums that we can't do this. Maybe I'm surprised this has never come up as an issue for you in the past.

But, Disney's not known for being consistent. Many people were allowed to order from a kid's menu, but if you go to the Plaza Inn or La Hacienda, both places have been reportedly alienating guests by insisting the 10 year old who doesn't want anything from the adult menu can't order from the kid's menu, even if they want to use an adult DDP credit for it.

That kind of inconsistency irks me. And I can see how the sudden enforcement of policy threw you for a loop. I'm floored that the chef was encouraging bringing food in from another location.
 
  • zulemara

    <font color=royalblue>Oh Boy! I'm a WDW sailor!<br
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2007
    They are inconsistent because they shuffle managers, some places r third party, and each place has a different situation. Bier garden has the easiest seating arrangement and although popular, doesn't require 180 days to get a reservation like other places.

    If this is a problem at other places, I was not aware. In fact we took our party to Italy, walked in and had no objections from management over those in our group not eating.

    Clearly this is a can of worms larger than I thought, but the core problem is management. I feel an investigation coming on...
     

    Sphyrna

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 25, 2009
    I can fully understand a policy at a buffet that all guests must pay. As you pointed out, it's difficult to monitor and make sure they aren't nibbling off the plates of others. But lets do a little Disney math. Five people at $50 is $250. To me it's not a wise business decision to let a $1000+ tab walk out of the restaurant. It's still a loss of at least $750. I don't think it was mentioned on the show, but the 5 people not eating were still going to purchase beer. So it's not like they were a $0 tab.

    I also don't think it was mentioned, but was the biggest issue, was the manager's attitude. I won't go into the details, but trust me, this person should NOT be a manager! Disney or anywhere!! The fact that the head and sous chefs were handling the situation should be an indication! And from what the chefs said it seems like this wasn't the first complaint about her.

    I've been going to WDW many, many years. I've been an AP holder for many years. I've had a few issues here or there but this was the first time I've stopped at guest services to file a complaint. At least I was also able to give a compliment while I was at guest services. The staff at Tutto Gusto really stepped up to the plate and helped our group out. When a group of 25 that has to walk out on their ADR for lunch there aren't many options available. But the staff there did an excellent job!!
     

    Cheltenham

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 15, 2009
    I agree with the OP.
    It is not at all unreasonable for a buffet to require that everyone pays. You cannot expect the staff to monitor who is supposed to eat and who is not.
    It is one thing to make an exception for one person, but something else when you have five people who don't want to pay.
    Also, I think it was way over the top and even irresponsible to use the podcast to try to have the manager lose her livelihood over what was really a reasonable decision.
    Finally, the intervention of the chef seems odd. If he really wanted to help (and not just bad mouth the manger) why didn't he offer to make something that would fit the dietary needs of the five people in question? Disney chefs seem to do this pretty regularly. Everyone could have eaten, everyone could have paid, and everyone would have been happy.
     

    BriarRosie

    <font color=blue>Creator of Tag Fairy Haiku:<br>Cl
    Joined
    Mar 7, 2002
    I agree with the OP.
    It is not at all unreasonable for a buffet to require that everyone pays. You cannot expect the staff to monitor who is supposed to eat and who is not.
    It is one thing to make an exception for one person, but something else when you have five people who don't want to pay.
    Also, I think it was way over the top and even irresponsible to use the podcast to try to have the manager lose her livelihood over what was really a reasonable decision.
    Finally, the intervention of the chef seems odd. If he really wanted to help (and not just bad mouth the manger) why didn't he offer to make something that would fit the dietary needs of the five people in question? Disney chefs seem to do this pretty regularly. Everyone could have eaten, everyone could have paid, and everyone would have been happy.
    Yes, that's why it seemed odd to me, as well. But as we weren't there to hear how the manager spoke to Thommy and Sphyrna, we can only go by their words that she was way out of line. But, had I been there, I may have said that people not eating at buffets CAN be an issue. And they are within their rights to enforce it.

    I completely understand why they had no problems in Italy. When you're ordering from an a la carte menu, not everyone in the party has to order. It would be bad ettiquette if an entire table just had water. But as long as you're ordering something that can be charged at a menu-based restaurant, they should be perfectly fine. I've been to Tutto Gusto and though it was fantastic, but they recently changed the menu...and raised the prices a LOT. :sad2: It's still good, and I'll go there again, but still. ;)
     
  • zulemara

    <font color=royalblue>Oh Boy! I'm a WDW sailor!<br
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2007
    I agree with the OP.
    It is not at all unreasonable for a buffet to require that everyone pays. You cannot expect the staff to monitor who is supposed to eat and who is not.
    It is one thing to make an exception for one person, but something else when you have five people who don't want to pay.
    Also, I think it was way over the top and even irresponsible to use the podcast to try to have the manager lose her livelihood over what was really a reasonable decision.
    Finally, the intervention of the chef seems odd. If he really wanted to help (and not just bad mouth the manger) why didn't he offer to make something that would fit the dietary needs of the five people in question? Disney chefs seem to do this pretty regularly. Everyone could have eaten, everyone could have paid, and everyone would have been happy.
    you're all entitled to your opinion. My opinion is we were blindsided with a "flexible" policy after never having an issue previously. The chef was not able to accommodate the dietary issues(whatever they were, I honestly don't remember) and thus offered those not eating the ability to bring other food in to sit with us. Additionally, I fail to see how 1/5 not eating is any different than 5/25. It's the same %. It was made known that we are repeat customers and were unaware of any sort of policy like this. Had they said "well for the future..." it would have been different. Then we would know this policy which was new to us, would abide by it in the future, and they wouldn't have had that amount of money walk out on them. The manager made a bad decision.

    Also I did not use the podcast to get the person fired. A scathing email was sent to guest relations and guest relations called the author back and stated the manager was not fit to be a manager in the company. I've now done what the manager didn't: give a warning about a policy many might not be aware of, specifically in this restaurant.
     

    DisneyKevin

    Kelvis
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jun 20, 2005
    you're all entitled to your opinion.
    Yes...everyone in entitled to an opinion.

    It's always beem my understanding that everyone at a buffet pays.

    Had 1/5 or 5 out of 25 members of my paryt not be able to eat in any given dining establishment....for whatever reason....we would have made alternate dining arrangements where everyone could participate.. Sunshine Seasons comes to mind.

    Biergarten also has entertainment and that is included in the price.. If 20% of all availble seating was used by people not paying, the restaurant's bottom line would suffer.

    I can understand the "we're repeat guests" mentality at a small local place off property that relies on repeat business. This is not now, nor has it ever been a big deal at Disney. There are plenty of guests to fill your seat. Try using the "repeat guest" bit to try and get a reservation and you will see just how far you get.

    I was not there and can not comment on how the manager treated a guest, but I see no problem with telling a non-paying guest that the seat they occupy is for paying guests that wish to dine.

    As for Disney sticking with any policy......please. Everyone knows that if you don't like the answer you get from one CM.....ask another. I'm surprised that anyone is surprised by the issue of inconsistency at Disney.

    I also find hard to fathom that anyone at Disney would discuss the internal outcome of a guest's complaint. This goes against the corporate culture and I believe that if it's true that this was indeed shared, that this could lead to termination.

    That is my opinion.
     

    travisx4

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 12, 2008
    Why would you put the restaraunt in that position.If the buffet did not have items that your whole party could enjoy why would you not go to an alacarte restaraunt, This is like going to the movies with a group that not everyone wants to see and saying they will keep their eyes closed... confused3
     

    zulemara

    <font color=royalblue>Oh Boy! I'm a WDW sailor!<br
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2007
    Why would you put the restaraunt in that position.If the buffet did not have items that your whole party could enjoy why would you not go to an alacarte restaraunt, This is like going to the movies with a group that not everyone wants to see and saying they will keep their eyes closed... confused3
    We had a reservation for whatever amount, idk how many honestly as I didn't make the reservation, but as is customary with our group, we picked up additional people while making our way around the World Showcase and invited them to come with us as this has never been an issue in the past because of the flexible seating arrangements and the late lunch seating we typically reserve. This isn't the Crystal Palace, it's not booked 180 days in advance, and it has never been an issue in the 3 years I've been involved with our group. Some of those we picked up might have been the ones with dietary restrictions, I'm not entirely sure since I was not the one arranging anything. However, they were fully willing(and able) to buy an alcoholic drink to help offset the fact that they were not eating.

    This restaurant has apparently engaged the "flexible" portion of this policy in the past and seems to have adopted a harder stance due to new management coming in and changing things. I get that, but when you're faced with a huge group in an otherwise 3/4 empty restaurant, all willing to buy high profit drinks(including those not eating), my expectation would be to allow the group with a very clear warning that it will not be allowed in the future, especially since this is a clear change in direction from the past and the manager obviously knows that(and it seems the chef does too!).

    Regarding HR, I was also surprised at the comment, but don't kill the messenger, I'm just repeating what I was told the guest relations person said when calling the person who filed the complaint(not me). "we can't comment on HR issues but this person is obviously not fit to be a manager at the Walt Disney Company and I'm sure if you revisit Biergarden, and I hope you will, you'll have a much better experience"
     
  • Greenfield1984

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 27, 2007
    I'm going to pop in with my own two cents.

    If this occurred at any other non Disney world resort buffet I would say that I would absolutely have a policy whereby each person sitting had to pay for the buffet.

    However this occurred in a Disney restaurant within a Disney theme park. We have to understand that it is not simply a restaurant experience but an entire theme park experience.

    Furthermore, we hold Disney to higher standards then most other places. In fact these higher standards are often what separates Disney from its competition.

    Another thing that separates Disney from its competition is the Disney magic, that most of us experienced, which turned us into Disney nutz.

    This is a situation where Disney had, in my opinion, an easy opportunity to spread that Disney magic.

    There is a few reasons why previous posters see Tommy's accommodation as a problem.

    One is that, since it is a buffet, it would be difficult to monitor whether or not people are getting up at getting food. While I agree it would be difficult to 100% ensure that nobody was taking advantage, it would be quite easy to do quick spot checks and see that most people are not taking advantage. And for the few that do get away with it, I believe it to be a small cost compared with the amount of money Disney is making from the majority of the groups that are not abusing the system, as well as the benefit of providing that Disney magic to many guests.

    Another criticism was that it was unnecessary to put the restaurant in an unfavorable position and why not just go elsewhere.

    This is a restaurant in a theme park. As such many unscheduled occurrences happen. In this case it appears as though a few other people joined a group that was planning to go to the restaurant. This dining experience is not isolated it is part of a larger theme park experience.

    I should also mention that I would not have it as a policy to just start allowing whoever wants to join a group to join on in. As a policy that would be silly. However Disney does allow for judgment calls. While some people find these inconsistencies irksome I find them practical. As was previously mentioned, the restaurant was quiet. Had it been bustling it would of course have made sense not to allow non paying guests in while other paying guests could have been enjoying a meal.

    Furthermore, had the cast member encountered a rowdy group of drunkards that would once again been grounds to refuse entry. However, i'm sure Tommy and his crew are upstanding respectable gentleman, and the place was quiet, so it would not have hurt Disney to allow the extra guests.

    In fact, I would argue, there is a huge downside to refusing the extra guests. Not only are you losing out on 20 paying customers, as a previous poster had mentioned, but your ruining the guest experience of that group.

    We have to remember that this is not an isolated restaurant. While most restaurants can expect those people coming through the doors to be looking for a restaurant experience, restaurants in a Disney park have to expect that some people are just stumbling in through those doors from the theme park.
    By turning this group away they are weakening this groups entire theme park experience. This in turn may (unlikely), dissuade the group from returning to the resort, or (much more likely) have the group leave with a negative impression of the experience and then spread that negative experience onto pod casts and message boards....

    Again I think it would have been a very simple thing to allow the extra people and quite costly to not allow it. I would not make it policy but I would encourage cast members to spread Disney magic whenever they can. Heck even have them say "while this is against policy, I see that its quiet so why not have us make this exception once and come on in!". Then this group would go about proclaiming how magical Disney is and how they never experienced such excellent customer service anywhere else. Much in the way that I am constantly talking to anybody who will listen about how great Disney is.

    And Disney is still great. I just hope they keep it that way.
     

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