Dining at Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park is about to get a makeover

Discussion in 'Disney Restaurants' started by huey578, May 1, 2007.

  1. huey578

    huey578 Test Track Dummy

    Feb 8, 2004
    Interesting article,not sure if this has already been posted.

    Orlando Business Journal - LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Dining at Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park is about to get a makeover.
    May 1, 2007

    Orlando Business Journal - LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Dining at Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park is about to get a makeover.

    Most of the popular internationally themed restaurants in Epcot's World Showcase area have begun to show their age, say some restaurant operators.

    Four major eateries will undergo overhauls in the next year -- those in the theme park's Italy, Japan, China and Mexico pavilions.

    Three Disney-operated restaurants in Epcot are getting minor touchups -- in the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany pavilions.

    In addition, the planned makeover of the restaurant in the France pavilion is still in design, and won't start for a year or two.

    Big bucks
    Eight major eateries in the park's pavilions opened 25 years ago, and contracts signed then between Disney -- at a time when the entertainment giant was eager to create culinary credibility -- are coming up for renewal.

    While Disney won't reveal any dollar amounts for these deals -- and the restaurant operators are guarding the competitive details of their contracts closely -- one participant says it's big bucks.

    Contract re-negotiations this time around focused on longer terms and larger capital commitments than previously, says Ricky Debler, president of San Angel Inn LLC, which runs the Mexico pavilion restaurants in Epcot.

    "Disney needs improvements and capital investments in Epcot," says Debler. "This is a way to revitalize and update the pavilions. All together, it's a huge chunk of money."

    Goodbye, Alfredo
    The biggest change is in the Italy pavilion.

    L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante will close Aug. 31, and a new operator, the Patina Restaurant Group, will reopen the space the next day, operating a generic Italian restaurant with a different menu until the summer of 2008, when it will close for remodeling. It will open again late next year with a new name, new look and new menu.

    Alfredo's management would not comment on Disney's decision. The company, Alfredo, the Original of Rome (Fla.) Inc., is run by Russell Bellanca, son of the man who owned the North American rights to the use of the name of the original Roman restaurant. Disney says it's the most popular at Epcot, grossing more than $20 million last year.

    The decision to change the Italian restaurant operator came about as a business opportunity to modernize the eatery, says Memo Emec, Disney's regional manager of operating participants.

    Those close to Alfredo's say the company's management was surprised by the decision. It's possible the company will use the value of the Alfredo's brand and relocate off Disney property, perhaps in a non-Disney hotel in Lake Buena Vista.

    Hello, sushi
    Meanwhile, in Epcot's Japan pavilion, Tempura Kiku and the Matsunoma Lounge have been demolished to make way for a new Japanese eatery with an emphasis on sushi, says Memo.

    As yet unnamed, the redesign will take advantage of the views of the World Showcase area of Epcot from the second floor seating area when it reopens, currently slated for Aug. 25.

    The China pavilion in Epcot has added new tea kiosk, The Joy of Tea, which opened in March and features an array of popular cold and hot teas, including the whimsical bubble tea -- fruit flavors with small tapioca pearls drunk through an oversized straw.

    The quick-serve Lotus Blossom Cafe has gotten an updated look without losing traditional menu items.

    The main restaurant, Nine Dragons, will close in early 2008 for a revamp. The kitchen, says Memo, will be redesigned to allow guests to interact with the chefs at five different stations, ordering and watching the food being prepared.

    Tequila toast
    During a makeover of the ride in Epcot's Mexico pavilion, Disney also added 25 more seats to the San Angel Inn restaurant.

    At the end of this summer, Debler will open a 50- to 60-seat tequila bar in a former retail shop, emphasizing the historical and cultural aspects of the classic Mexican beverage.

    Major changes are planned for the pavilion's outdoor eatery, Cantina de San Angel, including a kitchen expansion, realigning seating areas to improve the view of the World Showcase lagoon and a new menu -- all expected to be done by next summer.

    Moreover, three other original World Showcase restaurants will see varying degrees of change: Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion, the Biergarten in the Germany pavilion and the Rose & Crown Pub & Restaurant in the United Kingdom pavilion are scheduled for minor rehabilitation.

    The two other major sponsored restaurants, in the French and Moroccan pavilions, won't see any changes until at least 2008. Insiders say both pavilions sponsors are on track to continue their presence, and at least one, Chefs de France, will see some major updating if negotiations proceed as planned.
  2. fla4fun

    fla4fun DIS Veteran

    Nov 12, 2006
    Interesting article. I know a lot of people don't like Nine Dragons, but I do. I hope they don't change the cuisine too much (although I would like more hot and spicy dishes on the menu). If they freshen up all the restaurants, maybe it spread the crowds around a bit and make some places easier to get into (like Le Cellier).
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  4. ufgator

    ufgator DIS Veteran

    Aug 20, 2004
    Thanks for posting. I knew about Alfredo but didn't know about the other countries.
  5. webray

    webray Love the wineauxs!

    Apr 20, 2000
    That's great..now let's hope they put a nice sitdown in the American Pavillion..like the old Fireworks Factory that used to be in downtown disney/pleasure island area. Great bbq'd ribs and chicken with that excellent cornbread and fixins is just what is needed back there.

    Definately looking forward to all the changes.
  6. disneyag

    disneyag DIS Veteran

    Apr 29, 2001
    Very interesting!
  7. suzimar57

    suzimar57 Miss my Happy Place.

    May 7, 2000
    great article - in a year or so from now, there should be lots of new changes to the WS restaurants - looking forward to that
  8. Nienor

    Nienor <font color=blue>It's only a problem when she star

    Apr 24, 2006
    I wonder how many people will be thinking about the historical and cultural aspects after a few tequilas.
  9. huey578

    huey578 Test Track Dummy

    Feb 8, 2004
    I'm looking forward to see how the tequila bar turns out. I have a feeling alot of folks will be seeing pink elephants...haha
  10. gigi1313

    gigi1313 DIS Veteran

    Aug 28, 2001
    i knew the restaurant in japan was getting a make-over, but i had NO IDEA that the menu/style (teppan) would change so much... now i've gotta re-think my adrs for august... argh!
  11. disneyjunebug

    disneyjunebug Three greatest guys in the world: Bill Nye, Micke

    Mar 7, 2007
    Now, this is my kind of history lesson.....
  12. Pumbaa_

    Pumbaa_ >Hakuna Matata!< Moderator

    Jan 7, 2001
    very interesting. I like the idea of a better sushi area in Japan. Seems appropriate. BUt it sounds like they are keeping the Teppanyaki area and changing the other areas.
  13. Donald is #1

    Donald is #1 DIS Veteran

    Jun 24, 2006
    Wow! In general, I am excited about the changes but I hope that they still have tappanyaki tables in Japan since I am not a fan of sushi.
  14. huey578

    huey578 Test Track Dummy

    Feb 8, 2004
    They are still going to have the tappanyaki tables. Sounds like they are just expanding the sushi area.
  15. MA pigletfan

    MA pigletfan DIS Veteran

    Dec 18, 2006
    THE JOY OF TEA!! i didnt' even know that was there...does anyone know if the teas ( i am particularly curious about bubble tea!) are on the DDP??
    i "heart" tea!
  16. sotoalf

    sotoalf DIS Veteran

    Dec 28, 2003
    A great idea – some of these restaurants were showing their age.

    Is the Matsunoma Lounge really gone already? Can anyone confirm?
  17. SandraVB79

    SandraVB79 <font color=deeppink> I am a Jungle Cruise skipper

    Oct 7, 2005
    And the complaining will start: Epcot WS should not be linked with Disney movies (in this case, the pink elephants out of Dumbo) ;) :rolleyes1
  18. huey578

    huey578 Test Track Dummy

    Feb 8, 2004
  19. Uncleromulus

    Uncleromulus Plain grey will be fine

    Jan 28, 2001
    They'd have been better off REMOVING 25 seats from San Angel. That restaurant is already impossibly crowded.
  20. Harambe

    Harambe I miss Tapestry of Dreams!

    Mar 30, 2003
    WOW! I just convinced the family to try new things for our August trip. One was to skip Yakatori and try the Tempura place! Oh well . . .
  21. wendy46001

    wendy46001 Mouseketeer<br><font color=purple>Dont get me wron

    Jul 5, 2006
    Looks like drinking around the world is going to get a great new kick start....I second who ever said now that is a history lesson....I wonder if we will make it out of Mexico....

    Yup its closed...and good thing....after they shut down the fryers a week before the official closing and took the tempura off the menu...the made the most horrible culinary blunder of the world...the Hotdog Sushi Roll....
    Yuck....it was seriously the grossest thing i've ever seen.... Even had a good laugh about what us Americans eat with the Sushi chiefs...

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