Now this is a terrific idea - Magic Kingdom eateries take control of seating


Magic Kingdom eateries take control of seating to boost efficiency and help diners relax

‘Sheriff’ Sonny Mattice assists guests for seating during the lunch hour at the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe in Frontierland, at the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant is using a new pilot program, including seating assistance, to reduce wait times by creating more efficiency in food ordering and seating at that popular eatery.

[b]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.[/b]

Orlando Sentinel Article


I’m glad they are trying this. It truly is a madhouse at peak times at Peco Bills. Hopefully this organization will calm things down and be able to enjoy the meal.


Disney does it again! :heart:


We have always eaten at off times like 10 A.M., 2 P.M. or later, and 8 P.M. or later to avoid the crowds and have never had a problem.
But one thing I have noticed over the years is some people don’t realize you can order from both sides of the cash register in fast food restaurants. The frequent Disney visitors know exactly what I’am talking about.


That sounds like a really good thing. It has always bugged me to hunt for seating at counter service restaurants, that’s why we generally don’t eat a those and go for table service only. This might change things for us.


we did the major hunt for a table last year in June… I am glad that they are doing this… We won’t have to stake out a table - or look for 20 minutes for one either…


But one thing I have noticed over the years is some people don’t realize you can order from both sides of the cash register in fast food restaurants. The frequent Disney visitors know exactly what I’am talking about.[/QUOTE]

It’s funny you mention that. A guy got really mad at me at Cosmic Rays because several people were standing on one side of the register in a line while the other side was completely empty. So I walked up to the empty side and he made rude comments about cutting and about what kinds of lessons I was teaching my kid (DD was with me). It is not my fault that they were not observant or aware of how things work.

I think this is a good idea except that I feel that it may congest the lines by having several people in line that do not need to be there. If my DH can order and carry the tray, then I don’t see why all 4 of us need to be in the line.

Have you ever tried to carry a full tray away from a CS restaurant only to find people standing in the exit area or leaning in the rail in your way? It can be quite frustrating. Plus, I do like choosing my own table, not being assigned to one. However, we go as usually slower times of year, so this probably will not be an issue for us.


This sounds like a great idea…there’s nothing worse than carrying around a heavy tray while trying to find a table. I also hate it when you are in the middle of eating and people “hover” over your table waiting for you to make a move!!! :mad:

I’m just wondering if the ordering area becomes very congested since the “entire party” needs to stay together before they get their food and some can’t go ahead and get a table. I would think that would be a stroller bottleneck!


Sounds like a great idea!! We usually try and hit the busy CS’s early or late to avoid the mess of people in those places. I love Pecos Bill’s but sometimes we end up skipping it because it is so crowded.


Its abou time…:dry:


So if I read this right, they axed those big wooden “signature” chairs from Pecos Bill?
Yes, they do take up more real estate than normal chairs, but what about themeing?


Have you ever tried to carry a full tray away from a CS restaurant only to find people standing in the exit area or leaning in the rail in your way? It can be quite frustrating.

Yes, I forgot about that.

And how about the children climbing on the rail?


This sounds like a great idea but I have to say that I’ve never experienced this! I think Daniel and I eat lunch way too early apparantly ‘cause we’re never fightin’ for tables anywhere.


Awesome idea I always planned something like that.

Ooh… Wish congrats on Bay Lake! - jealous -


That’s a great idea. Counter service restaurants are crazy. We always have a difficult time finding seats in Pecos Bill (and it always seems like if you have food, the tables are taken up by people who don’t have food). Now if only ski resorts would adapt this technique…


this is an awesome idea! i took the girls by myself a couple of times and lunchtime was a nightmare!


Counter service restaurants were doing this when we were there at Christmas in 2007. There were CMs at the doors directing people to the main door and other CMs were stationed in the dining area telling people they couldn’t save a table. Not everyone was happy about it but it sure made a difference in the number of tables available to families with trays of food.


We’ve never really had a problem with finding a table in CS locations, so I don’t think I’m too crazy about this idea. Personally, with 3 kids, it is so much easier for us to tell DH what we want to eat and the kids and I go park it at a table. This gives us time to wipe off our table with an antibacterial wipe, have the kids clean their hands with wipes and use some hand sanitizer. Plus, I think DH would be nuts if the kids were dancing all around while we’re trying to get our food. We use the same method when we go to a local fast food restaurant. Just my opinion.:blush:


I am so with you on this. I don’t like to haul my whole family to the counter with me. Usually when we go in someplace I take their orders with me to the counter while they do restroom/handwashing duty. Wonder if they’d allow the whole party in but not allow any of them to occupy a table until ready-similar to that of waiting in a designated area for TS’s.
My only complaint on “saving tables” is not those waiting the few minutes for their food to arrive but those that have been finished for over an HOUR at places like Epcot while waiting for Illuminations. Now THERE’S a place that needs to be policed. Not only have I had to sit on the wall surrounding a flowerbed in Mexico but also have had to squeeze in a highchair due to people table/chair hogging with no food. That’s just not cool when you’re um, 25.:happy:


Sounds like a good plan! We always try to eat at “off” times - but sometimes it just isn’t possible. There have been times when we’ve left a restaurant in such a grouchy mood, because of all the hassle of getting something to eat.

I think I’ll just call down and leave a standing order for my tuna salad sandwich at Columbia Harbour House - they can just hand it to me as I enter.