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Friday, August 26 2016 @ 06:54 AM CDT

Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations

PodcastEpisode 738 is now available for download.

Presented by:

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Show Notes

Hosts: Matt Hochberg, Mike Scopa & Len Testa


  • Restaurant Expectations
  • Today, the panel discusses what our expectations are like at a Disney World restaurant

  • Previous Episodes about Dining generally
  • Previous Episodes about specific Restaurants
  • Previous Episodes about "Is it Worth It?"

  • Running Time: 27:46

    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations | 15 comments | Create New Account
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    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: extramagicmom on Friday, June 25 2010 @ 02:29 PM CDT
    Excellent show! After a $125 breakfast at Chef Mickey's for the 5 of us, the highlight of which was the shaved bacon, we have given up on buffets. We simply cannot justify the cost. In fact, now we only do one table service per visit, and study the menus beforehand to find the best "deals". Eating in Disney does not mean that one must surrender all common sense.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: AmyC on Friday, June 25 2010 @ 04:12 PM CDT
    You know what we have to thank for all of this? The Disney Dining Plan. When Disney first started offering the DDP, everything was the way it used to be in terms of table-service restaurants. You could go into a restaurant, pay prices that were a little high but not highway robbery, and expect to find truly unique dishes everywhere you went. As time has passed, Disney has eliminated unique dishes and shrunk menus down by about 50% to make restaurants seem like they are more on the same dining "level" with one another, and they have raised menu prices so you will think the DDP is saving you money. And if you aren't on the DDP, they want you to look at the menus and think, "gosh, we should have bought the DDP, we would have saved five bucks on this meal, we should do that next time." If you buy the DDP, you are saying that you will not leave property for any meals, which means that you are exponentially less likely to leave property at all, which means you will spend 100% of your vacation money with Disney. That's what it comes down to. It isn't me being cynical or jaded or anything else, it's me acknowledging their business model. They want to keep guests on property for their entire vacation and if pre-paying for meals will make sure that happens, then they will mess with the restaurants as much as they have to. This has truly hurt the experience of the cash-paying, AP-holding, non-package-buying guest. There used to be a whole list of restaurants I enjoyed visiting before the DDP came along. People who are newer to WDW have no idea of the dining options you had on property before the DDP. Menus had twice the options, and I'm not saying pricing was cheap, but compared to what they are now? Yeah, they were cheap, and the food was so much better. As someone who does visit WDW at least twice a year, buys an AP & books room-only reservations with an AP discount, we aren't tied to dining in WDW anymore. We do leave property with a rental car and we do spend quite a bit on dining off-site. We do this because it saves a heck of a lot of money, and we also find the food quality is better off-site. It's really sad because we honestly used to love eating at Disney table-service restaurants. There is only one table-service restaurant in WDW that we visit every trip. That's down from five or six before the DDP. --Amy From Kentucky
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: ADP on Friday, June 25 2010 @ 04:23 PM CDT
    Just wanted to mention the reason Crystal Palace is $37 for dinner is because we are in a seasonal pricing model. Buffets and even the other restaurants are charging 10% more right now because of the busier summer months. When the summer is over prices for sit down restaurants will drop. It's still expensive though seasonal pricing or not.
    Where oh where did Lee Corkerell go?
    Authored by: jaywdwdreaminnva on Sunday, June 27 2010 @ 01:31 AM CDT
    I think that this episode sort of brought it home to me how much the entire Walt Disney World experience has changed over the course of the last 5 years or so. The mind set of management seems to have gone from "What can we do to make the guest experience totally unforgettable" to "How much is this going to cost, and can we make it cost less for us?" or even worse, "How can we milk more out of the guests for this?". When I sit and think about it, this really makes me sad. It seems to have permeated everything, not just meals. Most shirts and clothes are no longer WDW specific, but are "Disney Parks" so that they can be sold on both coasts. Pavilions close in Epcot and nothing opens in their place. Admission prices continue to go up with little or no additions to attractions (Toy Story Midway Mania has pretty much been the only headliner that has opened in the last 5 years...and even with that, they made duplicate versions so that they could put them in both WDW and DLR). AP and DVC discounts continue to disappear. But I think the most telling thing is that in cutting corners, it seems that management has begun to cut back on Cast Member perks and how they treat the CMs, which in turn will lead to folks who don't feel appreciated, which in turn can lead to the percieved poorer service that has been cropping up recently. I'm a WDW fan/nerd/enthusiast/geek as much as the next guy, but I've been starting to wonder at what point do I start thinking about other places to spend my money? But then I think, is this the way everyone feels or just those of us that pay attention to every little thing that happens on that patch of land in Florida? I believe that (unfortunately?) Scopa is right, Disney needs to be really careful about how far they push things, because things could get ugly for them in a hurry. All this being said, I continue to plan for my December trip. Sorry to rant. :-)

    People often ask if I know the secret of success and if I could tell others how to make their dreams come true. My answer is you do it by working. - Walt Disney
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: bflynn on Sunday, June 27 2010 @ 05:55 AM CDT
    Len is right on target. Prices are way too high. I come from a business finance / stock market background and I think that's the where the real answer comes from. Disney's justification for raising prices year over year is that they need to do that to show revenue growth in order to justify their stock price. If they can't meet the stockholder's expectations then the stock price crashes and they all get fired. It's brutal and it's mercenary, but that's the ugly truth of what the Walt Disney Company has become. They are a business first and foremost. Along the way, they give some cast members the chance to do make some magic (for the purpose of claiming your future business), but they want money. Like you and me, the managers at Disney have an addiction to food, clothing and shelter and they are doing what addicts do to meet their addiction.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: Jul on Monday, June 28 2010 @ 08:09 AM CDT
    I think that the value you get for the price varies depending on the restaurant, too. On our last trip, the price we paid for breakfast at Captain's Grille (which was a huge surprise for us) was less than what we pay for a comparable restaurant in the DC area. (For comparison, google the breakfast prices for a place like Eggspectations, which is where we tend to go for Sunday brunch.) For a dinner on the high end (California Grill, etc.), it's not out of line with local prices for a snooty local restaurant.

    I think that the restaurants that are most problematic for justifying the price tend to be the ones that are A) geared for kids exclusively and B) middle-of-the-road places. If you look on the low end or the high end and something that isn't kid-based, the price seems reasonable. And, of course, lunch always seems to feel better on the pocket than dinner. Especially at Kona. And especially if you can request for them to bring up an order of chips. Fresh-made Kona chips is something I'd pay a premium for....

    Another show topic on this theme would be the same topic but for CS meals. There's some counter service I don't mind paying the price for (Sunshine Seasons, for instance). But a lot of other places don't seem to be worth it to me. Maybe I'm just down on CS meals?
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: Kfischler on Monday, June 28 2010 @ 12:19 PM CDT
    I agree with the comments on the show and in the show notes. A few years back, we started cutting back on TS meals because I no longer felt the experience (service and food quality) were worth the charge. Once Special Holiday Pricing was introduced to celebrate Flag Day, we cut out all TS meals. We have since found good CS and off-site options. We also first cut back on souvenirs, then found that the quality of t-shirts and travel mugs was no different than Wal-mart so we no longer purchase items on property. The more prices have been raised in the restaurants and shops, the less we have spent on property. We stay at a vacation home off-site, so our only expense on property are our park tix and a CS meal. Overall, we have been saving money by changing a few habits.

    I did write guest relations and told them why I was no longer shopping on property and not eating at their TS meals. I gave specific examples with dates, times, and names for service. Nothing changed of course, but at least I felt like I had done my part to identify a problem for the company.

    Again, great show topic and an honest look at what I see as a "Rip Off" for customers.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: cgessner on Monday, June 28 2010 @ 01:12 PM CDT
    Excellent episode and the viewpoints of others are really on target. The Disney Dining Plan has a lot to do with this. Disney wants to milk you and make you believe that if you eat only on DISNEY property, you'll "feel" like you're saving money. Come on - $37 for a buffet -- that's one meal. For a few dollars more, get the DDP and make it feel like you're saving a ton of money when in fact, your not (when compared to eating off property).

    There was a time when people looked at Disney as a place to go down for a vacation at least once per year. That's not the case anymore. The Disney fanatics are the ones really upset about this because they are the ones who make multiple trips throughout the year. For the Disney patron who is going down once per year, or once every few years, they know it's going to cost money and unfortunately, they are not going to complain. Most will just suck it up and deal with it as a part of the price you pay to vacation at the Mouse House. If Len ever wanted to do a poll from the Unofficial Guide, a good question might be a before/after proposition. What did you think your Disney vacation was going to cost BEFORE you booked it, and what did it cost AFTER you added up all the expenses when you got home? I bet food is one that most people don't even consider because of the DDP.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: mjaclyn on Tuesday, June 29 2010 @ 12:10 AM CDT
    I don't agree with the comment that Disney guests only go to restaurants for good food. If that were true I would never go to Sci Fi Dine in Theater again. The food, honestly, is terrible but the atmosphere is so amazing - my kids absolutely love it. Granted, we don't waste a table service credit there, but we still go usually once per trip for appetizers or a quick bite knowing that the food is not great only because we love the atmosphere. I do agree that the buffets are more expensive than you would find somewhere else...but the point is, we're NOT somewhere else. We're in Walt Disney World with the characters, the castle and the service that more often than not goes 'above and beyond' for its guests. I personally never do buffets for anything other than breakfast at WDW because it's much cheaper than the other two meals, especially since I usually pay out of pocket for them when we're on the dining plan. It just doesn't save any money at all to use a dining credit on them.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: mr. figment on Wednesday, June 30 2010 @ 11:42 AM CDT
    After returning from a trip last week, I have to agree that the food is most of the time just okay. We had dinner at the California Grill and I was not blown away by the experience for a meal for two that cost over $150. The night before we had Le Cellier which was another $150 for four. For both meals, service was good, not great. On the flip side, we had a $150 dining with an Imagineer lunch that was worth it. I'm a DVC member and after this last trip we are seriously considering expanding our in room meals from just breakfast to lunch and/or dinner too. MY guess is the prices have been inflated to make the dinning plan more appealing to consumers. I think that quality, selection and uniqueness have gone down in Disney restaurants which can be said for much of the merchandise you find in the stores.
    Episode 738 - Restaurant Expectations
    Authored by: verchad on Wednesday, September 22 2010 @ 09:16 PM CDT
    Playing catchup on some podcasts. As a few others have mentioned, it seems to me too like they have continued to inflate the TS prices so that the dining plan seems like more of a value. Whether you are paying for it or it is offered as a freebie, it makes it seem like a better value if the menu/buffet prices skyrocket. And it does tend to keep you on property more, thereby creating more of a chance that you will spend your entertainment and souvenir money with Disney and not off site.
    We have talked recently about when the next time is that we might go back to WDW. On our 3 trips ( 2002, 2004, 2007 ), we would try to book at least one character or TS reservation each time. Our daughter was 3, 5, 8 during those trips. Even if we get back next year, she will be at least 11 by then, and it would be awfully hard for me to justify paying those buffet tabs with her being charged at an adult rate for buffets.