I didn't think I'd be writing another post about the 2008 Dining Plan at Walt Disney World until I got to partake of it in 2008. But, I was doing my daily reading of the posts on Lou Mongello's Disney World Trivia forums and found the post entitled provided by a poster who goes by the screen name of ultramm:
The poster provided the contents of an e-mail sent to them from The Disney Dining Experience Team.
For those who are not familiar, locals and Annual Passholders can apply for the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card which will allow you to get a 20% discount at an extensive list of restaurants for parties up to 6. The discount applies to alcohol as well. Which is nice for those people who like to sample the various alcoholic libations that are scattered all over EPCOT's World Pavilion (Can I get a here-here for the fabulous Guinness Stout as the Rose & Crown)
I'm not sure how affiliated the Disney Dining Experience team is with the people who control the Disney Dining Plan but the e-mail provided two interesting bits of information.
The first is related to applying for the Disney Dining Experience Card:
You asked and we listened! Effective November 11, 2007, you will no longer have to wait 3 - 6 weeks to receive your permanent membership card(s).
Guest Relations locations at Epcot., MAGIC KINGDOM. Park, DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM. Theme Park, Disney-MGM Studios, DOWNTOWN DISNEY. West Side, and DOWNTOWN DISNEY. Marketplace will now be able to print permanent Disney Dining Experience membership cards for immediate use. This service is designed for existing and new members. Cards produced at the Guest Relations locations will be printed on paper stock similar to the annual pass tickets.
The Disney Dining Experience office will still be available to take applications for current and new members, via the phone, fax or mail for those who do not want to take advantage of the in-park service. Membership cards ordered through the Disney Dining Experience office will be received within 2 - 3 weeks of purchase.
All Guests who have ordered their Disney Dining Experience membership cards prior to November 11, 2007 date will have to pickup their temporary cards at the main entrance Epcot. Guest Relations. Your permanent card will be sent through the mail and arrive in 3-4 weeks from the date of purchase.
For people, like me, that want a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card but keep forgetting to apply, this is great news. I like the idea of being able to get a Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card as easily as I can get an Annual Pass.
Since my wife and I are going to MouseFest sans Dining Plan, the extra 20% will come in handy with all those counter-service meals we'll be reviewing...er...enjoying. [Ed Note: A commenter (we love them) pointed out to me that the Disney Dining Experience card is good only at Table Service establishments unless the park has no Table Service establishments]
I did notice quite a bit of weird typos in the information that was copied and pasted. I hope it's related to quirks that come from copying and pasting from an HTML e-mail (Disney likes to send HTML formatted e-mails and I'd assume this one came the same way). If that's not the case, then Disney Geek George needs to go to their office with his big red pen and do some editing.
Now the second bit of the e-mail is the part that prompted this post.
We would also like to inform you that the Walt Disney World. Resort will be implementing an across property policy change regarding gratuity at all food and beverage locations. Effective January 1, 2008, 18% gratuity will be added to all transactions, regardless of party size. Thank you for your continued support.
The way I read this (and the forum poster), is that in 2008, even though they have removed the gratuity as part of the pre-paid portion of your meal, you are still going to be locked into paying a 18% gratuity.
I know that many, many, many people have argued that the major problem with the current Disney Dining Plan is that the gratuity is included AND guaranteed at 18%. I have also been on record in my previous posts about the Disney Dining Plan in saying that I don't agree.
But, if there were any truth to that belief (and I could be persuaded with the write proof), this is not going to help that. The difference, this time, will be that instead of Disney forking over that 18% to the various waiters and waitresses, it will be the park guests.
If they aren't happy with the service and are feeling like they are having a gun put to their head to pay an extra 18% on service they felt they could get better at their local Applebee's, they will stop partaking in the Disney Dining Plan.
The one thing that isn't clear is who this policy change applies to. Is it just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Cardholders? Is it for participants of the Disney Dining Plan? Is it for everyone regardless of payment method?
Since the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) Card is usually beloved by those who pay for their meals out-of-pocket, I'm starting to wonder if the new policy is to charge ALL in-park diners the 18% regardless of their participation in the Disney Dining Plan.
According to AllEarsNet, they are getting conflicting information about those questions. Some are saying that it's for Disney Dining Experience card users only, others are saying it's across the board.
I'm going to have to sit back and wait to see if we get any additional information from more "reliable" and/or "official" Disney Sources.
Maybe Lou Mongello, Mike Scopa, Mike Newell, Matt Hochberg, or Len Testa can shed some light on this subject. In the case of the WDW Today boys, you answer these kind of questions almost every day on your podcast and various blogs and forums, and Lou does it weekly on his very informative WDW Radio Show podcast.
Now, if this is an across-the-board change, it could be part of a much grander plan on part of The Mouse.
I have talked to a few people about the crowded situations at the various restaurants and how that most likely plans a major role in the declining quality of service. It has been said that if you could get less people to go to the restaurants, then you would probably see an increase in service quality and maybe a return to the more diverse menus.
Forcing people to pay 18% gratuity for what they feel is sub-par service, might, just might thin out the hordes in the restaurants a bit and, in turn, increase quality of service. It could spell a return to counter-service meal for dinner crowd.
If this is just for Disney Dining Experience (DDE) cardholders, then the impact will most likely be smaller than the other scenario. It just means that your 20% discount is going to be negated by the mandatory 18% gratuity.
Only time will tell. I just found this very, very interesting.
If it is a global change, I don't want to even get into the financial implications on this. My brain hurts and I don't want to do the math....haha
John Frost at The Disney Blog has posted that this automatic 18% is for users of the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card only. I would like to hear it from one more reliable source to be absolutely assured, but hearing it on John's blog makes me feel a little better. Even with a mandatory 18% you'll still be saving about 2%. So, it would be like not tipping and paying face value.