Monday, August 6, 2007

The Grump's Opinion: Proposed Dining Changes for 2008

This information was originally conveyed to me through listening to the WDW Today podcast, but was solidified in my brain through reading it on

The following is courtesy of

The other big changes for 2008 are related to the Dining Plan options:

  1. The price of the regular Dining Plan has been reduced by $1 per person per night, meaning the 2008 plan costs $37.99/adult and $9.99/child per night. However, it no longer includes gratuities or appetizers (but tax is still included). This is effectively a 15%-20% decrease in value. However, the Dining Plan remains a good deal for many people.

  2. A new Deluxe Dining Plan is available for $69.99/adult and $19.99/child per night. With this new plan, each guest receives 3 meals and 2 snacks per night . You can choose from table service or counter service for each meal (so if you can eat that much food, you might as well eat all table service meals). The table service meals include appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. "Signature Restaurants" still count as 2 table service meals with this plan.You also receive a refillable mug per person, to be used at your resort.

  3. A "Wine & Dine" Plan can be added on to any package that includes dining for $39.99 per night. This allows you to enjoy one bottle of wine per night from a selected list. Click here to see the brochure for this option.

I, personally, will most likely be using the #2 item, otherwise known as the Deluxe Dining Plan. 

Enchanted Rose and myself love to eat, current diet non-withstanding.  When on a dining plan, I am not the biggest fan of the counter-service dining experience.  Now, if I'm forced to pay for each and every meal that crosses my lips, my Scrooge McDuck side of me comes out and I will forgo a delectable sit-down dining experience at such places as Narcoossee's, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and Victoria & Albert's for the quick and dirty stylings of Cosmic Ray's, La Cantina De San Angel, or the ABC Commissary (Editor's Note:  Victoria & Albert's is only on the dining plan that comes with the Magic Your Way Platinum Plan).

But, as the title of this blog entry states, this is supposed to be opinionated :)

Just like I said in my posting about the $1.2 Billion windfall to Disney's California Adventure, this is all fine and dandy, but there are some serious problems that need to be addressed or everyone will continue to ignore the elephant standing in the middle of the room.

Currently, it isn't hard to locate complaints about the Dining Plan in its current incarnation.  There are many people who feel that this problem is associated with the fact that the 18% gratuity is included, and therefore any incentive by the wait staff to excel is thusly eliminated.

To this I say bull!  Do I believe there are slackers in the employ of the Mouse who come to work every day and think, "I really don't have to work hard today because I have 18% coming my way", yes they exist.  Do I think that a majority of the staff working a shift thinks this way!

My theory, based on several years of providing fine dining wait service in a AAA 4 Diamond Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is that volume is the problem.

I don't care how astute, attentive, cheerful, dutiful and clairvoyant you are as a wait person.  You cannot maintain your "A" game for an entire shift if the patrons are flooding your particular section of the restaurant like they were the valiant soldiers storming the Beaches of Normandy

The onslaught is never ending, you don't get a chance to catch your breath.  I have been there, I know how it feels.  The only reassurance you have that you are not able to give your guests the undying attention you want to give them is that your tip is guaranteed.

Disney created this problem.  They created a Dining Plan that is extremely cheap and therefore highly popular.  This popularity fills up the restaurants which taxes the wait staff. 

As the plan stands now, I can only think of one ways to make it better:

Raise the price so that it wasn't so attractive to large quantities of people.  Maybe eliminate the regular dining plan and just going with what they are now calling the Deluxe Dining Plan.  I know I'm suggesting that Disney alienate people by making something more expensive to the point of pricing some people out, but they are raising the price of admission to a point that competes with the price of one lift ticket at Aspen, Colorado.  So, why would doing the same thing to the dining plan be any different.

Instead, Disney, in their infinite wisdom has decided to drop the tip and make it a tad cheaper.  Plus, offer a deluxe plan which is likely to entice quite a few new customers who were taken aback by the mandated use of Counter Service establishments on the old plan.

So, this is what I see will happen.....

With gratuity excluded you are going to have a lot of people who don't tip.  At first, ignorance is going to be the excuse, but ultimately you are going to see that it's just the plain inconvenience of it or the fact that people don't want to pay extra on top of something they feel they already paid for (the dining plan itself).  If they do tip, I have a feeling that a 10% average will be the norm.  Thus, the wait staff will be making considerably less which is a bit disconcerting when you were making 18%.  If I made a 8% drop in income, I'd have a hard time sucking it up and improving my quality of work.

Ultimately, my opinion is this......

I shouldn't have to be sitting by the phone, like I did on Drop/Add day in college, waiting for 8AM EST to make my reservations to restaurants 180 days out for a vacation that I have hardly decided what I want to do.  If Disney could find a way to allow me to not have to book so far out, it would be more enjoyable.  The spontaneity of Dining at WDW is gone.  It needs to come back.  I really miss when I went in 1985 and my parents could look in our Unofficial Guide, pick a restaurant and go there.

But, if I went by what I learned in ECON 101, economy is driven by supply and demand.  Demand for the Dining Plan is high, supply of seats is low.  This means, price should be high!  Maybe the bean-counters missed that day in ECON 101.

But, if I had my choice, the best solution would be the one that didn't impact my pocket book, but made it easier for me to eat where I want, when I want but with little pre-planning.

What's the point of having this great Dining Plan if I cannot eat where I want (ahem Le Cellier).


Before posting this I discussed with a certain photographer friend of mine who felt that a big part of the problem is the current ADR system.  I had to agree with him that the system does play a role in the chaos known as Disney Dining.

The current ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) system is too loosy-goosy.  I could very easily call up right now and make an ADR for the same time in a restaurant in every park (or several restaurants).  Logic will state that I will only eat in one of those restaurants, but someone may be denied eating in every one of the other restaurants I made ADRs in because I locked them up with my gratuitous hoarding.  Tighten this up.  Prevent me from doing this.  If you want to make an ADR that conflict with an existing one, make me cancel one.  They should also be cognizant of people making reservations in different time blocks for the same meal (i.e. 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM). 

I understand this doesn't address the current state of affairs in the restaurants where they are bustling from open to close, but it does address the problem of getting the coveted dining slots.

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Unknown said...

Great article!

I agree that the main issues are the overcrowding and the multiple ADRs.

I love the idea of the Deluxe Dining Plan become the de facto plan. The more time people spend waiting in restaurants to eat, the less crowds I will see at the rides and attractions!

Andrew said...

Now that I have used the DDP and understand how it can be effective, the stress that comes swiping credit or grabbing cash every twenty minutes was alleviated by having everything paid for, the menu open to any choice, and knowing I had a dessert after the big meal of the day that was included. It made me feel more comfortable and less hesitant to eat 'like I was on vacation'. Yes, it is expensive, but we don't go to Disney for a cheap vacation and somethings I was willing to pay a premium for.

I know there are massive problems with the plan, but they will fix it or someone's head will roll and then the next smart person will fix it. I don't mean to underromanticize it, but they still attempt to improve the parks every day. They will (should) do the same to the dining plan until they make it right.