Walt Disney Productions got into the foodservice business not because they wanted to, but because they more or less had to. Foodservice at Disneyland was originally contracted out to a subsidiary of American Broadcasting Co. In 1965, Disney bought out ABC for $7.5-miliion so that they could do things their way. Disney reasoned that concessionaires tend to look on profits with individual units in mild and will, therefore, cut corners if need be to maintain their profits.
Today, foodservice at both Disneyland and Disney World is "a part of the show." Food is part of the total experience and should be fun. Good value is part of the Disney philosophy, and this means quality food. Food prices at WDW are surprisingly low considering the quality and presentation of the menu. The food is simply good food that appeals to the various markets that WDW serves. The hamburgers aren't laced with Mickey Mouse ears, nor are scrambled eggs presented in the shape of Donald Duck. Each foodservice unit, whether in the parks or the hotels, is designed with a theme in mind, and the menu is designed to strengthen the Total Show.
Jim Armstrong heads up the Food Division and is responsible for both ends of the country, John Cardone, food production manager, and Dean Penlick, operations manager, keep things moving at WDW. The plans for foodservice facilities for WDW were supervised by people who knew they would be transferred to Florida. As Cardone puts it, "we couldn't afford to make mistakes because we knew we would have to live with them on a day to day basis."
There is a Central Food Facility (never referred to as a "commissary") which receives all shipments and maintains inventory. Meat and produce are purchased by carloads. All foods are processed and portioned at the Central Facility. The kitchens in the Magic Kingdom are strictly for finishing and holding. There is a complete, underground transportation system- eight acres of tunnels and basements for service and supply facilities- so that guests never see food being transported or employees "out of costume."
As with any operation serving 80,000 meals a day- an awkward size that's more meals than a local restaurant but not as many as a national packer- finding the right equipment is a real problem. After many adjustments and modifications, the present hamburger machine can cook 2,000 4-oz. patties per hour, and toast the buns as well. Cardone is big on crepes and likes to incorporate them into as many menus as possible. He now has a machine that can produce 900 crepes per hour. The search for capacity in equipment is constant and right now is concentrated on a steak cooker.
WDW has 21 new food facilities scheduled to open throughout the park within the next 24 months. The Central Facility, which is amazingly small- 48,000 sq. ft. - for its output- preparing food for 80,000 meals a day a day- will have to be expanded, too. And expansion means people. There are presently 130 Central employees, 1000 back of the house and 2400 front of the house. There are at least 14 middle management openings in foodservice now and that should increase to about 35 openings 10 months from now.
|"To hell with expense - experience is the most important thing." At the Crystal Palace, interiors cost a cool $1 million - but families can get a good meal here for about $1. Service is cafeteria style.|
Since most people coming to WDW are from East of the Mississippi, Duck Nunis felt that a good old New England Clambake with lobster would be fun. When John was asked if the fluctuating, high price of lobster didn't bother him just a wee bit, he replied, "of course it does, but if he wants it, he'll get it, and for the right price."
John has changed the menus for WDW eight times in 11 months. It took him 2 1/2 years to plan 11 basic menus. That means a lot of care and planning. Serving 80,000 meals a day requires a master plan which Disney management follows. Menu items have to fit the plan. A beef & cheese sandwich on marble rye is called the Moonsteer in Tomorrowland and the Jouster's Choice in Fantasyland. Very few items are used exclusively at any one location, unless a particular thing is absolutely necessary to maintain the atmosphere. This is the case at King Stefan's, where individual loaves of onion bread are served. What is the trick to opening 40 restaurants at once? Cardone says, "You've got to be crazy not to want to do it. You'll never get that kind of challenge again."
|At the Central Food Facility, the cook isn't fixing up a batch of Witch's Brew. Throughout the facility, the most modern of equipment has been installed.|
Buffets have been a blessing to the hotels. On a typical evening at the Polynesian, 1800 guests can be served in 40 minutes by means of an outdoor luau. This has been so successful that a protective enclosure is being added in order to serve the luau even if the weather is not the best. Two areas are reserved daily in the Contemporary Hotel for buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Buffets seem to work very well in letting Disney people exercise their expertise as people movers. Things seem to flow more smoothly, making for a more relaxed atmosphere.
Disney even has its own unique approach to purchasing. Cost is not really considered. For example, if a fruit cocktail is to be selected, the purchasing department will get samples of several brands. They will be served, unidentified, to chefs and other management personnel. A vote is taken and whichever of the products wins out, that's the one that is ordered. That is Disney Democracy!
|Hamburgers at the CFF.|
|Crepes are popular in any form, and at any meal, from entree to dessert.|