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Last month we talked about Britain’s second city and its new food establishments, this month, one of our team went to Florida, sampling the delights of Disney. It’s an intoxicating experience on many levels – but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t pass some comment on the food, the style and the innovation; some of which could be translated into other environments.

“The first thing I couldn’t help but be impressed with was simply the range of food and beverage available.  Even at a quick, first glance there is just something for everyone; from fast food outlets to table service restaurants, fine dining menus to an unlimited array of snacks and drinks for food on the go. Providing this level of choice takes structure, robust procurement processes, and great customer service, and it’s evident that the organisation and processes implemented within each park are designed to ensure a smooth and efficient service at all times.

The majority of queues within the counter service restaurants are managed by people, politely moving guests into the shortest line and providing a friendly face and a “pause” you welcome rather than are frustrated by. The menus, although somewhat limited, are designed to be easy to read and order and the meal packages are clearly displayed making food selection speedy and easy. Given the volumes of customers going through each outlet, the payment process has been streamlined with guests being able to scan their Magic Bands (wristbands) which are linked to a prepaid dining package or the guests’ credit card.

In addition to efficient processes, product clarity and great customer service, Disney do theming very well as you might imagine! Creating the environment that takes your senses out of the ordinary or away from your expectations. When booked into the Italian Restaurant Mama Melrose, we were met by authentic music, menus and décor.  There are certainly no half measures, the staff (known as cast members) were in character, knowledgeable about the menus and the numerous Disney dining packages that guests had purchased.

All members of staff are referred to as cast members as Disney see them as an integral part of your experience and the “show” that is Disney.  The idea being that they are part of a team, no one job role is more important than another, and each has a part to play at each stage of the customer journey. In addition, we noticed that there are a refreshing number of older cast members throughout the parks.  The sprightly concierge who greeted us with a friendly good morning each day was well into his 80’s; his experience, style and nature in dealing with families was fantastic and personal.

Within such a large scale destination, the majority of fast food and counter service restaurants used disposable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery to provide options for customers to enjoy food inside or outside, and to reduce costs of washing up.  Recycling bins for cans and bottles were located around each park but all other rubbish was simply placed within one large rubbish bin.  When questioned about their recycling policy, the hotel advised that all rubbish is taken to a depot and sorted into the appropriate categories by the State of Florida.  This provides a quicker and easier option for guests but we wondered if such limited recycling sends the right message to us, and to our children in such a sustainability conscious world?

It’s common knowledge that Disney strive to give their guests the best possible experience but how do they react when things don’t go to plan?  On one occasion, we were left waiting one hour for our dinner in a table service restaurant which then made us late for the firework display. After voicing our frustrations, we were apologised to by three different members of staff numerous times and given a free fast pass voucher, which allowed us to bypass the queue at any attraction within the Magic Kingdom in an effort to give us at least some of our time back.

We had a magical holiday and despite it being a very costly adventure, the perceived value for money, and our overall experience was enhanced by the high level of service and enthusiasm that the Disney cast members seem to have in abundance.  A smile, a show and a sprinkling of fairy dust – a learning point for hospitality businesses everywhere!”