At Be Our Guest, Disney solves the problems with counter service ordering
Written by Robert NilesWith its Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom's new Fantasyland, Disney's finally solved some of the problems that have plagued theme park counter-service eateries in the past.
Published: November 17, 2012 at 7:50 PM
You won't find the traditional lineup of cashiers in front of a pick-up counter at Be Our Guest. In the evenings, the restaurant becomes table service, with waiters and bussers handling the service. And at lunch, Be Our Guest employs a more unique style for ordering and delivering its meals.
With crowds packing the newly opened section of Fantasyland for its "dress rehearsal," Disney's stationed cast members outside the restaurant, both to the tell visitors just what "Be Our Guest" is ("No, it's not a ride. Or a character encounter. Yes, it's restaurant") and to hold those waiting in a queue when the line backs up to the restaurant's door.
Once inside, Disney displays the restaurant's lunch menu on video pedestals in the armory, though which the queue proceeds before entering the library, where you will order.
At the entrance to the library, a cast member will present you with what looks like a pager from your neighborhood casual restaurant. But this hunk of red plastic, slightly larger than a hockey puck, is your "enchanted rose," according to Disneyspeak. ("It was a lovely, long-stemmed rose," the cast member at the lectern explained to me. "Until Master sat upon it." Well played.)
The rose is the key to Be Our Guest's ordering process. This is NextGen at work, with an RFID chip in the rose, which will help Disney track your order from the library to your table. The cast member at the library entrance will direct you to an ordering station, once one becomes available.
The ordering stations are video touchscreens, which display photos of the food in addition to providing text descriptions and prices. Allergen information is also available on the screens. This display also helps eliminate many of the problems for WDW's many non-English speaking visitors. Ordering is as simple as pointing to the picture of the dishes you'd like.
You'll start by touching your "rose" to the RFID reader on the console. Then, you place your order. Once it is complete, simply swipe your credit, debit or room key card to pay for your order. (If you wish to pay with cash, the cast members will direct you to one of the two ordering stations next to traditional cashiers.)
Once you have your order placed, you take your receipt and your rose, then select a table in one of the restaurant's three available dining rooms. Cast members have been holding the line at the front to ensure that plenty of tables remain available for all parties coming out of the library. And no one can get through to hold a table until they've ordered. That solves the biggest problem affecting counter-service eateries in theme parks - the large number of parties with food getting cold on their trays, wandering about looking for an open table, while the majority of tables are held by people waiting for the rest of their group, still back in line.
So how do you get your food? This is where the "rose" does its magic. After you set the rose on your table, cast members tell you to go ahead and get your soft drinks and silverware (and yes, it's real flatware, not plastic) from the self-serve stations along the dining room wall. The chip in your rose is associated with your order, thanks to your tapping in with it when you placed your order. That allows the food service cast to know which order should be delivered to which table.
Once you return, your food arrives within moments, wheeled to your table on an impressive cart. The glass-domed top holds the hot food items, while desserts and other cold or room-temperature items rest on the shelf underneath.
No worrying about picking the "wrong" line to order, as there's only one queue feeding the ordering stations. No translation problems at ordering, slowing the line, as people try to get a cashier to understand what they want. Easy routing the line around indecisive diners, as cast members can send people to the other touchscreens as they become available. Nobody hogging tables without having food. And no food getting cold on the way to the table.
I'm certain that some visitors will find fault with something in Be Our Guest's ordering system, eventually. But to me, compared with every other "counter service" restaurant in the park, Be Our Guest's ordering system is, in the words of another resident of Fantasyland, practically perfect in every way.
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