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At Be Our Guest, Disney solves the problems with counter service ordering

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Published: November 17, 2012 at 7:50 PM

With 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.

Be Our Guest grand ballroom dining area

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.

Video menu display

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.

Be Our Guest ordering screen

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.

Delivery cart

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.

Readers' Opinions

From Tony Duda on November 17, 2012 at 9:18 PM
I ate there for lunch last Sunday November 11 during an annual pass holder preview and had the steak sandwich and sat in the Rose gallery. This room has huge murals on the walls and a giant music box in the center.The west wing (dark and gloomy) is probably the most visually interesting place to eat, it has a hologram rose in a jar that fascinated people who waited to see if a petal fell. The ballroom was the biggest and most elegant room but, I think, least interesting. Maybe dinner is best in the ballroom. Drink dispensers are in the dining areas so you get refills as you want. I asked for the free iced water and told to get it at the dispensers. The food delivery is a new type of procedure that was fast and efficient but there were maybe only 10% of the seats in use. Interested in seeing it in action when the place is full of diners. There are A LOT of seats, west wing has the least, ballroom the most. Credit card users were sent to self-order stands, cash and gift card (me) users were sent to cashiers when I was there. I don't know why I was sent to a cashier when Disney gift cards could have been used at the self-order stands. It seems the back-up will always be at the entrance since once you order, the rest progresses smoothly.
From James Rao on November 18, 2012 at 5:52 AM
Sounds brilliant. Despite all the complaining by jaded Disney fans, this RFID stuff might work out after all!
From David Brown on November 18, 2012 at 11:28 AM
What impresses me about this is that it appears as if someone in the Disney organisation has actually sat down, (or tried to), in a number of counter-service outlets, and realised what the problems are with such a model. They have then set out to resolve those problems. Kudos to Disney for investing time and money in an area that theme park website readers might not count as high priority but which will make a real difference to the average punter in the park, If this gets rolled out across the parks and resorts it will make a HUGE difference to the average experience a guest can expect.
From Eric G on November 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Sounds as if they perfected the casual quick-service dining concept.
From Skipper Adam on November 19, 2012 at 6:46 AM
It really is the most refined quick service restaurant in and out of theme parks. The only downside I see is perhaps people struggling with the ordering process if they're not familiar with technology at all... which is pretty much no one. I hope that this system can be integrated with existing places like Pecos Cosmic Rays.
From Anon Mouse on November 19, 2012 at 9:26 AM
I saw a video on how to order the food. There could be some improvements. To read the food description, you have to go to the main menu. If you already ordered it and went to checkout, you have to go back instead of just reading it at checkout to confirm you ordered the correct item. It would be an improvement to have a voice describe the food as if there were a real waiter.

I would like to see the rose glow. Other restaurants have plucks that light up. A glowing rose is what you see in the movie.

From Brandon Mendoza on November 19, 2012 at 11:15 AM
This is definitely the future of counter service ordering, but there is still a large portion of society that doesn't understand how to use a computer, or touch screen. I do hope that there are enough CM's that are available to cater to those people. The touch screen didn't work in DCA and I'm guessing part of it was for that reason. It's also why "self-check out" can be a mess at grocery stores.

Give it a few more generations and it'll be more common.

From Mitchell Botwin on November 19, 2012 at 12:36 PM
We viewed the new Fantasy Land on Saturday and were very impressed with the detail Disney has put into the restaurant. I had the vegetable keish for lunch and it was cooked perfectly. I like the delivery system as it means there are no dropped trays, spilled food or guests bumping into servers and creating a problem. We ate in the west wing, rose room, and loved the atmosphere, the thunder storm came through while we were eating and you have to be observant to catch the picture change. The quality of the food will equal what we have had in EPCOT.
From 24.73.197.194 on November 19, 2012 at 1:04 PM
Nice article about this new restaurant. But how was the food?
From Robert Niles on November 19, 2012 at 1:05 PM
Review is coming later today!
From Robert Niles on November 19, 2012 at 4:42 PM
Review posted: Where to eat: Lunch at Walt Disney World's Be Our Guest
From 72.185.215.232 on November 19, 2012 at 8:12 PM
I visited the dress rehearsal last week and while the new ordering system is an advance, the touch screen systems is not ready for prime. Even for someone used to ordering from a touch screen like me, the menu is remarkably not intuitive. The rose is tricky and the entire system offers no instructions or simple graphic guide. The family of three in front of me needed 15 minutes to negotiate it. It took me 10 minutes for a sandwich and drink - with help from a cast member - and when my order was delivered they brought had two orders from my credit card number. One of them included no food - just a slip of paper. The CM's agreed they are a work in progress. There are plenty of off the shelf touch screens in the food biz today they could have bought. I ordered a custom hoagie with 15 choices from a touch screen at a Wawa convenience store nearby the night before. The entire transactiion took six minutes from touch screen to their putting a completed sandwich in my hand. Disney is offering no wow here.

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