Vote of the week: Are dining deals the best deal for you?
Written by Robert Niles
How hungry do you get when you visit theme parks? Food and beverages provide a huge share of income for most theme parks, and smart park managers know that offering something other than the same food anyone can find in a shopping mall food court can help drive spending in their parks.
Just take a look at the new Simpsons-themed Springfield land Universal Orlando has opened in its Universal Studios Florida park. (The latest phase opened today.) Universal already had a Simpsons Ride — the new Springfield land surrounding it is driven by an opportunity for Universal to increase food and beverage sales. The new "attractions" in Universal's Simpsons land are stuff you can eat and drink: Krusty Burgers, Lard Lad Donuts, Flaming Moes, and Duff Beer.
A bartender at Universal Studios Florida's Moe's pulls a Flaming Moe. Photo by Justin Pegg.
It's not just what theme parks sell you. Parks try to lure your business by how they price and package their food, too. Walt Disney World this week announced its annual "free dining" promotion, where visitors who book certain vacation packages at its on-site Disney World hotels get a free Disney Dining Plan option during their stay. Universal's also added an expanded dining plan option, too, and you can buy variations on one-price, all-you-can-eat deals at SeaWorld and Six Flags parks, as well.
Of course, the deal's in the details with any of these dining packages. Some Disney fans are getting upset over leaked news that Disney World soon will add RFID chips to the refillable mugs that it sells to guests at its on-site hotels, and throws in "free" with Disney Dining deals. The chips reportedly will work to allow mugs to be refilled only at the hotel where that guest is staying, and only for the duration of the stay. That's the current rule for the mugs, but with no enforcement, guests have been refilling them at other hotels, and even bringing them back to refill on future visits, too.
All this raises the question: How do you find value on food and drinks when you visit a theme park? Do you look for one of these specially-priced dining deals? Or do you try to save money (and calories!) by sharing over-sized portions, ordering from a kids' meal or otherwise limiting what you buy to eat?
Sharing the Lobster bisque and a baguette at Epcot's Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie.
Or are you one who doesn't buy food in parks? (Maybe you bring your own, or wait to eat until after you've left the park.) Or, finally, do you just say "I don't have time for that," and order what you want, when you want, making dining part of your theme park experience?
It's time for our vote of the week.
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