International Drive is full of restaurants which, whilst very nice, aren't exactly providing the most healthy of offerings.
A good meal can be found in the parks, particularly in the table service eateries. But the lack of such restaurants at Universal, and the Disney Dining Plan clog on reservations, makes it hard to fit a table service meal into a day at a park.
That's why it's refreshing to see a counter service restaurant offering something different from the standard burgers and pizza. Don't get me wrong, I love that kind of stuff, but it's always nice to have a quick bite which isn't standard fast-food fare.
Now at other SoCal parks, the same can't be said.
The problem is that NO amusement park is in the non-profit business. They ALL are in business to make money. And when you let everyone in for free or almost free (by giving away your annual passes), you HAVE to make up your money somewhere else. And that's why they charge so much more for their food and it's HORRIBLE.
The parks have a captive audience so they don't have to try - once you're in the park you're probably going to eat there. Food services havent been "proven" to be a drawcard in their own right.
Food service can also grab additional revenue through tie ups with established brands, allowing more cash for ride development, which they believe draws in the crowds in the first place.
It sounds like it needs a "Walt Disney" to change things, and by that I mean an effect similar to how he changed the whole amusement park industry away from sleezy places into respectable themed worlds.
It takes a "Visionary" to create a single resturant/attraction to change things. Do it well enough and soon enough every park in the world will copy it. Maybe something like the Enchanted Tiki Room was envisioned to be?
There are exceptions such as table service at the resorts. And we love eating at the Columbia Harbour House over the walkway for the atmosphere regardless of the hassle. It's also nice that Disney has been offering vegetarian choices for years, but in general I would rather have an energy bar than face counter service at the parks.
Most foods that we associate with theming has reached critical mass. The public is familiar with most ethnic foods and food trends. The public now seeks lower prices, but we aren't getting cheap prices at the theme parks. That's the problem with tourist traps, which Carsland represents. So we gotten what we deserves.
I try to mitigate the high theme food prices that bringing my own snacks, drinks, and sandwiches.
I absolutely, positively, believe that theme park food should be served in a narrative setting that goes hand in hand with an immersive park experience. And I definitely do not mind paying a little extra (take note, Disney & Universal, I wrote "a little extra") for a great themed restaurant especially if the food is high quality.
As an adult, I LOVE Mythos and very much enjoy the under-rated Confiscos and Finnegan's. Lombard's isn't bad either, but I will admit that sometimes I enjoy the fishtanks there more than the food. I've only experienced the Three Broomsticks once for breakfast, but it was great as well... Though I confess to missing the ambiance of the Oak Tree.....
The restaurant in Mexico at EPCOT is my be-all-and-end-all for themed restaurants.... Since I don't get there that often, I'm glad that Latin Quarter exists in City Walk. Very similar idea, though without a boat cruise but with a varied menu to make up for it :-).
I have no issue with the finer eateries at Disney because I do feel food is part of the experience and am willing to pay for it, however, what I am disappointed with is the inconsistent "low end" food quality at Disney. You can go to Cosmic Ray's and one day have a great burger and the next get a dried out hockey puck. Even though they will replace it, you have to go through the line again and take more time out of your day when some intelligent quality control would prevent such an occurrence.
One of the biggest contributors of inconsistent Disney food is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. It has great ambiance (I have been here a decade and the movie is the same) but the food is just a huge hit or miss gamble. As an example, the last time we had lunch there I had to point out how unbelievably insulting it is to order an $8 portion of onion rings and receive a plate containing 6 greasy tepid rings. The cast member quickly gave us another order at no charge, but I made sure he understood he should be the last line of quality control and he really needed to check things out better.
I am fine with paying more for better...Just don't charge me more and give me crappola!
However, I have an opinion here that might not seem in line with someone in my financial condition. I actually don't mind paying a little more for a great themed food experience in a theme park. I really like the theme of the eatery to fit the area of the park I'm in, not just on the facade and/or interior of the restaurant, but on the menu as well. I love being able to get Thanksgiving dinner in the Thanksgiving area at Holiday World. It adds a lot of value to the experience. I wish more theme parks would create more unique menu items that you couldn't get anywhere else.
I don't mind paying extra for that. I would much rather spend the money there than in unexpected kicks in the rear like insane parking fees. The last time I went to Kings Island the parking was $20! It's their own lot! I'd much rather they just include that fee in the admission ticket instead of offereing a multitude of discount tickets only to make up every penny of the discount as you get to the parking lot. They know you aren't going to turn around and go home once you're there. That kind of dealing just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I'd much rather give them all that extra cash in exchange for a great themed meal while I'm there.
I prefer how Busch Gardens Williamsburg does food: great food, lots of options, comfortable counter service setting and often in front of entertainment.
Though the last time I went to Disney Hollywood Studios, the counter service food was so bad I'll probably try out the many sit down restaurants.
Those of us here at TPI are what I like to consider connoisseurs of theme parks. Of course we want to see new and interesting food in themed areas of the park, and Universal has proven that that sort of thing can be extremely profitable, but when you get down to it, a lot of that success has to do with the fact that they've got something colossal behind it, pushing this food and drink toward success.
And really, one can't truly compare butterbeer, cauldron cakes and pumpkin juice to mom-and-pop restaurant food, 'cause to me, they're on entirely different levels.
Personally, I voted to see themed food for higher prices, but that was largely because I want to see them put more EFFORT into making the meals and food offerings on par with Potterland's offerings. Drinking butterbeer and nibbling on chocolate frogs in Hogsmeade is extremely immersive, even if the temperature happens to be ninety degrees, but again, that brings us back to what's behind the food and drink that's driving it to success.
I had a corn dog at CP once from a stand near Troika. It was God-awful.
Can't say the same with USH, Sea World SD, or Knott's. Overpriced for less than mediocre food.
I do have one question: why doesn't Disney offer an adult-sized portion of mac&cheese? I absolutely love this particular comfort food, and it bothers me that I can only get it in a kids' meal. Come on, Disney food managers, haven't you watched the Kraft commercials? Adults love mac&cheese, too! :-)