Buffets Return at Walt Disney World

August 20, 2021, 1:31 PM · Buffets are coming back to the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney announced a new set of restaurant reopenings today, including the return today of Boma – Flavors of Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, which serves breakfast and dinner buffets.

At Epcot, Biergarten Restaurant will reopen its lunch and dinner buffets in the Germany pavilion in World Showcase starting August 29.

Biergarten Restaurant
Biergarten Restaurant. Photo courtesy Disney

And at Magic Kingdom, The Crystal Palace will reopen its lunch and dinner buffets starting September 12. The two restaurants have been serving family style in lieu of their traditional buffets, and there's no word yet on any potential return of character dining at The Crystal Palace.

In other restaurant reopening news, Disney announced today that Steakhouse 71 will replace The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for the resort's 50th anniversary. The name references Disney World's opening year (1971) and calls back to the now-closed Steakhouse 55 that operated at the Disneyland Resort in California, marking that park's opening year.

Back in the parks, breakfast service is returning to Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom on August 27, with reservations opening August 24.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery reopens in Africa on August 29 with new menu items, including Spiced Potato Hand Pies, a Marinated Chicken Flatbread Sandwich, and a Red Chili Hot Dog.

Over at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Dockside Diner opens August 22 with a Shrimp Salad Roll, Chipotle Chicken Salad Roll, and Smoked Fish Dip served with seasoned house-made chips, celery, carrots, jalapeños, and pickles.

Finally, Epcot has opened seven Food & Wine marketplaces that had been scheduled to debut October 1: The Alps, India, Ireland, Kenya, and Spain in World Showcase and Lobster Landing and Mac & Eats near Mission: Space.

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Replies (11)

August 20, 2021 at 1:56 PM

Disney must be happy with the rate of return… but I wonder if buffets really are a good idea. I’m not primarily thinking of the buffet thing, but Disney Food Blog have been saying over and over again the food has gotten better since moving to family style.

August 20, 2021 at 3:12 PM

Has Disney detailed any changes in the way buffets operate? Buffets around the country have essentially converted into cafeteria-style by taking the tongs and serving spoons out of the guest's hands and stationed servers at the buffets to fill your plate. Will Disney be doing the same, or is it back to serve yourself?

The Family Style option kept shared utensils and close contact with food to a single table/family pod, and seemed to be pretty popular not only from a hygiene perspective but also a food quality perspective. Family style also didn't have the same level of waste of a traditional buffet though there were typically fewer options (probably a big deal for a restaurant like Boma with over 100 menu options).

I know many of these Disney buffet restaurants have a lot of sunk costs in operating as a buffet, and many probably have kitchens that can only serve buffet style because many dishes are prepared off-site and transported to the kitchen for finishing, but it does seem a bit strange for them to ignore the positive reviews of former buffets now operating family style that were some of the worst rated restaurants in all of WDW.

August 20, 2021 at 3:28 PM

They initially removed buffets because they increase the risk of passing covid, but now here we are, in a situation every bit as bad when they removed the buffets (actually far, far worse given the communicability of the delta variant), and they're bringing buffets back?

Did the science behind the reasons why they removed buffets in the first place suddenly change, i.e., do we no longer believe they help communicate covid? Or is it simply that in June, when things were looking great, Disney planned to bring the buffets back, and now, despite the fact that the bottom has dropped out again, they're just continuing on with that plan?

There is some serious cognitive dissonance going on in this country. The average rate of new infection is equal to what it was on November 13, 2020, aka as we descended into darkness. But hi-dee-ho, now everything is just fine, let's go sit inside and eat from a buffet, yay!

August 20, 2021 at 3:32 PM

@thecolonel - I think there's been increasing evidence to suggest that the virus is not spread via surface contact. All of the cleaning, wiping down, and additional recommendations that were advised last summer are all still good things to do, but don't significantly decrease the risk.

However, I think in addition to increased hygiene, changing the standard operations at a buffet yield many other advantages like less food waste, increased tips for servers (because stodgy people actually see them brining food to the table if it's Family Style), and a more formal dining experience in terms of procedures.

As far as the current situation around the country, it seems pretty clear that the increased infections are a direct cause of vaccinated individuals transmitting the virus. Why this likelihood was never considered by the "experts" is beyond me. It doesn't take a PhD to understand that the vaccines boost the immune system to quickly attack and eradicate virus particles from your body (reducing the severity and longevity of the disease), but won't prevent you from being infected. Removing mask mandates and other mitigations was seen as the carrot to encourage people to get vaccinated, but was obviously a stupid decision on the part of our elected and appointed officials.

August 20, 2021 at 3:42 PM

I think in addition to all that it was deeply cynical. An opportunity to send everyone back into commercial spaces was spotted, seized upon and, politically speaking, it can all be blamed on the unvaccinated (though Russell is absolutely correct about the nature of the spread). This does seem weird from Disney's perspective from a *non* COVID perspective, though? The changes were good for cast and guests and even considering the possibility of the sunk cost fallacy rearing its ugly head, why mess with an easy win? Strange.

August 20, 2021 at 4:20 PM

@Russell "it seems pretty clear that the increased infections are a direct cause of vaccinated individuals transmitting the virus." That's demonstrably false, look at the heat map--the dark red areas correspond directly with places with lower rates of vaccination. In the west and northeast, where vaccinations are much more common, the rate of new infections is materially lower, by a factor of 3 or more. And breakthrough infections are believed to be only 10-30% of the whole. Put simply, the problem was and is that lots of brainwashed Americans still refuse to get vaccinated.

"Why this likelihood was never considered by the 'experts' is beyond me." It was considered, and the guidance we were given for months--that the vaccine would effectively immunize you from the disease and largely prevent you from spreading it--was correct under the prior variants. But Delta changed all that, because it causes sick people to carry a THOUSAND times higher viral load, and thus even vaccinated people can communicate the disease. The message changed because the FACTS changed.

"Removing mask mandates and other mitigations was seen as the carrot to encourage people to get vaccinated, but was obviously a stupid decision on the part of our elected and appointed officials." Again, only "stupid" in hindsight, because at the end of the spring, when the Delta was only reaching our shores, the guidance to remove mask mandates made sense. With prior iterations of the disease outdoor transmission was very rare, and indoor transmission was greatly curtailed by masks. Again, the Delta is very different, and so the message changed. Their guidance was only "stupid" in the sense that they did not predict the future better.

Science changes when the facts change, that's the nature of science.

All of that said, I agree with your point that the initial fears over surface transmission seem to have subsided.

August 20, 2021 at 7:12 PM

The local buffets that I have been to have done a couple of things. Most of them have you use gloves when you use the communal utensils. Some of them spoon the food at for you by a masked attendant. One local buffet gives you your own spoon and tongs to use. Disney could choose to use any, some, or none of these options.

August 20, 2021 at 11:50 PM

@Russell: Well, I think in this case I WILL trust the people who have PHds and it's their business to determine that no, it's not the vaccinated causing this spread.

August 21, 2021 at 8:49 AM

it's side-by-side problems. many people are not vaccinated (not uh, ideal) and those who can remove and retain guardrails naively thought removing masking mandates would ... god, i dunno, incentivize people to get vaccinated? or something? it's not as if the delta variant *snuck up* on any of them either. y'all might not be paying attention to this little country called india, but if they aren't... well. hard to call it an excuse.

regardless, the variant is spread by people not wearing masks. whether that's people vaccinated, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, drunk, not drunk, eating a churro, at universal or at the grocery store ... going back to full masking mandates early would have saved a lot of lives. and yet, here we are. buffets, huh!

August 21, 2021 at 1:53 PM

Satire:

"Great news! Boma is re-opening for you on August 20 and will be better than ever! We at Disney have heard what our guests are telling us and they no longer want to wait in long lines to get individual items at buffets. So you'll soon be able to enter into your smart phone what food items you want most into Genie+ and we'll do the thinking for you! Do you like carbs? Then expect a magical seaweed pancake or some fresh pumpkin spice French toast topped with a dollop of Dole Whip to appear on your family-style platter! Prefer protein? Well get ready for some octopus and spicy chicken wings on your plate!

"For guests who don't want to wait for their favorite items, there will be two tiers of our finest foods you'll be able to access more easily! And with Lightning Lane (only $10 per person!), they'll be able to go right up to the counter and select from some of over a dozen of our nearly most popular items. But what if you REALLY want Zebra Domes? If this is what you really desire and you want it now, you'll be able to simply go to Genie+ and tell our magical food delivery fairies that this is what you desire and for just $6 per item we'll make your culinary dreams come true!

Yes, we've been listening and will give you what you want without all the waiting for individual buffet items,
free parking at resorts,
free airport transportation,
and confusing new e-ticket attractions at each park every year. TTFN!"

August 21, 2021 at 11:27 PM

@tom u nailed it

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