In the post text and comments of our recent Tony’s Town Square review — and in the comments sections of a few other recent posts — the subject of homogenization of menus and condensation of purchasing down to just a few vendors across Disney’s restaurants has become a frequent topic of conversation.
Studios Central’s Matt Hochberg suggested a while back that I cover this issue and has since written a great post about it himself. I’ve also had some reader comments and emails that make it clear that this type of “uniform” experience might be making a dent in the magic for many of us.
There’s a concern that this is happening across the food and beverage service in Disney World and may be starting in Disneyland as well. But nowhere do I feel it more than where I first noticed the switch — the Disney World pool bar and lounge menus (you can see pics of the standardized lounge menus here and the standardized pool bar menus in this post). Those who have been reading the blog for a while will remember this post, where I finally gave up the ghost of my favorite Disney World drink, the 8 Trax Leisure Suit, because very few of the CMs were able to make it for me. (Thanks to those who submitted their favorites.)
Since then, I’ve come to accept that menus across the Disney World-owned bars and lounges are going to be similar, with an addition of a specialty drink here and there (interestingly, Dawa Bar in Animal Kingdom is an exception). And as a result, it’s seemed as though it’s not easy to get your old favorites, or even some old standards.
Recently, a Disney Food Blog reader and friend, Alan H., summarized in an email some of his experiences regarding this subject. To preface, Alan says, “I know change happens. I like change; it is what makes returning fun. All of these words are to say that [this is to be taken as] constructive criticism born of a deep love for the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’:”
On a rainy night just a couple of years ago we decided to blow off fireworks and french pastry at Epcot and instead catch Bob Jackson’s act at the Port Orleans Riverside resort, where we were staying. My wife has been getting Mississippi Mudslides there since the early 90′s. It’s one of their signature drinks. I ordered a stinger as I like retro cocktails and I always remember Cary Grant ordering them in some of his movies. The waiter came back and said to my wife, “You’re lucky — we were able to find the mudslide on one of the computers. (All they do is sub Chambord for Kahlua.) But I’m sorry we don’t have all the ingredients for a stinger.” Brandy and white creme de menthe? I said, “how about a sidecar?” A questioning look made me say, “Just a draft beer.”
What made this more upsetting was that the previous day we went to the Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian resort (an old favorite), which we have been visiting since our honeymoon in ’89. I ordered a Mai Tai (what else in the South Seas). I didn’t read the menu, which mentioned it had pineapple and orange juice. Trader Vic Bergeron invented the Mai Tai after a long trip to the south sea islands and started serving it in his pub in Oakland, CA, in the 1940′s. Good rum and some tropical flavorings. The only juice is from one lime. I also notice that the fancy new drink menu was, after the first page or so, very similar to all the other drink menus I had seen in the resorts recently.
Let’s face it. WDW has great cocktail lounges and bars. New places like La Cava del Tequila in Mexico; the new Via Napoli in Italy, which has some good looking and different drinks; the frozen Grand Marnier and Grey Goose drinks in France; the great pub blends in England; some of the drinks at the Prime Time restaurant at the Studios; and the fairly new Paradiso 37 at the somewhat forlorn Pleasure Island. But several of these are not Disney run places. It seems the old corporate “We can save money by putting the same liquor and equipment in all our lounges” mentality has taken hold. They do have all the currently hip, shiny, brightly colored drinks that people who only drink on vacation want, but wouldn’t it be nice if they gave their bartenders the things they need to make drinks not on the menus? Maybe one of them will come up with the new big thing. That would be a feather (or a swizzle stick) in the Walt Disney World mouse ears cap.
Thanks to Alan and to the others who have commented on this topic in the recent weeks. I’m opening this up for discussion and would love to hear your feedback. Are we just too picky? Are you seeing the “standardization” situation on your visits as well? Would love to hear some thoughts about this.
Quick Edit: This article is, by no means, meant to criticize Disney bartenders or other CMs. Many of my best experiences at Disney parks and resorts have been a result of bartenders going out of their way to ensure guests were well taken care of — pool bars especially. Petals, Banana Cabana, Trout Pass, AKL, and all the rest: thumbs up.
Thanks to DisneyContemporary.com for the use of the menu page photo