While I am obviously a fan of Disney dining in general, there is one particular aspect of eating at Walt Disney World that, as a parent, I find maddening: the multi-line quick service restaurant.
For those of you new to eating at WDW, some of the quick service (otherwise known as counter service) restaurants are set up with one order/payment line for all types of food items served there. The out-of-Disney-World analogy to this would be McDonald’s or similar fast food restaurants where you walk up to the cashier and tell him you want a burger, your husband wants chicken, and your daughter wants a salad. You pay and they give you all your food on one tray. Makes sense, right?
However, many quick service restaurants on Disney property do not follow this model. Instead of one place to order all the items sold at that location, there are multiple lines. One line to order burgers, one line to order chicken, one line to order salads, and so on. The out-of-Disney-World analogy to this is the mall food court.
So, Here’s the Problem
The multi-line quick service restaurant became my personal pet peeve way back in 1998, during our first trip to WDW with our oldest daughter, who was not quite two years old at the time. We were staying at Dixie Landings (now known as Port Orleans Riverside).
It is time for lunch. We go to the restaurant at the hotel to eat and find it has multi-line ordering. I want chicken, hubby wants a burger — two separate lines. How do we conquer this?
Option #1: I take the baby, look for a table, hunt down a high chair, maneuver the stroller and the high chair into a good location, and sit down. Hubby goes to line one and orders, waits for the food. He then carries the tray to line two and orders, holding the first tray of rapidly cooling food. He then brings both trays to us at the table.
The entire food procurement process takes twice as long as it should because hubby has effectively had to go through the entire process twice.
Option #2: I get in line one to order one type of food. Hubby takes the (hungry/fussy) baby in the stroller into line two to order the second type of food. I’m fine, but he is now simultaneously balancing a tray, entertaining a child, and pushing a stroller. Then we have to look for a high chair and table.
Option #3: I take the baby, get the table, etc. In order for hubby to only have to wait in one line, to save time, and not have food get cold, one of us has to compromise and not get what we really want to get. This is an inelegant, but somewhat workable solution for adults willing and able to take one for the team. But when picky eater children are in the mix, all bets on food compromise are off.
Clearly, for a family with divergent food interests, this multi-line quick service model simply doesn’t work. And don’t even get me started about what happens when you’re in this type of situation in a crowded theme park, or when you’re a single adult with children, or when you’re a family with three mobile preschoolers who will only eat three different types of food.
Now that my three daughters are all in their tweens or teens, you’d think this problem would go away. I can trust them to step a bit away from me and complete a simple sales transaction. However, there are still challenges. Often our family splits into subgroups for lunch leaving three of us together.
If we’re at a three-pronged multi-service line and the three of us all want different food, then we get into three separate lines to order/pay. Sounds fine — except that we then have to locate each other (in some cases more than 50 very crowded feet away), and then we still have to find a table. In a huge restaurant like the Magic Kingdom’s Cosmic Ray’s or Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons, there’s a real issue of losing track of your family members — even a responsible teen.
A much easier quick service situation for a family is the single-line restaurant. An example of this is Epcot’s Electric Umbrella. They offer burgers, chicken, and salad, all from one service area. Here, I take the baby and find a table. Hubby goes and orders everyone the food they actually want, gets one tray of hot food, and brings it to us at the table. Perfect.
Knowing is Half the Battle
So where are these beastly multi-line restaurants located? The short answer is practically everywhere. All the value and moderate resort food courts are set up like this. The smaller deluxe resort quick service restaurants even have some elements of this, though they are a bit more manageable.
In the Magic Kingdom, the biggest offender is Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. At Epcot it’s Sunshine Seasons in Future World. At the Animal Kingdom, the egg roll shack and the corn dog shack are visible to each other, but across a wide, congested walkway.
And at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you have my least favorite situation of all: the Sunset Ranch Market food huts. These are a series of five different stand-alone structures in one area, each offering a different type of food. There are no clear sight lines to the registers of these venues. And the seating areas are in somewhat hidden clusters — really a nightmare when you’re trying to keep tabs on your family members.
My family’s solution to this issue has simply been to avoid these restaurants as much as possible. I’ll go there if I’m traveling solo or with just my hubby, but when the children are with us, we tend to choose the single-line venues (our favorite is the Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbor House) because it greatly simplifies our dining experience.
What do you think folks? Am I being overly neurotic? Does your family have a creative way of dealing this? Any suggestions or solutions, let me know in the comments. Please.