If you’ve ever reviewed a list of dining options in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, you may have noticed that some pavilions have more eateries than others. France and Japan, in particular, not only have several restaurants each, they’re both in the process of adding new restaurants as well, which will bring the restaurant total in France to five and in Japan to four.
So why do Epcot’s France and Japan have so many restaurants each while Canada can’t even get a quick service spot?
The answer to this question is a little complicated. You may think that the inequality is due to French and Japanese cuisine being more celebrated in the real world, and thus restaurants in these pavilions are naturally more popular. (Of course, Le Cellier in Canada is popular in its own right, but Canadian cuisine isn’t exactly lauded in general.) But this answer is the simplest part of the explanation.
That’s because Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions have a bit of politics and economics going on behind the scenes. All of the original pavilions that opened in 1982 were financially backed by private companies hailing from those countries — with the exceptions of Canada and China. Morocco was added in 1984, and, as many fans know, the pavilion was sponsored by the government of Morocco (although a third party runs their restaurants). And in 1988, Norway opened with a small investment from the nation of Norway but a much larger contribution from a business consortium. (See Yesterland’s comprehensive look at World Showcase history here).
Today, businesses are the name of the game in most pavilions, including Japan, were the Mitsukoshi department store owns the dining establishments in the pavilion (as well as the popular store). Mitsukoshi is also the group behind Japan’s new signature restaurant, Takumi-Tei, currently under construction and set to open in summer 2019.
In France, the Bocuse family — headed now by Chef Jerome Bocuse who took over for his father, world-renowned Chef Paul Bocuse — operates all the eateries in the pavilion (including the forthcoming Creperie).
So behind these popular restaurants are powerful people and organizations which have established relationships with Disney and are willing to invest money, time, knowledge, and effort in creating more experiences for guests.
Meanwhile the Canada pavilion was fraught with tension from the start. The Walt Disney Company sought funding for the pavilion from the Canadian government, but Canada rejected the plans Disney had for the pavilion, saying that the designs were too stereotypical. Disney proceeded without the blessing of (or funding from) the Canadian government.
So does this old feud prevent Canada from expanding, or is it simpler than that: people just aren’t familiar with Canada’s cuisine and so multiple restaurants aren’t necessary? And if that’s so, how does this explain the prevalence of poutine — Canada’s loaded French fry export — all over Walt Disney World? (The Daily Poutine in Disney Springs is, you know, an entire restaurant serving just poutine!)
So clearly there’s a desire for the Canadian French fry specialty, as well as the Cheddar Cheese Soup made popular by Le Cellier that’s been sought-after as a snack at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and that appeared at Refreshment Port for a time as well (see that here!). Would additional specialty items like maple butter, beavertails, and tourtiere also be popular if they were introduced to Epcot guests? BeaverTails, in fact, had a bit of a moment in the Canada Pavilion in a food stall run by the Montreal-based BeaverTails company that’s popular in Canada proper. These fan-favorite fried dough treats were available for years before the kiosk disappeared in 2004. So we have to think there’s a market for all of Canada’s unique eats.
As Canada continues to operate only one restaurant while France and Japan continue to expand, we’ve come to the conclusion that the lack of financial backing — from the Canadian government or from corporations — has resulted in the meagre offerings in the pavilion. We hope that as Epcot’s growth manifests over the next few years, the lovely Canada pavilion will get a little more love — that is, if politics and history can get out of the way of some great eats.