Questions and Comments
Since many of you have great questions and observations of interest to
everyone, this regularly updated section tries to address your
In a trip last month to Disney's California Adventure (DCA) park,
we discovered that Corn Dog Castle closed early at 5 p.m. When we
asked a cast member (CM) if DCA was closing other fast food eateries
early as well, in a likely effort to direct more business to the
higher- end food establishments for dinner. The CM didn't have a
clue, and wasn't even aware that Corn Dog Castle had closed early.
As I waited for friends to return from Mulholland Madness, which
was nice to see open again, I watched at least a dozen other people
get turned away by CMs who were cleaning and closing. The comments
and looks on those people's faces were pretty consistent: they
couldn't believe it had closed early; and [they felt it was] another
attempt by DCA to force you to higher- priced fare. Whether it's a
deliberate attempt or not, it's the impression that people are going
away with, and likely spreading by word of mouth.
Maybe the summer will result in different practices. As an Annual
Pass holder, we'll be dropping by DCA this July 6 to see if things
improve with Disney's Electrical Parade, and see if it works for
I've got something planned that talks
about the general DCA restaurant plan and philosophy, and trust me,
I plan to rail about the closing times myself. All this may be moot,
though, if the Electrical Parade gooses attendance enough.
Just another follow-up to your beer story. I
visited the park this past weekend and was looking forward to the
24-ounce microbrew for $4.29. I thought that would be a great deal.
Well much to my dismay, the beers at The Truck are
not 24-ounce, but only 16-ounce. Also, it is 4.29 plus tax. So, 4.50
for a 16-ounce beer. Not such a great deal. Not a rip-off, but
Thanks for the great reports. Keep them coming.
Yup, turns out I got my reporter notes
confused while researching this. Try not to make alcohol jokes -
after all, I had to sample the product to know if it was any good,
I knew there was some reason the
bar beer was a better value.
Granted, I go to Walt Disney World (WDW) and not
to Disneyland, but I would think the pre-purchased food packages
would at least be similar. I've never seen the voucher
plan you discussed a few weeks ago, which as you said, is
not well advertised, but I've used the WDW Deluxe Dining Plans
several times since 1995 and will really miss them this year since
I've joined the Disney Vacation Club.
Maybe I was just fortunate, but AAA allowed me to photocopy their
manual with all the listings of restaurants and what you got, such
as appetizer, entree, and so on, including all the flex plans and
prices. I'd be lying if I said I remember exactly what I paid for it
but I'm guessing less than, or approximately $400 per person for a
five-night stay last September.
Eighty dollars per person per day, you say?! How can that be a
good deal you ask? Believe me, it was a great deal. True, not for
everyone. But for the ones who like structured meal times and
planning Priority Seating requests and what to eat it's a great deal
-- I'm from Mobile, AL, the "heat" doesn't affect my
We never ate anywhere that wasn't sit- down restaurant. We did
character buffets every morning and ate only the best food. I don't
recall having a dinner check that was less than $150. For the
average person, I'm sure your evaluation would be correct but to
some of us the Disney "magic" wouldn't be the same without
The Disneyland Plan works differently -
here you get meal vouchers that have a maximum value, and if your
meal costs more than the vouchers you hold, then you have to make up
the cost yourself. So it really provides no savings whatsoever, just
I went to the Uva Bar two days ago, and I had the best server!
She gave me a straightforward reason why the only water is bottled.
Their water is not filtered. As we were talking, my friend and I
could tell that she was fed up with the situation. I didn't think
about asking about the ice or what they wash their dishes in, but it
was a straightforward answer. I ended up asking for a glass of ice,
and she brought that no problem (ice melts into water!) Then later
on she brought me some water.
I also found out why they no longer do drink refills on
non-alcoholic drinks. They have to tip out the bartender for the
drinks, and if they sell one drink with four refills, they have to
tip out the bartender four times with the profits of that 1 drink. I
personally have no problem drinking straight tap water as I am a
local and I drink tap water at home. Anyway, I had the best
experience there, and I called her general manager the next day to
tell him all about her.
Thanks for the follow-up on this story.
I've received a number of e-mail feedback on both sides of the fence
here, some arguing that water shouldn't have to be served at a bar,
while others insist that for designated-driver reasons, it should
never be denied. It sounds like the Uva Bar has reached a solution,
and I think it's time we moved beyond this topic.
Thank you for your recent review of Avalon Cove and the beer
truck over in Pacific Wharf.
I think the price for the microbrews are a good value,
considering the overall good quality. Have you paid for a drink
lately in coach on your favorite airline? It's approaching $5.00 for
a beer up in the friendly skies... and up there you just can't jump
out of your seat to your neighborhood liquor store!
Overall, the price-point that's been established for the
microbrews is a good value. Frankly, I'm surprised that the price of
the microbrews are not higher, and they may already be by the time
of your next update in this area, which leads me to the following:
We have frequented DCA many times since its opening. I admit, I'm
one of the few who actually like the park. I guess I don't like to
drive up to Santa Clarita for Magic Mountain. Often, we combine our
trip into DCA with a movie over at AMC and sometimes a meal over at
Catal. Catal in my opinion has become Orange County's new "hot
spot" and offers some of the best food and service that I've
seen come out of a new restaurant in a long time.
P.S. Can you give us an update on the Kosher and other dietary
options at DCA? We've seen nothing posted.
You're right that microbrews do
typically cost more, and that Disney isn't out of line considering
what other captive audiences have to pay (ski resorts are real bad
about this too).
I've been surprised by Catal. It's
clearly busy - busy than I would ever have thought before Downtown
As for Kosher and diets, we are working
on an update soon. May take some time, though. In brief: expect to
not be catered to much at DCA. Kosher can - I think - be
purchased by request at the table-service locations.
I have never thought that McDonald's coming to Disney was a bad
thing. McDonald's fries are far superior to Disney's. The fry carts
were Disney- themed. No big deal. Disney has served Carnation ice
cream, Nestle products, and so on. However, times change, and Burger
Invasion is an aberration. It's not just that it serves McDonald's
food: it's that it looks just like a McDonald's. Sure it has some
theming on the roof, but inside -- it's a McDonald's!
Disney should never have allowed the standard- looking menus. And
they should have insisted on DCA-specific foods. A California Burger
with sprouts and avocado, perhaps. Personally, when I come to a
Disney park, I want to get away from the annoyances of the outside
world. And I love eating at McDonald's.
But at a Disney park, I'm looking for unique experiences. The
idea of eating food I eat in the real world in a setting that looks
like it does in the real world would ruin the entire day for me. If
it looked original, and had unique offerings, I'd give it a shot. As
it stands, it'll never get my money. I'd prefer to pay a little more
for something I can't get anywhere else.
I got a lot of email similar to yours
(some more are below), and you're right, they really should have
come up with a DCA-unique burger.
It's not too late, Disney!
As a big-time Disneyland fan I too had strong
feelings about McDonald's in the parks. Originally it really
bothered me; now my opinion has changed based upon a couple of
The "fry" wagon and the Burger Invasion are still
themed in an appropriate manner. In fact for the Paradise Pier area,
I thought it would be real cool if they had made the McDonald's look
like one of the stores from the '50s with the original limited menu
of just burgers, fries and shakes that McDonald's served. In many
respects, current In-N-Out Burger stores have a similar feel to the
Additionally, Disney has never been able to do a burger right.
After dozens of visits to Disneyland, I have never found a real good
burger in the park. Whether you like them or not, McDonald's does a
better burger than Disney food service does -- though I would go to
DCA just for an In-N-Out Burger if they were there!
The other reason it doesn't bother me as much is that Disneyland
has a long history of corporate partnerships. I believe I was
reading in Disneyland:
The Nickel Tour, which is an excellent history of the
park, that there was some desire to have familiar names associated
with businesses as it helped in our acceptance of the theming.
If the McDonald's was a bad idea, then people would not eat
there. As a vacationer, I tend to try something different, but often
times my children are not as adventurous. They want something
familiar, and in the food world there is nothing more familiar than
a McDonald's hamburger or box of chicken McNuggets.
Maybe if there had been more corporate sponsorship at DCA we
would have better rides! Maybe DCA could just be re-themed as the
giant food court for Disneyland...
Thanks for the comments. I wanted to
respond to the notion that a McDonald's is necessarily a good idea
because crowds like it - I disagree. Disney ought to be protecting
people "from themselves."
I've used the argument in this column
before that a blackjack table in Innoventions would be very popular
indeed, but it would be a bad idea because it would dilute the
Disney experience. Hyperbole? Sure, but it's the same principle.
I have to dispute your statement [about it being a franchise]. Burger
Invasion is not a franchise, it is a restaurant run by Disney
itself! Disney owns the Burger Invasion restaurant outright, and
is licensed to sell McDonald's products. There is no franchise
agreement, it's an agreement to sell our product at their venue! On
the surface it may appear to be a franchise, but the elements
involved in a McDonald's franchise are absent in this deal. It is
not one of us.
The raw products are purchased from McDonald's Distribution and
that's were the relationship ends. Burger Invasion is not part of
the McDonald's San Diego Region, of franchisees, which includes
Orange County, or the McDonald's West Coast Division. The franchise
network has nothing to do with it. We do not staff it, we do not
train the Disney crew, we do not calculate their sales into the
region's tally, and the big point is... they do not participate in
the franchise network in any way. They just buy from our distributor
instead of from one of their other distributors so they can sell our
Every so often, I need to throw out a mea
culpa, and this seems to be one of those times. You are quite
right: Burger Invasion is not a franchise, no matter what that
management-type told me a few weeks ago - perhaps I was being
brushed off or even deliberately misled?
All the more reason, if you ask me, that
Disney should theme those menu displays and burger names.
I could not agree more about having an In-N-Out Burger instead of
a McDonald's at DCA (although McD's also traces its roots to
California). For you to say that In-N-Out Burger is "a much
better burger" is truly an understatement. Rather than eat at
Burger Invasion, Il simply jump in the car and head to the In-N-Out
on Brookhurst Street, less than two miles from the park.
I also agree that there needs to be more vendor-run restaurants,
specifically national chains, since any bad will engendered at any
location would affect their bottom line on a larger scale. For
example I will never give Rainforest Cafe a third chance due to two
bad experiences at their local establishment -- the second chance
was worse than the first.
Here at MousePlanet we like to perform
good guest service. In that light, I'll go ahead and give everyone
directions to that In-n-Out:
600 S. Brookhurst,
On the corner of Brookhurst and Orange
(just one block south of Lincoln). In general, the area is just
south of either the 5 or 91 freeways.
Eat up, everyone!
I saw where this story was going: McDonald's
intrudes Disney, purist Disneyoids freaked that the outside world
has entered Disney, Walt would roll over in his grave, blah, blah,
My friend, Walt Disney was the ultimate corporate
schmoozer...from major exposure in the parks from sponsors such as
Pepsi, Frito-lay, Monsanto, Black and Decker, and Kodak.
Hey, look! Carnation Foods is taking over the park! Everybody
run! Disney is such a sell-out!
This is such an old non-news item!
Let it never be said that I fail to
publish my hate mail. :)
I do hear your point that Disney has
always had outside sponsorships. I would dispute, however, that Walt
wanted it that way.
And even if you could prove to me that
he did, that still doesn't make it a good idea.
On top of all that, McDonald's is
different from Carnation or M&M's/Mars - the entire product is
right there. Add to that the fact that not everyone likes
McDonald's, and you see the nature of the outburst here. I don't
think this phenomenon of disliking the DCA McDonald's is confined to
"Disneyoids," as you put it.
Love your columns... but: I would never eat at Burger Invasion,
though for none of the reasons you've listed. In fact, I harbor no
bad thoughts about those golden arches, and if the big D can shore
up that bottom line by putting them into the park, then fine. But if
you want to eat at McDonald's, why wait in that huge line
that invariably forms, only to get a very limited menu of three or
so sandwiches at inflated "value" menu prices that don't
even include a drink?
Just do what we do: get your hand stamped, walk out the Harbor
Boulevard walk-in entrance, cross the crosswalk, and walk about half
a block to your left. Between the hotels and inns lies a real
McDonald's, with lower prices, a full menu, and not nearly as long a
line. Come on, people -- if you buy into that "captive
audience" mentality that easily, then you probably
shouldn't complain about Burger Invasion limiting your choices,
Not everyone wants to walk quite that
far, especially families on a vacation, pressed for time, and
possibly with small children. The McDonald's you mention is not the
best one in the area, though it's the only other one reachable on
I agree with your observations that In-N-Out Burger would be a
perfect fit for DCA. After all, it is a California institution. But
what really is a shame about Burger Invasion is that it does not
even try to tie into the California theme. Why not theme the
restaurant to look like the original McDonald's hamburger stand that
was located right here in Southern California? What a coincidence!
But somehow this little bit of historical reference that would have
linked McDonald's and DCA was completely overlooked.
Too bad, because Disney missed the one great opportunity to have
a reason to have a full McDonald's restaurant in the one theme park
where it could make sense.
You're right, they should have chosen a
"classic McDonald's" look over the oh- so- popular
"giant burger from space" look. On the other hand, though,
I can see how that might backfire. Those of us who are against
McDonald's anyway might have a field day with one that looks like a
McDonald's from a distance, even an antique one.
Actually Kevin, (and kind readers)
if I remember correctly - the Imagineers did suggest a
reproduction of the classic Downey's McDonalds building, complete
with golden arches, for DCA.
As I understand it - it was
McDonalds that didn't want that building. The reason I remember
they didn't like it was that it wasn't "hip" enough -
they wanted a "fresh" image, so then WDI came up with
the "Invasion" idea.
We all know where all that
"fresh & hip" thinking went once the park
- Al Lutz
I run a page on Yahoo entitled "Help
Preserve the Magic." We are dedicated to keeping a full
sized McDonald's out of Walt's original Magic Kingdom (Disneyland
Started in February of last year, we currently have over 150
supporters and have had literally hundreds of petition signers over
three separate petitions, which have all been sent in to McDonald's,
Roy Disney, Cynthia Harriss, Michael Eisner, and Paul Pressler.
is our official campaign flyer, too. Could you please promote
"Help Preserve the Magic" and the flyer via
Here is your requested publicity :)
Note, however, that I personally think
such campaigns are doomed to failure. Disney listens to customers
who vote with wallets, and boycotts are very hard to organize and
maintain, so it really does boil down to word- of- mouth and public
Still, your attempt rates mentioning.
I have been unfortunate enough to work in fast
food and at Disneyland. Your average cost for a large soft drink is
less than 20 cents. Theme parks can sell these drinks for $1.50 and
up, depending on cup construction (plastic vs. wax coated paper).
There are similar high- margin items that might be better handled by
outside companies. Mall food courts for example, have a largely
diversified transient array of employees that do not collectively
bargain, union be gone.
In addition, lower food costs -- think volume
here, several McD's versus a few Disneylands -- will turn into
higher margins. I love In-N-Out Burger also, but with the number of
people in Disneyland, they will need a FastPass for that too. And,
don't forget about the fact, that except for Mrs. Knott's fried
chicken, theme parks have little knowledge about food quality or
Can someone else run a better Disneyland? I
haven't been to Japan yet, but I'll save lots of money by not
renewing my annual pass to Disneyland, until I have enough money to
see the park that Walt wanted. In the 31 years of my life, I've
never felt that I would be ashamed enough to say that. I've seen the
old Disneyland, if Eisner can't improve this place, he needs to
Thanks for the perspective here. My only
comment is that needing a FastPass for an In-N-Out Burger restaurant
would not be a bad thing. When customers are banging down your door
to buy your product, you're in a good position. Just build a
positively enormous In-N- Out -- I'm talking 30 or 40 cash registers
here -- and voila, no crowds but big profits. Sigh. If only.
The original McDonald's brothers' restaurant was
built in San Bernadino off Route 66. Burger Invasion is also located
by DCA's own Route 66. Once Ray Kroc bought out the name he then
franchised it and built the first franchise in Chicago.
You know, I never noticed that, but
you're quite right: Burger Invasion is near the merchandise shop
"Route 66" in Paradise Pier.
I guess DCA does have some small
special touches. I remain unconvinced that they are as good, or as
neat, as is usual at Disney parks, though.
You forgot to include the McDonald's at The Disney
Market Place / Downtown Disney that appeared in 1997 or 1998. One of
the first stores in the MarketPlace, now Downtown Disney, to face
the parking lot and be visible from the main road. I admit to
getting drinks there and one morning walking there from the Hilton
for breakfast, but I agree with the vision of Disney parks being
different and special from the outside world.
Our family, including our 6- year- old daughter,
doesn't mind other chains like House of Blues and Planet Hollywood
because the only other time we encounter them is when we vacation in
Myrtle Beach instead of Orlando.
I don't mind House of Blues or Planet
Hollywood in the least at Downtown Disney in either Orlando or
Anaheim - it's only in the parks themselves that I think the outside
world should stay out of.
There is a difference in the Mc Donald's- versus-
Coke analogy. Coke is clearly perceived as a quintessential quality
product that invented its category. McDonald's isn't known for
having the best hamburger (maybe fries), just a low- cost
predictable product. Disney is the most expensive theme park
experience you can have and a premium product. McDonald's now co-
exists with the plumbing fixtures at Home Depot, not Neiman- Marcus.
McDonald's isn't special like Disney and screams
"average" to every other attraction around it. All of this
undermines the "escape" of the parks. Why build a berm to
escape the real world only put backlit photo menus with meal numbers
inside it? The guests line up because they have Disney's legacy of
overpriced bad food to drive them to the golden arches. Ask the
people that run the one across from Disneyland. They can at least
know what to expect.
It is ironic that since 1955 the real world has absorbed the
artificial and modeled its recent developments more after what is so
special inside of the berm, such as twinkle lights, themed malls,
hotels, Vegas, and so on, and the Disney parks have evolved away
from escape and more toward reality. Maybe there will be a time when
it's free to get in and $43 to get out!
Dear Cousin Orville:
One thing to keep in mind is that DCA
doesn't actually have a berm around it -- you can see outside
the park pretty easily in some places. But your point is well taken:
the Vegas- like look surrounding Disneyland has been cleaned up,
only to move into the newest park instead! I love the delicious
Just to make a small comment, I am a Cast Member
at the resort. When I visit the parks I find that the prices for
everything, especially the McDonald's, are way too overpriced. I
can't afford it with what I make, even with a discount.
The McDonald's across Harbor makes for better
prices for the same food, with only a short walk. Driving to the one
on Ball is even better, they do the specials over there, and people
who pay for parking only have to pay once in the day as long as the
retain their paid parking ticket.
Hey, you're right, I forgot about that:
the one on Harbor never does the "Sunday cheeseburger
deal" or whatever all those McDeals are. I think it's because
they don't need to: they are always very busy.
Hm. I wonder if the DCA McDonald's is
stealing any of its business? The conspiracy theorist in me was
tempted to theorize in the article that Disney wanted a McDonald's
in the new park because they were annoyed at the decades- long
cannibalization of their restaurant business by the folks who run
the one on Harbor Blvd.
Coke has no visual reference? C'mon. Everyone
knows what the Coca-Cola logo looks like.
Hm. You have a point.
On the other hand, I don't think of the
logo when I hear the word. Instead, my taste buds start working. I
stand by my assertion that McDonald's is somehow more visual in its
appeal to people.
Thanks for the informative article on McDonald's and Disney. It
reminds me why I like MousePlanet so much: background information on
Disney operations that I'm interested in knowing about, and the
chance to comment on them. I agree with most of what you said and
would like to expand upon a couple items.
1. Dilution of the Disney illusion: What a great description! It
seems to me that most of the corporate food sponsorship at
Disneyland has been condiments, snacks, or side dishes (drinks).
Having an outside company feature its chief food item at a Disney
park seems / feels like a startling shift. Can you imagine:
"Big Thunder BBQ" presented by Sizzlers, or "Redd
Rockett's Pizza Port" sponsored by Domino's?
2. Where's the quality?: Perhaps, the issue isn't the food the
company is known for, but the level of quality. I don't salivate
with anticipation over a McDonald's burger. I purchase it because of
3. In-N-Out Burger at Disneyland: Yes, Yes, Yes! From your lips
to Eisner's ears! I've wondered for years if Disney had ever
considered allowing In-N-Out to take over its terrible burger
operations. Or Ruby's for that matter. Wasn't Ruby's the original
sponsor of the Fifties restaurant at the Paris Disney Village? They
would be a great California connection.
2. Fries: It would be much easier for me to "swallow"
the invasion of McDonald's fries at Disneyland, if they had first
been introduced at the walk-up windows. "Fries by
McDonalds." That would have made a for a great sign, plus, be
presented in an appropriate context, unlike the free-standing fry
cart (Anaheim ain't Amsterdam). I could just hear the crowds as they
waited to order lunch for their family: "McDonald's fries.
Cool!" Everybody likes McDonald's fries--in context. But, of
course, I'm sure McD's would never have allowed their spuds to be
presented alongside a foreign burger (Disney's own).
To end, I for one do not plan to ever eat at Burger Invasion, as
long as it's sponsored by McDonald's. I'll take the time to walk
over the Mondavi Deli.
I'll let your email speak for itself,
since I agree with all of it. But I want to let you know that you
have come up with the best analogy yet to describe what Burger
Invasion represents: it's exactly the same thing as "Redd
Rockett's Domino's Pizza."
I welcome your questions and comments, but keep in
mind that all questions submitted to the Chef Kevin column become property
of this website. They may be edited for length or style and in
consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on
other parts of the site too.