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Kevin Yee

Reader Feedback: Questions, Comments, and Corrections

Questions and Comments

Since many of you have great questions and observations of interest to everyone, this regularly updated section tries to address your restaurant concerns.

Feedback for 7/11/01:

Kevin,

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 DCA.

Alvin
 

Dear Alvin:

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.
 

Kevin,

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 nothing special.

Thanks for the great reports. Keep them coming.
 

Dear Reader:

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, right?

I knew there was some reason the bar beer was a better value.
 

Kevin,

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 appetite!

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 food.

Cheryl
 

Dear Cheryl:

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 pre-planning.
 

Hi Kevin,

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.
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Kevin,

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.
 

Dear Reader:

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 Disney opened.

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.
 

Hi Kevin!

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.

Gregory W.
 

Dear Gregory:

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!
 

Kevin,

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 factors.

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 original McDonald's.

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...

Chris
 

Dear Chris:

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.
 

Hi Kevin:

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 licensed products.
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Kevin,

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.

Chuck
 

Dear Chuck:

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, Anaheim, CA.

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!
 

Kevin,

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, 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!

Puh-lease!

This is such an old non-news item!
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Hey!

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, right?

Sydney
 

Dear Sydney:

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 foot.
 

Dear Kevin,

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.

James
 

Dear James:

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.

Editor's Note:

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 opened...  ;)

- Al Lutz

Kevin,

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 Park).

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.

Here is our official campaign flyer, too. Could you please promote "Help Preserve the Magic" and the flyer via MousePlanet.com?
 

Dear Reader:

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 opinion.

Still, your attempt rates mentioning. Good luck!
 

Kevin,

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 research alone. 

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 retire. 

-Jayson
 

Dear Jayson:

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.
 

Kevin,

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.
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Kevin,

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.

Robert H
 

Dear Robert:

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.
 

Kevin,

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!

Cousin Orville
 

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 irony.
 

Kevin,

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.
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Kevin,

Coke has no visual reference? C'mon. Everyone knows what the Coca-Cola logo looks like.
 

Dear Reader:

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.
 

Dear Kevin,

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 its convenience.

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.

Chip
 

Dear Chip:

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."


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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.

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