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“Chef Kevin”
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Kevin Yee

RESTAURANT INFOBITS

ABC Soap Opera Bistro shutting down?

Soap Opera Bistro
Soap Opera Bistro

Rumors are swirling that the ABC Soap Opera Bistro in California Adventure (DCA) might shut down its normal operations, and only open for special events. Is business not strong enough at this location? Apparently not. The culprit seems to be the familiar theme at DCA: prices are just too high for many families.

Surprisingly, the same rumors are materializing about Hollywood and Dine - the low-priced food court in the corner of the Hollywood section of DCA. In this case, the low patronage seems to be related more to a lack of traffic than the absurd prices. After all, there isn't anything in this corner of the park except the mostly- reviled Superstar Limo ride.

Perhaps the Millionaire attraction, which opens soon nearby, will goose sales enough to keep this food court open. DCA needs all the available affordable food it can get.


Bountiful Valley Market not so bountiful after all?

The very seldom- open counter service location in Bountiful Valley Farm seems to have lost the wrap- sandwiches from its menu. Some reports indicate that the menu has been entirely scrapped, due to poor sales. It seems likely that the poor sales had to do less with the wraps, if you ask me, than the fact that this location was almost never given a chance. It's almost never open, even in the daytime.

Apparently it was designed to be one of those locations open only when the park exceeded certain attendance levels, and DCA seldom hits those numbers. Worse still, this eatery has the misfortune to be located in the most useless of DCA's themed areas, the farm. Given the triple whammy of low park attendance, low patronage in the farm area, and severely restricted operating hours, it should surprise no one that the wraps are considered failures.


Mondavi: Grapes AGAIN, and some free wine

Mondavi's vineyard
Yet another attempt to grow vines at DCA.

There is yet another planting of grape vines at Mondavi - doesn't this make it the fourth attempt at a planting? Seems they still can't get the vines to grow properly.

Great news for those of us who do not enjoy paying $20 prices to taste wines: apparently Mondavi offers free wine tasting every day at 3:30 p.m., for a limited time. I applaud the giveaways - how could I object? - but it seems to me that they'd have better financial success overall if they simply reduced wine tasting prices, rather than relying on free wine as a way to goose wine purchases.


Avalon makes prices available

If you wandered past Avalon Cove in DCA's early days, you would have seen stanchions outside the restaurant. One detailed the history of Wolfgang Puck, and a second one listed the restaurants menu items... but not the prices.

Guests must have expressed a lot of sticker shock when they saw the prices inside, since Avalon Cove now features the menu prices outside on that same stanchion. Watch this column for a full article on Avalon Cove soon, and its rather... um... muscular pricing levels.


Grand Californian Hotel restaurants - now open nights to the public 

For the first few months of their existence, the restaurants at the Grand Californian Hotel suffered mightily, enduring nights of mostly- empty dining areas while the nearby Downtown Disney eateries packed the folks in. Foods managers begged Security and the Hotel to allow Downtown Disney guests into the hotel, but the policy at the time was to restrict access to the hotel in the evenings.

The idea was that only hotel guests themselves could get in, as a way of ensuring a quieter environment. After all, they paid truly premium rates to stay at this hotel, the first to be inside a Disney theme park. Only those with a reservation, or a confirmed room at the Grand Californian, could visit the restaurants.

Finally, security and the hotel relented, and now anyone can get to the hotel restaurants in the evening. The result? MUCH busier evenings at the Storyteller Cafe and Napa Rose, and a healthier bottom line. Good news for everyone.


Napa Rose loses lunch service

From the Disneyland Line, the Cast Member newspaper: "Napa Rose began serving Sunday brunch May 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Every Sunday, Guests will be treated to an array of culinary delights such as black pepper and ham beignets with cider-roasted peach sauce or warm milk chocolate blintz with cherry port compote, prepared by Executive Chef Andrew Sutton. Prices for the brunch are $22 a person for two courses, $28 for three courses and $34 for four courses. For reservations, call (714) 300-7170."

Napa Rose
Napa Rose

Reading between the lines, what we really have here is not the addition of a brunch service on Sundays, but rather the elimination of the daily lunch service. Except for this limited Sunday offering, the Napa Rose is now just an evenings- only restaurant. Seems that hotel and resort guests are more interested in being in the parks during the day than hanging out in the hotel restaurants - who knew?

Mild sarcasm aside, the culprit here is probably the higher prices charged by Napa Rose, even on the lunch menu.

And what side- effect did this service change result in? Read on...


Napa Rose endures layoffs among hourly personnel

In late May, when the Napa Rose become a dinner- only restaurant, there were over a dozen layoffs at the restaurant, and hours for the remaining folks were cut (in some cases drastically). 

The news is not as dire as you might suspect, though. Sources close to the restaurant cite the layoffs as a bit of necessary fat-cutting. The restaurant had apparently over-hired by a very wide margin, so as to be prepared for the deluge of guests to come. When that didn't materialize, naturally there were too many CMs.

While some cutbacks thus make sense, one source confided to me, on condition of anonymity, that the layoffs were really just designed to rid the restaurant of some sub- standard CMs. Think of it as a way to guarantee Disney magic to the guests who do visit - though at a cost to the CMs originally hired in.


The UVA bar - not the H2O bar?

In Downtown Disney, the popular Catal restaurant operates a companion outdoor bar called the Uva bar, where a strange policy on tap water continues to evolve. Apparently, managers have instructed the bartenders and servers to deny requests for tap water - it's "just their policy". Patrons are told instead to order bottled water, which must of course be paid for. Only if guests insist will servers and managers relent, though with clear distaste. Is this any way to run a business?

On one recent occasion, a patron was told that the tap water was unsuitable for drinking - which is either a bald-faced lie or something the health department needs to investigate. Is the desire for profit that urgent that non- drinking guests need to be alienated for not purchasing a beverage?

Adding to the confusion is the on-again, off- again policy at the Uva bar regarding refills on non- alcoholic drinks. Whether or not you get refills seems to depend on the constantly changing policy, the server's mood, or possibly the alignment of Jupiter. No one seems to know.


Disneyland's Rancho del Zocalo: Trayslide or Scramble?

Rancho del Zocalo, the new Frontierland "scramble- style" restaurant that has been struggling to make its service work with tight spaces and mass guest confusion, appears to have finally found a service solution that works. The good: guests are no longer subjected to confusion, the lines work fairly and in order, and families can finally get the food they wanted without large- scale hassle. The bad: the only way to make it work is with a single line held up by a greeter.

When the restaurant opened, it was true "self-service" scramble style - you go to one window for tacos, another for salads. This resulted in mass confusion. The first attempted fix was to assign "servers" to each line that would get the food for the person at the head of each line, so now only the CMs were crossing each other at the service counter. That was labor- intensive and counter- intuitive.

This fix is better: guests are held in one long line until there is an opening at the counter, then they are let in one at a time. The result is far less confusing, with no overlapping lines, but unfortunately this reduces the food processing speed of the location to the level consistent with a "tray slide" - exactly what Casa Mexicana was before. Wasn't the rehab supposed to increase capacity and sales?

Full kudos to the operations folks on-site who designed the newest system - they are doing all they can for the guests who visit. The real problem here is the Imagineer who designed the system, thinking that the space was sufficient for a true scramble style, when it clearly wasn't.

Rancho del Zocalo - Nice, orderly, and unfortunately not any faster than the old tray slide.
Nice, orderly, and unfortunately not any faster than the old tray slide.


Fantasmic Dessert Experience, Take Two

You've heard of the Fantasmic Dessert Experience at Disneyland proper, right? It's that balcony seating thing above New Orleans Square, isn't it? Well... no, it isn't.

A department at Disneyland called Special Events has begun cashing in on the popular Balcony experience for Fantasmic and now offers priority seating and dessert for Fantasmic, but over in front of the French Market, on the middle tier. Advertisements for the new service can be seen under the Main Street Train Station as you enter the park. 

For $40 each (children $30), guests are treated to folding chairs and a pre-boxed assortment of desserts, as well as drinks served to them by hosts and hostesses. There is room here for a couple dozen guests per show, but most shows do not sell even a dozen tickets. One recent Sunday, the second show didn't sell any tickets at all, so the area was cleared of the event and opened up to the public as if the Dessert service had never existed.

Is it worth the price? Depends. The view here is mediocre. This area is directly in front of the third light tower, so it faces the third mist screen directly - but that's not a centered view of the show. More importantly, it's not a RAISED view the way the balcony experience is. Yet the prices for the two events are similar, as if Special Events think that people pay $40 for desserts and "chair service" drinks. That is most assuredly not the case - the lure of the Balcony is the fabulous view, with the desserts and service as just a nice bonus.

However, the Dessert Experience in front of the French Market - which I tend to think of as "Balcony Overflow" - might be a good choice for some people. If you are at Disneyland with small kids and simply must see the first Fantasmic showing, you might find this worth the money. You get to sit, you get to avoid the crowds and not have to camp out for a good spot, and you get desserts. You even get to keep the box they came in, with a sort of souvenir medallion on the top. You'll pay for the privilege, but for some families this might be the appropriate solution if the Balcony is sold out (as it almost always is). Otherwise, my overall opinion is that it's not worth the money. Maybe if it were $20 instead of $40...

Fantasmic gift
Did you enjoy your $40 desserts?


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