What began as a mad dash to feast on the vegetarian offerings of a breakfast buffet, turned into a lesson on the politics of Disney’s restaurant ownership. A little more educated and much more prepared for making advance dining reservations in the future, I left our meal with a newfound respect for Disney Resort dining.
After a horrendous meal at Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot, the next morning brought new hope in the form of a breakfast at Boma, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. My stomach was audibly complaining of its mistreatment the prior evening as we arrived early to appease any revenge it may have thought to afflict on me.
From our dining ticket, our host noted that I had a dairy allergy and followed a Vegan diet. What began the conversation was his explanation of the Disney way of dining that every guest experiences, and the great efforts the chefs make in order to ensure that every dining experience is memorable for each guest – no matter the restrictions. At this, I explained my problems the night before – Marrakesh had failed to even attempt accommodation for me and I had been left with an empty stomach and a waste of a Deluxe Dining Plan meal credit.
I was then let in on a secret (or, at least it was news to me). The host explained that the restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase are not actually owned by Disney; the spaces are rented out to vendors. Guests that dine at a Disney-owned Resort or Park are secure in knowing that they will always be taken care of – even at the last minute. However, Epcot’s World Showcase is another matter altogether. These chefs do not work directly for Disney, and are not required to be as accommodating.
Even before receiving this piece of information I had suspicions that something was different at certain restaurants in Epcot. Every other dining experience of the trip had a chef coming to talk to me personally about my dietary needs, making me feel welcome and taken care of. The majority of our Epcot experiences only demonstrated the waiter being a go-between, relaying messages from the chef to us. It was this way at Marrakesh as well, only the chef sent word that they really had nothing for me. I was an inconvenience, as the waiter made clear when mentioning that the chef would be forced to concoct something separate for me and I should prepare to wait. Apparently all of the regular dishes were made in huge batches, sitting in a heating unit for hours.
Keep in mind that I enjoy eating at all the restaurants throughout World Showcase, and while the majority of our Epcot dining experiences during this trip were positive, I will not be returning to Restaurant Marrakesh. I have since heard similar stories from other past Disney guests. Besides this dining experience, all other chefs at World Showcase restaurants made sure that a dairy-free, vegan meal could be prepared, even for someone on the Deluxe Dining Plan (including an appetizer, entrée, and dessert).
After contacting Disney’s Special Diets department via email, I received a letter of apology with the promise of changes in the near future. Perhaps this was a standard, generic email meant to appease a disappointed guest, or maybe Disney has gotten numerous letters of this nature recently and is truly rethinking their Epcot dining contracts with vendors. Either way, this will not affect the frequency of my Disney excursions – it will only change the venues I dine at to those that are trusted from experience and sound reviews.
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