Walt Disney World is testing a new seating system designed to improve crowd throughput at several of its Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants.
The new system requires all guests in a party to wait until they have received their food before being seated. Disney will also limit the number of guests in the restaurant at any one time, in order to guarantee seating for all.
The trial is currently taking place at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Café, Columbia Harbor House, Pinocchio Village Haus and Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. Disney hopes it will improve both guest comfort, and the efficiency (and therefore profitability) of its restaurants.
Under the system, all guests must enter the restaurant through a single entrance so that Cast Members can keep track of numbers (and restrict access if necessary). A greeter then provides menus and guides the group to a cash register to order, before another Cast Members leads them to an empty table.
Previous visitors to Walt Disney World will be familiar with crowding at counter service restaurants during peak times. This is often exarcebated by groups splitting up, with one half "reserving" a table while the other places a food order. Disney claims that up to a third of a restaurant's capacity can be "wasted" in this way - something the new system will help to stamp out.
The controlled access system will only be used on days when the park's attendance is high. Whether it is running or not, guests can avoid the biggest bottlenecks by eating early (11.30am or earlier for lunch, 5pm or earlier for dinner) or later (after 2pm for lunch, after 8pm for dinner).
Walt Disney World is experimenting with various new ways to increase margins during the economic downturn. Although it has offered a range of discounts to guests to prop up park attendance levels, it recently raised parking prices at all of the resort's theme parks.