When my family and I went to Walt Disney World in November of 2006, one of the nicest surprises of the vacation was the Disney Dining Plan. If you were staying in a Disney Resort, for a little under $40 an adult each day, we were able to order one snack, one counter service (fast food type) meal with drink and dessert, and one table service meal with appetizer, entree, dessert, drink, and tip. So all of our food for each day was essentially taken care of. It was a wonderful value and convenience. And Disney reaped the added benefits of giving people an incentive to stay in their hotels and not leave the parks, increasing the chances they’d spend more money with Disney.
This year my wife and I are planning another trip to Disney and the Disney Dining Plan seemed like a no brainer. While examining this year’s options, I discovered that the 2008 Disney Dining Plan no longer included the gratuity or the appetizer, and was only reduced one dollar in price. According to an article by Disney World expert Jim Hill, the problem was that the Disney Restaurants were filling their establishments solely with people eating at a discount, causing the restaurants themselves to lose money, and preventing those without the plan from dining there.
The problem is that Disney World didn’t tell those who booked last year that the Disney Dining Plan would be changing this year. Families who booked assuming that the plan would remain the same are now getting a rude shock when they go to eat their meals. According to the Jim Hill article, this has resulted in customers getting very angry, cursing at restaurant managers when they find out, and worst of all, stiffing their servers because they felt the tip should have been included.
Message boards have been flooded with comments on the changes, most complaining about the switch. Some have indicated that servers at the restaurants this year are being overly aggressive about tipping and sound relieved if they find out people do not have dining plans. And guest complaints to Disney appear to be falling on deaf ears.
Given the popularity of the plan and Disney’s professed commitment to service, it seems odd that Disney would have reduced the benefits of the plan in such an unfavorable way. Had Disney simply raised the price of the plan five or ten dollars, or just removed the dessert or appetizer from the plan, they surely could have recouped any losses they may have had. With the Disney Dining Plan now, Disney is angering its customers, creating a very bad situation for its servers and restaurant managers, and by not accommodating those who booked before these changes were made, creating bad word of mouth for itself.
My wife and I still haven’t decided if we’re going to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. I’m secretly holding out hope that Disney will change the plan back before we go.