What to Expect at Disney Restaurants and on Buses
With Walt Disney World resorts open once again, we know many of Disney’s modified safety measures.
Thankfully, they’re all as smart as Disney fans would expect of their favorite company.
I previously discussed the changes involving hotel stays. This time, let’s evaluate how Disney changed its restaurants and transportation.
QR Codes and More
The next time you approach a Walt Disney World restaurant, you’ll notice something new and different. Disney officials have placed signs at the entrances and/or check-in desks of these restaurants.
On these signs, guests may read information about the safety precautions in place.
These notices discuss face mask requirements, social distancing reminders, and expected hygienic practices. Yes, the sign nags you to wash your hands.
Other displays show Dining Reservation Check-In information. These posters are vital to your visit.
Each one includes a QR code that you can access on your smartphone. You shouldn’t even need an app for it unless your phone is older.
Your phone’s camera should identify the QR code and try to access My Disney Experience or a browser window. Once this page loads, you’ll answer a few questions about your party size, accessibility needs, and ages of any accompanying children.
The questionnaire is unexpectedly robust. It even asks about celebrations or dietary needs that cast members should know.
You’re in good hands, gluten-averse vegans celebrating birthdays and anniversaries!
So, Disney has introduced a system where you provide all your dining information without interacting with a cast member. By taking this approach, Disney protects your health and the cast member’s, too.
The Benefits of the New System
In fact, the new system introduces greater efficiency, too. You’ll receive a text message when your table is ready.
Until now, some places utilized the “Yell out the name of the party” system, which caused problems for wanderers like me.
Now, you get a text as you roam the resort or do some shopping.
The only change I’d suggest is that a host/hostess currently escorts you to the table. Disney could save this interaction by showing the mapping of your table’s location.
I guess park officials decided this would cause more aggravation than it saved. Of course, you and the server are wearing face masks. So, the situation isn’t problematic.
Also, you’ll realize as you approach your seat that Disney has taken another step to protect you.
Restaurant managers have positioned the tables to maintain appropriate social distancing.
You can’t help but notice the change in popular restaurants.
For example, the last time I dined at Beaches & Cream, I literally had four different tables surrounding me.
Now, the same space provides guests with substantially more room. It’s not just a safer setup. It’s less claustrophobic, too!
Changes to the Dining Experience
Back in the olden days of the winter of 2020, Disney customers used something called menus.
You can read about them in your history books, but the gist is that these menus listed the various foods that customers could order.
After the Coronavirus pandemic changed society, Disney switched to a new system. Modern folks who visit in the summer of 2020 live in a different world, one without old school menus.
Instead, when you sit down, you will notice another piece of paper or possibly a laminated card. This item will include another QR code. Again, you whip out your phone and scan this odd-looking image.
Suddenly, your phone displays menu items, just like we did with physical menus in days of yore.
I’m being cheeky here, but let’s be real. Those menus were gross. Literally every customer touched each one, and restaurants didn’t prioritize wiping them down.
The pandemic has altered everyone’s perspective here. These high-touch items are gross, and we should all feel grateful that they’re no longer in use.
The restaurants have changed the payment process to make it safer, too. When the bill comes, you’ll receive a disposable holder and a pen that cast members sanitize after each usage.
These same workers also use a powerful cleaning solution to wipe down tables. Cast members allow the substance to set for two full minutes before rubbing it away.
That extra time allows the chemicals to work their magic in sterilizing tables.
Character Meals and Buffets
I’ve always loved character meals the best at Walt Disney World. I attend at least one of them during each day of my Disney vacation.
Sadly, I knew when Coronavirus escalated that Disney must make some changes.
Thankfully, the company’s decisions are sound. To wit, Disney’s temporarily closed all but one character meal.
You can dine at Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera if you’re missing Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
The restaurant hosts a modified variant of Breakfast à la Art, one that still includes Disney characters.
Cast members have trained to entertain guests without violating social distancing policies.
So, you’ll sit at your table while your favorite characters dance and play a few feet away from you.
Since Disney limits attendance at the restaurants, you’ll feel like you have the characters to yourself, which means that this change somehow seems more intimate.
Disney’s also announced one more change that might impact your next visit. Biergarten Restaurant and Chef Mickey’s won’t offer buffets anymore.
Instead, these restaurants will switch to family-style servings. You’re familiar with this kind of meal if you’ve ever dined at The Garden Grill Restaurant or ‘Ohana.
The difference is that Disney brings food to you rather than having you stand at a salad bar and pick what you want.
A running joke among buffet servers around the country is that salad bars are where all colds and cases of flu start. So, this change is a welcome one.
Other former buffets like 1900 Park Fare, Akershus, and Boma may return later with a family-style format.
However, Disney hasn’t decided for sure yet. It’s still evaluating other ways to solve the problem.
Something as simple as a server getting your food for you is a possibility, too. Some restaurants are even experimenting with robotic plate delivery!
Anyone currently visiting Walt Disney World faces a bit of aggravation. The parks aren’t open!
So, the best entertainment options outside of the hotels are at Disney Springs.
For this reason, Disney’s had to reveal some of its transportation changes.
Your hotel will offer transportation to and from Disney Springs. However, you may only travel by bus.
Monorails, boats, and gondolas aren’t available yet. Disney has indicated that they’ll come back soon, but that doesn’t help you any now.
When you take the bus to Disney Springs, you’ll notice two changes. One is that capacity limits provide you with much more space.
Disney has marked seats as unusable and added plastic barriers to prevent the spread of droplets.
Your bus trip will feel much more isolated than any that you’ve had in the past.
Once you reach Disney Springs, you must perform a temperature check, just like any visitor at the entertainment complex.
Interestingly, when you return to your hotel, you don’t need to check your temperature, though.
Disney’s working on an honor system now, but that could change if Coronavirus numbers remain problematic.
As for resort hopping, Disney says not to do it. However, many vloggers tested the theory.
Several successfully boarded a bus for a different resort and arrived without incident. Disney currently checks cars entering the grounds for valid hotel/dining reservations.
Apparently, buses don’t require the same scrutiny. In other words, you’re not supposed to resort hop, but you theoretically could right now.
Overall, Disney’s changes do more than safeguard your health during the pandemic. They also improve efficiency and provide a more private resort experience.