The announcement last month that Walt Disney World would start selling beverage alcohol in the Magic Kingdom generated plenty of media attention. I have to admit that I didn’t get what all the fuss was about at first.
For one thing, it had never occurred to me that the Magic Kingdom was dry and had been for 41 years (though alcohol has been served during catered events). Other theme parks at the resort—Epcot and Animal Kingdom, for instance—do sell alcoholic beverages.
What’s more, beverage alcohol won’t exactly be flowing freely throughout the Magic Kingdom: The offering will be limited to beer and wine, which will only served at Be Our Guest, a gourmet restaurant opening in November as part of the park’s Fantasyland expansion. And beer and wine will only be available during dinner service at the restaurant.
So Disney is treading pretty cautiously with this policy change, which the company says is in response to customer feedback. Guests wanted the option of enjoying a beer or wine when sitting down for a meal with family or friends.
Still, some Disney enthusiasts are not happy about the decision. Some detractors believe that the presence of beverage alcohol will corrupt the innocence of the park’s theme, and they think Disney World is selling out. Many say that the move goes against creator Walt Disney’s wishes (apparently he didn’t want beverage alcohol served at the Magic Kingdom).
What would Walt do? Considering how the park has expanded and evolved in the past four decades, I think he’d be on board with this. The change is clearly designed to appeal to and delight discerning adult guests, not to corrupt youngsters.
Be Our Guest’s French-inspired menu includes such dinner entrees as a thyme-scented pork rack chop, rotisserie rock hen and pan-seared salmon on leek fondue—fare that many guests would much prefer to enjoy with a glass of wine or beer than a soft drink. I don’t see anything wrong with Disney acknowledging that and trying to meet if not exceed those expectations. The company is all about creating magical customer experiences.
Speaking of pairing food and wine (or beer), our cover story “Pair to be Different” reports on some innovative menu matches. This issue also includes strategies for defining your concept and differentiating your operation from the rest (page 20), trends in liqueurs and cordials (page 26), new ways to mix and market brandy and Cognac (page 30), an update on the domestic beer scene (page 34), tactics for selling cider (page 42), and much more.
Cheers to creating magical experiences for your customers and profits for your business.