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Creative Theme Park Dining Options on the Upswing
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It’s not the same old fast food anymore at theme parks. While burgers and fries and chips are certainly available, the Eatertainment concept has come of age, in which themed food is a part of the entertainment picture at venues nationwide. Creating themed environments is attractive to guests and a part of the over-all attraction itself. Keeping the mood going with themed dining experiences brings increased revenue to parks and often lengthens guests’ time at a park. 

The concepts may be varied, but the goal is the same: bring the theme into dining, and make the experience as immersive as popular. 

At Disney World Florida, the Be Our Guest Restaurant brings diners into the world of Beauty and the Beast, with a setting that appears to be the Beast’s castle. There are chandeliers, a coat of arms, and an opulent ceiling; the food is French-inspired, just like the Disney film. The restaurant holds 550 patrons, and offers choices from a quick-service breakfast and lunch to a served, three course, prix fixe dinner such with choices such as French onion soup or a charcuterie platter as starters; main course selections such as seafood bouillabaisse or filet mignon; and dessert. At breakfast, there are mimosas, coffee, juice, and fluffy quiche; lunch choices include a croque monsieur sandwich served with pommes frite, and tuna niçoise salad. For both meals, touch-screen ordering is available, so that guests can return to the park itself quickly. The imagineer-designed dining areas include a baroque grand ballroom, the castle gallery with figures of Belle and the Beast dancing, and the west wing study with the Beast’s enchanted rose. 

At Universal Orlando, a wizarding pub experience is available, with butterbeer and pumpkin juice beverages and traditional English foods such as fish and chips. Multi-colored wizard potions can be tasted at Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment. The charming pub atmosphere preserves the Potter experience between attractions.

What is shaping up to be one of the kingpins of eatertainment concepts is Disney’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. With the attraction’s summer openings in both Anaheim and Orlando, the Millenium Falcon pilots can take a break from smuggling to enjoy food and drink that seems equally out of this world. 

Visitors will be able to enjoy meals at Ronto Roasters, and enjoy Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, and Oga’s Cantina as themed dining options. Ronto Roasters is built around a centerpiece of a giant pod-racer engine to cook the meaty food on offer. Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo features cargo crate stalls with themed food representing dining choices from across the universe. Endorian Tip-Yip is fried chicken with roasted vegetable mash plus gravy; Kaadu Ribs are sticky pork ribs with a blueberry corn muffin and cabbage slaw. Possibly the most complete Star Wars universe dining option is Oga’s Cantina, billed by Disney as “the kind of establishment that attracts some of the most interesting and disreputable characters in the galaxy” including costumed storm troopers and other Star Wars characters. 

The restaurant will use unique methods and exciting looking beverages, serving up food that looks other-worldly, to match its setting. Music will set the mood, performed by Rex, aka RX-24, the former StarSpeeder 3000 pilot droid first encountered in Star Tours, and now a talkative and amusing DJ. 

Kids and adults will both be able to taste unusual beverages with a Star Wars universe look and theme, soft drinks with names like Blue Milk, Tatooine Sunset or Moof Juice. Blue Milk first appeared in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, consumed by Luke Skywalker himself. There it was a thick blue-colored milk produced by female Banthas also called Bantha milk. Adults can sample taste themed craft cocktails The Fuzzy Tauntaun or The Bloody Rancor, which features an edible bone.

Scheduled to open this summer as well, Florida’s Disney Springs shopping and dining adjunct will offer the NBA Experience, with a basketball theme that includes dining as well as the ability to make a slam dunk. And scheduled to open in fall 2019, an new table service restaurant is coming to the Japan Pavilion in the World Showcase. The dining experience will include décor and food that draws from both Japanese art and nature. Next year, in 2020, a new Mission Space restaurant will open at Epcot, with a space-control environment.  

While these options are still “coming soon,” The Epcot World Showcase at Walt Disney World Florida has offered themed dining for a while. It’s successful, particularly with annual pass holders who can take the time to relax and enjoy the dining experience which includes live musicians and floral arrangements. Food options change regularly, keeping things fresh and interesting; guests enjoy small tasting portions from different stalls that create an environment in which they can essentially travel through global food choices. 

In 2018, Busch Gardens premiered its first Bier Fest in late summer, featuring local brewers and locally-made cuisine. The event included more than 100 beers from breweries worldwide. Tampa Bay itself is known for its craft beer culture, and both area residents and visitors enjoyed the beer tasting experience at the theme park. Other events hosted by Busch Gardens included a food and wine festival. 
 
Success with events such as these have helped to fuel the resurgence in attendance at SeaWorld parks, as well. While not specifically themed, the parks’ free beer offer is a strong draw. 

Festivals, themed restaurants, and freshly prepared, unique foods that fit attractions are appealing to guests of all ages, and bring increased revenue to parks along with boosting guest dining satisfaction. Expect to see the trend expand and continue. 
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