Walt Disney World has confirmed the rumor we reported on a couple months ago that Artist Point will become a character dinner, featuring Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Queen. In the process, Wilderness Lodge will lose its lone Signature Restaurant, leaving this Deluxe Resort without a fine dining option.
In this post, we’ll offer details from Disney’s press release, followed by our commentary on the decision. Per Disney, this will be called “Storybook Dining at Artist Point” and will feature an Enchanted Forest-like setting inspired by Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In addition to the aforementioned characters, there will be music and activities bringing the classic fairytale to life.
October 4, 2018 Update: Reservations just opened for Storybook Dining at Artist Point, which will debut on December 16, 2018. The re-imagined dining experience will offer a prix fixe menu, costing $55 for adults and $33 for children ages 3-9. For a full menu and to make reservations, visit the Walt Disney World Resort website or call (407) WDW-DINE (407 939-3463). We’d recommend making your ADRs as soon as possible–when we just made ours some dates were already unavailable!
Storybook Dining at Artist Point will take place amidst the rustic elegance and exceptional dining for which Artist Point is known. There will be a prix fixe menu, including shared starters, individual plated entrees, and ‘sweet spells’ for dessert. Select fan-favorite Artist Point menu items will be relocated, which means we’ll likely see the Smokey Portobello Soup and Cedar Plank Salmon relocated to Whispering Canyon Cafe or perhaps Territory Lounge.
Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White is slated to begin this winter, after Artist Point ends its Signature Dining on November 10, 2018. While Disney is careful to highlight the ‘elegance’ and ‘exceptional dining’ above, there’s no getting around the fact that this will become a character meal, a change that is incompatible with fine dining.
This is one of those Walt Disney World changes that I can somewhat understand from a business perspective, but it bothers me to no end as a guest. This is particularly true as one who loves Wilderness Lodge, which will soon have no dining suitable for an ‘adult’ meal.
I understand that character dining is immensely popular. With this slate of characters, Storybook Dining at Artist Point will easily book up months in advance. It’ll be one of the most coveted ADRs at Walt Disney World for at least the immediate future. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s so successful that character breakfast is offered in the future.
By contrast, Artist Point is not particularly popular. We haven’t dined there a ton, but on the occasions we have, the restaurant has been about half full at most. Rather than going off our unreliable anecdotal observations, I’ll instead point to the 40% off Cast Member discount that is frequently offered at Artist Point.
As with all Walt Disney World discounts, this is done to fill tables, not out of corporate benevolence. Frankly, knowing the other restaurants on that list sends a shiver down my spine, as several of them are among my absolute favorites at Walt Disney World.
Hopefully other locations aren’t on the chopping block, but I fear that may be the case, especially as new high end and chic dining options continue to pop up at Disney Springs. Even as the proportion of adult guests (and convention-goers) increases as Walt Disney World, the number of more ‘adult’ restaurants at Disney Springs keeps rising, putting pressure on restaurants in the Disney resorts.
If Artist Point is vulnerable now, many more could face similar issues when the economy stumbles. This is a looming problem on the horizon that was easily foreseeable; even though we enjoy several of the new restaurants at Disney Springs, we recognize that there are too many of them.
Third party dining options in Disney Springs aren’t the only problem. If Artist Point was struggling, why wasn’t more done to highlight or promote it? I see a new Disney Parks Blog article about every ridiculous hot dog monstrosity at Casey’s Corner, yet I can’t remember the last time seasonal menus at Artist Point (or any Signature, for that matter) were highlighted. Offering Annual Passholder or Tables in Wonderland special events likewise could’ve spiked interest and created some buzz for Artist Point.
Basically, something–anything–should have been tried before Disney simply threw its hands up in the air and went for the low-hanging fruit of character dining. Or, if guests were “demanding” a character meal at Artist Point, why not start with a trial breakfast at Artist Point (or the more logical venue of Whispering Canyon Cafe) and leave the Signature dinner undisturbed? Walt Disney World Food & Beverage had several alternatives to the choice that was made–they just took the easiest route that would maximize profits for this venue.
Personally, I do not believe this can be justified as a necessary and sensible business move. Wilderness Lodge is a Deluxe Resort charging rates north of $400/night, and will soon offer zero sophisticated dining options. To me, that’s unfathomable. A hotel with luxury price points should absolutely feature fine dining.
From my perspective, fine dining is an expected amenity at hotels of this caliber. That the restaurant may not fill every table every night is immaterial; certain features should exist at hotels that charge luxury prices. This is no different than Walt Disney World using call centers when in-room guests dial the front desk, reducing housekeeping, or cutting other services. It’s degrading the overall experience of a purported ‘Deluxe’ Resort, and not something guests should silently accept given the money they’re forking over to stay here.
Unfortunately, I doubt Disney management is approaching Wilderness Lodge as a comprehensive resort experience when evaluating its slate of offerings. It would appear that management looks at individual components, questioning how costs can be reduced or profits increased. It’s entirely possible Food & Beverage made this decision without regard to the resort at large, because it would be good for that business unit’s numbers.
Character dining is more lucrative, which will likely always be the case as character meals draw outside visitors than other hotel restaurants. By that same logic, swapping out all three of Grand Floridian’s Signature Restaurants for character dining to draw families from other resorts or off-site to eat there could be a savvy move. Yet, that does not occur (or at least has not occurred yet) because it would diminish the resort at large.
Viewing profitability metrics of key amenities in isolation is a dangerous precedent, and could lead to other important aspects of the luxury resort experience disappearing because they don’t generate as much revenue as a bar or a character meal. Yet, those less or unprofitable elements of the experience reinforce the resort experience as a whole, and are what (begins to) justify those sky-high rack rates.
All of this really drives me crazy, and it has been a gradual erosion with Artist Point just being the latest step in an overall trend. With each stay at a Deluxe Resort, we are paying more and getting less. This is unfortunate, as I love several Deluxe Resorts from a thematic perspective, but if someone I knew wanted a true luxury experience, I’d direct them to the Four Seasons or Waldorf Astoria rather than Disney’s hotels.
On a personal note, we really enjoy this restaurant. As I wrote in our Artist Point Review, to me it evokes memories of U.S. National Park Lodge dining rooms, and the ambiance is pitch-perfect to those flagship locations. We haven’t eaten there in a couple of years (which is probably part of the problem–professed “fans” of the restaurant haven’t dined there in a while), but we hope to get a chance to return before Artist Point takes its final bow on November 10. If you’ve never been and have a chance to go between now and then, we’d highly recommend it.
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Do you agree or disagree with our take on Artist Point transforming to a character restaurant, or are we overreacting? Do you agree that Deluxe Resorts should have fine dining? Would you prefer to see a Snow White meal at breakfast-only, or at Whispering Canyon? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!