It’s time for a recap of all the latest Walt Disney World news! In this post, we’ll share details about dining at Walt Disney World–specifically what’s opening and staying closed. We’ll also address some comments about the reduced park hours for September and October, including a big concern about hours for November 2020 and beyond.
Let’s start with Walt Disney World’s restaurant roller coaster. Executive chef at Epcot’s France pavilion, Bruno Vrignon, announced that he was retiring after 38 years in an interview with Scott Joseph. The article is mostly just a retrospective, with Orlando’s foodie scene–not Walt Disney World fans–as the intended audience.
The original version of the article ended with this: “Asked when the restaurants would reopen, Eric Weistroffer, JBI’s executive director, mused that the real question was if they would reopen. Most of the French staff members, including almost all of the servers, returned home when Epcot closed. Although the theme park has opened, its attendance numbers have not been sufficient to fully reopen all the culinary operations, he said, or to bring back the furloughed staff.”
The first sentence made the rounds on social media, and fans went wild with it. Walt Disney World’s PR team was presumably not happy about the unflattering picture painted by that off the cuff comment, as a “correction” was quickly made to the interview with the note that the statement was made “jokingly.”
Regardless of whether or not it was an actual joke, the reality is that times are rough for the restaurant industry. You’ve no doubt seen the grim forecasts–or perhaps already experienced local dining spots shuttering. Per one (of many) recent forecasts, roughly 231,000 of the nation’s 660,000 restaurants will close permanently this year.
The decade of Walt Disney World expanding its dining lineup is almost certainly over. Locations that are ‘temporarily unavailable’ could close permanently, resulting in a contraction. However, this is more likely to occur at the resorts and Disney Springs before it happens in the parks. Even if the third party operators can’t reopen, Disney will find a way to bring back popular, high-profile restaurants like Chefs de France and Tutto Italia.
Speaking of which, Cast Members have been called back to Teppan Edo, which is now preparing to reopen on August 24, 2020. At this teppanyaki restaurant in Epcot’s Japan pavilion, chefs typically prepare dishes in front of guests, bringing a show component to the meal.
It’s unclear whether this will return right when the restaurant reopens, or how Teppan Edo will handle what was previously communal seating. (It’s worth noting that Biergarten in the Germany pavilion has already reopened, successfully modifying its operations to accommodate physical distancing.)
Although not a restaurant, the House of Good Fortune shop has reopened in the China pavilion. Despite the setback of Tangierine Cafe re-closing, it seems like things are starting to trend in the right direction at Epcot. Aside from guest demand and viability, a big hurdle right now is likely staffing.
We’re optimistic that other stores (the ones open are seeing plenty of guests) plus restaurants like Tokyo Dining and Nine Dragons will return at some point soon. Options like Takumi-Tei and Monsieur Paul might be a bit further away.
In another minor quick hit from the resorts, Tambu Lounge is tentatively scheduled to open in the next week at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
The hotels that are operating have been fairly busy–due to a combination of shorter park hours and guest consolidation–so we’d expect this trend of opening more drinking and dining spots to continue.
Finally, we want to quickly revisit our Cuts to Fall Hours at All Four Walt Disney World Parks post. This proved to be a hot topic, for all of the wrong reasons. Comments on the blog were about what you’d expect, but very different on Facebook, where many fans defended the decision on a couple of bases.
The first is that right now it’s unnecessary to spend 10 hours in any of the parks (how long they’re currently open) in order to do every operating attraction. This is factually correct, and is worth reiterating. You can “finish” any of the parks in around 5 hours, some significantly less. We’ve managed to do every attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (save for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance) in the last two hours that park is open.
Our expectation is that Walt Disney World’s crowds will be lighter in September and October than they are right now, meaning that it’ll be even easier to accomplish everything in a short period of time. (That is, unless Disney finally fixes the issue with AP availability.)
Of course, this assumes that Walt Disney World is just a collection of attractions and “doing” the parks is only checking off every ride. But the point stands that crowds are so low and lines so short that accomplishing whatever you set out to do takes less time than normal. That’s an undeniable plus of visiting right now. No amount of spin can make reduced park hours “better,” though.
For many people, the Walt Disney World experience is holistic. We’d assume this is the case for the vast majority of readers on sites like this one; attractions are great, but most Disney fans are not simply ride junkies. There’s also the principle of the matter. Paying full price for an already reduced experience, that is then further eroded by cutting park hours, understandably rubs people the wrong way.
The second point being made is that Walt Disney World always cuts hours in the fall, and this is factually incorrect. To the contrary, I cannot recall the last time before this year that Walt Disney World took posted hours and reduced them across the board. Usually, hours are only extended–not reduced–once posted.
It is true that hours are typically shorter in September and October than they are in July and August, but they start out that way and are not changed for the worse after people book trips. In a normal fall, the parks open at around 9 am and close at 9 or 10 pm, which is a far cry from what’s happening now. That’s also before Extra Magic Hours, which are not happening this year. (Last year, Extra Extra Magic Hours further extended those morning opening times.) In short, it’s both inaccurate and disingenuous to call this cut “normal.”
Additionally, there were a couple of concerns frequently raised by readers in the comments to the park hours post that are worth addressing. First, Advance Dining Reservations after park closing times. By and large, you should proactively rebook these while there’s availability or they’ll be cancelled. Some Epcot restaurants are actually honoring reservations shortly after park closing, but don’t count on that.
Second, those of you with Disney Park Pass reservations for November 2020 and beyond might notice that your My Disney Experience plans show the new park hours. This has caused many of you to worry that Walt Disney World has already quietly cut hours for this holiday season, but just hasn’t yet announced the reduction. We highly doubt this.
This might be hard to believe, but Disney IT is not the best. (I’ll give you a moment to collect yourselves after being knocked off your feet by this revelation.) Disney’s system likely just reflects the current hours for all dates going forward–this is almost certainly a glitch. In some spots, this issue was concealed by removing the current hours and replacing that with “Park Open – Close” (like the desktop version of My Disney Experience) but that was missed in other spots (like the My Disney Experience app).
The reason we strongly believe this is simply an unresolved/inconsistent glitch is because we made a Disney Park Pass reservation for Magic Kingdom on September 26, 2021. There is literally no way on earth that the park hours are set for that date–they wouldn’t have been in normal times, and certainly not now. And yet, that also shows the hours as 9 am to 6 pm. In other words, don’t fret over this yet. It’s likely a mistake that’ll be corrected soon.
Ultimately, we are concerned about the trajectory of park hours and Walt Disney World’s woes becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if measures aren’t taken to entice tourists. We’re also annoyed at the lack of evening hours. However, these are simply concerns at this point, not concrete reality or even our actual expectations.
Walt Disney World will likely release general public discounts at some point. They’ll announce plans for the Christmas season, and we anticipate that to include the return of evening hours. Disney will bring things back and scale up operations as it becomes practical and safe. While we don’t love all of Disney’s decisions during this, we also recognize the need for flexibility and understanding given the circumstances. Sometimes it just feels like Disney is expecting almost all of the compromise to come on the part of guests, and isn’t meeting people halfway. As cancellations pile up resulting from the fall hours being cut, we suspect that will change.
What do you think about the Walt Disney World restaurant reopening…and not…news? What’s your view on the park hours issue? Think this is a one-off due to abysmal attendance forecasts for September and October, or a trend that’ll continue? Do you have a Walt Disney World trip planned for this holiday season? Will you still go if hours resemble those of this fall? Will shorter hours influence your decision to visit later in 2020 or in early 2021? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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!