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From Dole Whip to Blue Milk: How Disney has elevated its theme parks via cuisine

The number one reason people visit theme parks is rides and attractions, followed by food and beverage

From Dole Whip to Blue Milk: How Disney has elevated its theme parks via cuisine
Photo by Tyler Nix

Thrill-seekers of all ages are eager to return to theme parks, but they aren’t just interested in gravity-defying rides and immersive experiences. Food and beverage services have grown in importance in the amusements industry during the previous two decades. And the Walt Disney Company has been at the forefront of providing park visitors with inventive and excellent meals, snacks, and drinks. Disney has been pushing the frontiers of food and beverage innovation for decades, creating park classics such as Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars and pretzels, Dole Whips, and themed candied apples and pastries.

“The number one reason people visit theme parks is rides and attractions, followed by food and beverage,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Parks Services. “It’s simply a reality.” In the last 20 years, parks have grabbed the opportunity to construct new attractions around food and beverage sections.” With its new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, Disney has taken this a step further. The Halcyon is a two-day immersive experience, unlike its themed areas such as Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge, and Avenger’s Campus. Guests aren’t just stopping by for a bite to eat or a drink; they’re immersed in a Star Wars tale for the next 48 hours.

Chef Brian Piasecki and his crew had to devise an all-inclusive menu that would be delivered to visitors over the course of two days. Disney is displaying some of its more ambitious and tasty food and beverage inventions onboard the Halcyon. Piasecki worked hard to produce recipes that were both accessible and upmarket for breakfast, lunch, and supper. For example, the lunch buffets include classics like grilled cheese and tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and salads, but with a Star Wars twist.

From Dole Whip to Blue Milk: How Disney has elevated its theme parks via cuisine
Photo by Momentmal

The breakfast and lunch buffet food trays are distinctively constructed with three rectangular depressions so that dishes may slip into position securely and not move when being transported inside the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, the Halcyon’s main dining hall. They have a unique sci-fi look, but they’re also quite utilitarian, especially for people who want to try everything.

“It’s so crucial to the experience, and it’s something that our industry is really looking at right now,” Speigel said. “Everyone is looking for ways to improve, whether it’s in terms of quality, service, style, plating, or anything else.” That, I believe, will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

A track record of innovation

While Disney has always utilized food design to elevate its traditional fare, it entered a new chapter of creativity in 2017 when it opened a theme park zone based on James Cameron’s film “Avatar,” which is set on the planet Pandora. Disney has the option to establish its own cuisine with this new land. It wasn’t a case of translating exotic foods and replicating them at Epcot; instead, it was a film about an unknown world that served as inspiration. Chefs employed spices from Argentinian, Brazilian, and Chinese cuisines to give their dishes a distinct flavor character. Bill Coan, president and CEO of iTEC Entertainment, remarked, “It extends the experience.”

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“Disney is playing this out and playing it up in order to improve the guest experience while also generating additional income.” Guests on vacation are less strict about their diets and want to sample menu items that they can’t obtain anyplace else, according to Coan.

Guests create their own grain bowls at Satu’li Canteen, choosing from quinoa and vegetable salad, red and sweet potato hash, mixed whole-grain and rice, or romaine and kale salad as a basis. Then they top it with grilled chicken, roasted beef, shrimp, or chili-spiced tofu, as well as a selection of dressings. “Pods,” commonly known as bao buns, are also on the menu. A cheeseburger or veggie curry may be found within these steamed buns. Unique sweets were also created by the culinary crew for the themed region. A blueberry cream cheese mousse with passion fruit curd and a chocolate cake with crispy cookie crumbs and banana cream topping are among the desserts on offer.

Each has been created to have an out-of-this-world appearance that is both tasty and photogenic. Parkgoers may now use Instagram to share their meal experiences at the parks with others and get tips for what they should eat next. Pongu Pongu, a themed Tiki bar located near the cafeteria, also serves a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.

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