Sunday, June 7, 2009

possibly helpful disney link

A very nice blog reader, Michael, pointed out to me that Disney does, in fact, have a page up on their website now regarding Special Dietary Requests. At a glance, there isn't a whole lot of useful information there (nothing more than I've already shared with you), but there is a phone number that they recommend you call 14 days before your trip. I haven't tried it yet (wish I had an excuse to!), but I will definitely be giving it a try on my next trip.

I often get asked about the best way to get your needs met at the full-service restaurants. I usually recommend the following:

(1) Make a dining reservation through Disney Dining, and ask them to make a note about your dietary restrictions on the reservation.
(2) Call the restaurant directly 72 hours before your meal (either through the direct phone number, if you can get it, or by being transferred there through the usual reservations number), and ask to speak to a chef. Explain your situation and discuss options.
(3) When you check in at the restaurant, always ask to speak to a chef. Do not rely on the wait staff to be able to help you.

While I still recommend this, a couple of e-mails, including Michael's, have reminded me that step number 2 may be easier said than done. I have confessed before that I'm really, really, REALLY bashful, and that I pretty much ignore my own advice and skip step number 2. I still usually manage okay, but I do miss out on some the extraordinary meals that other vegans have reported getting. However, bashfulness is only part of the problem - getting through to a restaurant directly can be difficult. Cast members don't generally give out the direct numbers, and would prefer not to put you through.

Part of this is because they have been told that by simply noting your dietary needs on your reservation, you will be taken care of when you arrive at the restaurant. In my experience, this is only partially true. Yes, sit-down restaurants (with a rare exception here or there) will do their best to make sure you get fed. However, they can only work with the ingredients they have on hand, and with any knowledge they already have stored up. If you call ahead, they can get in any necessary ingredients, and possibly research more recipes. Your choices will almost certainly increase with prior arrangements.

With that being said, let me say that, if the phone calls don't work, you can always go to "step 2 - plan B". As soon as you arrive at Walt Disney World for your vacation, go directly to the restaurant itself and ask to speak to a chef in person. You might have a short wait (I'd recommend you avoid the busy meal-rush times), but I've never been told "no". Depending on when your meal is, they may not have quite as much time to prepare, but even a couple hours notice is better than none. Now, this is extremely time-consuming, and rather a pain, depending on where your meal is - that's why I call this "plan B". However, it should be effective. Personally, I'd only bother with this for the most expensive or most "special" meals. But for those, it could very well be worth the effort.

If you will be staying at a Disney resort, you could also try working with your Lobby Concierge. Again, like with the phone calls, I've had mixed results with this - depends entirely on the cast member working at that time. But if you can catch the right person, they might be willing to connect you to the restaurant chefs.

Of course, hopefully this new number on Disney's website will help us all to eat better with less effort. If anyone tries this, I'd love to hear how it works out for you!

And if all else fails, just remember that the chefs are generally all very eager to help. Even without prior notice, you still stand a good chance of getting "something". And, the more specific and creative you can be with your request, the better they can work with you.

Good luck, and Happy Disney Dining!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wanted to just let you know about a podcast that did an episode on special needs in Disney World, where they covered special dietary requests and how to the process works. It is the WDW Radio Show and it was on episode 103 -